Social Media Is NOT New

Engage. Form Relationships. Share content. Social is the new currency. Social Media is the answer. There has been a fundamental shift in how we communicate. I’m sick of hearing it. This is not new information. How we communicate now is how great communicators have always worked their trade. Word of Mouth has always been powerful. Social Media may be a new term but the theories and fundamentals are not.

Excluding the new term, social media is nothing new.

What is Social Media?

There are many definitions of social media. I’m a simple guy who lives by simple definitions. To me, Social Media is people communicating and collaborating online. We can talk about the change in pace, the openness and transparency but our core reason for joining is communication. I concede that the speed and technologies that underwrite this process are different today. I concede that more people are involved in this channel than there were previously. However, people have always communicated and collaborated online.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away

The Internet did not exist. People sent letters to each other. Telephones and telegrams came to prominence. People spoke in small gatherings. They communicated. They made friends. They formed relationships. They engaged. Sound familiar?

Then a friendly, cheerful man invented the Internet. People were using BBS’s to communicate. When I was operating my first companies and even up to 5 years ago I was a member of 40+ forums. At the same time others were making profile pages on Geocities and communicating through guest books, web rings and other old school techniques. I’d always be involved in multiple conversations and threads, building a rapport to promote my services. I engaged users. I shared interesting content with the board. I created original content. I commented on other users content. I built relationships and rapport. Sound familiar?

It should. Old media, gurus and just too many people in between either have short term memories or poor research skills. What is happening today is not new. Back then I knew several firms trying to integrate my forum identities and create a singular stream. It has been a long journey to get where we are today, nothing happened overnight.

Experts: Please give it a rest

I get the need to hype your own field, I do plenty of Digital marketing. But it seems the ‘experts’ and ‘gurus’ are a huge part of this misconception.

  • Even if Social Media was new, why are we still talking about engage / form relationships at most conferences. This is not high level stuff.
  • Many older users are scared by the change in medium and assume it is new. They fail to realize how normal this is for younger and more seasoned users.

If I was born decades ago I’d be still be forming relationships. If I was at a cocktail party there would be people I knew and was incubating relationships with. There would be people I need introductions to. I would talk, listen and engage. People from every background would likely be in attendance. Just as diverse as social media today.

I think half the problem is their fundamental misunderstanding of what has actually changed. Even scarier are the ones who think you can pop out a tweets and have a business. This is why we are still having such low level conversations.

Ask an expert if they have a basic model. Most don’t. Ask them what their suggested listen, respond and produce ratio’s are; they will probably look at you blankly. There is researched little data on Social Media because the smart consultants realize how this slots into a bigger marketing picture and are busy applying it as one tool. Worse, I don’t think the experts understand this.

You are not an expert in communication

And to claim to be a Social Media expert you are almost claiming to be an expert in communications. You probably are not and are specially not a social media expert with no technical background.

All of my clients who have a social marketing module (notice how I dropped the ‘media’?) are told that they need to put their own voices forward. If you want to be social be social, not manufactured social.

Social is hard to quantify. People have tried. SPIN Selling is old but still works. There are very few experts in talking to people. There is a reason. Social is no different. The best social marketers get relationships offline as quick as they can.

We are just transitioning

Much of what used to happen offline is now happening online. As the pace of technology innovation quickens we exacerbate this transition. Just because something has become popular it does not mean it is new. The Internet used to be boutique corner stores and Internet cafes. Now the chain stores are in (Facebook, Twitter). When Wal-Mart opened shopping was not new.

Social Media Works

Social Media does work, but when it is part of something bigger. I’ve authored quite a few articles on the topic and you will see that it is generally about integrating it into something bigger or providing solid insights for those who are at the medium level. That is my target market and who I write for. My challenge to the other ‘gurus’ out there is to:

  • Stop talking about obvious things

  • If your knowledge does not go further, quit while you are ahead

  • Recognize social media works as part of something bigger

  • If you want to be social media specific, get to a higher level. Anybody can Google what most of us are blogging.