Monday, November 10, 2008

Let's stop hyping social media, and start explaining why it's so important

I had an absolute blast speaking last Friday at Learn About Web. It's funny because when I speak at a conference, I'm never quite sure where the audience is on the social media learning curve. I assume they are beginners that are curious, but that at best are really just starting to play with these tools.

But when arriving in Pasco for LAW, I was immediately struck by the fact that of the 100+ attendees, there were only about 5 with laptops, and those were all at the speaker's table. So when it came time for me to reference Twitter in my presentation, I stopped first and said to the audience "When I say the word 'Twitter' to you, how many of you have absolutely no idea what I am talking about?"

The majority of the hands went up.

This is a problem that I have, and that many of us in this space have, in that we are so excited about these tools and sites, that we sometimes hype them, but don't explain why they deserve the hype. I tried to stress in my presentation (and Jennifer and An did a great job with this as well in their presentations) the fundamental reasons why social media matters to businesses. I stressed that these tools are important because they allow us to quickly and easily connect with other people. In the case of a business, those 'other people' just so happen to be their customers. Which is a good group to connect with.

And I noticed when I started that there were lots of frowns and looks of bewilderment in the audience when I started talking. By the end of the talk, many of those same people were smiling and nodding along as I made my points.

We always stress to companies that they need to approach social media from the mindset of their customers. That they need to create content with their customers/readers/listeners/viewers in mind. But as the people that are helping companies get into this space, we need to follow our own advice, and approach these tools with the best interests of our clients in mind. We don't need to focus on the hype around social media, but instead we need to focus on WHY these sites and tools are getting hyped. On how businesses can benefit from them.

I am a big fan of this saying, and shared it at the start of my presentation; Don't focus on the tools, focus on the connections that the tools help facilitate. We always talk about how social media can 'improve the conversation' between a company and its customers, well I think we can also help improve the conversation around social media. Especially now as we are in troubling economic times, companies don't need to know what the newest Shiny Toy is in the social media space, they need to know how and if it can help them better connect with their customers.

BTW here's a pic of the speakers having an absolute blast at Learn About Web in our NASCAR limo! Craig Sutton and the gang at Bright Web Marketing hit a home run, and are already planning on having LAW again next year!


Juliann Grant said...


I couldn't agree with you more. This is the way it is in the markets we serve, it's still a new thought/idea, it's an educational up-hill discussion, and there is concern about whittling away productivity while engaging with these new tools and communities.

The challenge is for marketers is to learn what is happening, and determine how to apply it in their respective business and clients.

The bottom line is that social media is flattening the world, so-to-speak, and we have the ability to engage in first hand, ad-hoc unfiltered conversations that were predominantly reserved for the sales channel. Any marketer who loves communication will want to take full advantage of what's in front of them and own the buying cycles for their products and services.

Thanks for the post.

Nimble One said...

Hi Mack,

I've been a Twitter follower for about three weeks now and think you deliver exactly as you preach.

As a VA in a city with limited SM knowledge, blank stares and confused faces are common. But that's okay; I see it as a business opportunity.

Relationships are queen for my business as well as my client's... and Twitter is not just another shiny object.

Thanks for showing us the way!

Jennifer Murray

Unknown said...

Mack, excellent advice. For those of us who live and breathe this it is all too easy to forget that the majority of our audience is still struggling to understand blogging. I know that the conference attendees benefited from your presentation and your always articulate explanations on the business value of social media.

Anonymous said...

As I spoke to a friend this afternoon, trying to explain what I do and why a lot of companies (such as Fortune 500s that are her clients) aren't as aware as they should be because they're still focused on selling products and spending money on ad campaigns, I finally broke it down and said my role is not to show companies HOW to do xyz, though I can provide that training; rather, my role is to provide the WHY of it.

Once a firm understands WHY it's important, it's easier to explain the HOW and the WHAT.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article and points. It it so important to look at the why!

Daria Steigman said...

Hi Mack,

Thanks for a great post. There is at times a tendency to focus on the tools and technology and forget that they are just means to an end: engaging stakeholders, providing business value, and achieving business success.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for saying what needed to be said!

I often feel like the uninvited guest at a religious service when it comes to hearing folks speak about social media.

The initiated all know when to stand and when to kneel. The rest of us don't.

And sometimes it feels like worshipping hammers when its really about pounding nails.

But that's just me. Grin.

Keep creating...a brand worth raving about,