Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Companies, ignore social media early-adopters

Recently, Steve Rubel decided that blogging was dying, and that he was moving away from it. Whether you agree or disagree with Steve (and honestly I disagree with him often, especially on this issue), the fact remains that he's a very influential voice in the social media space. Companies read what he and other social media early adopters write, and they take it to heart.

But on the backdrop to the latest resurrection of the 'blogging is dead' meme, there's this; Google just announced that they will be jumping into the operating system business, launching an OS for computers based on their Chrome browser.

And how did Google alert the world to what Andy Sernovitz calls the biggest tech news of the year? Via a blog post.

Why did Google go with a supposedly 'dying' medium to make argubly their biggest announcement of the year?

Because what's 'dying' to the bleeding edge isn't what's 'dying' to companies. Oh and BTW, some people on the bleeding edge like to say things like 'blogs are dying' cause they know that everyone will link to them when they do. Shocking, but yeah, it sometimes happens.

But the bottom line is this; early adopters most likely use social media in a completely different way that your company, or your customers will. So if you are looking at how the 'influential' people in this space use social media as a potential blueprint for your own efforts, you are missing the boat. Look at how your CUSTOMERS use social media. They are the ones you need to be focusing on. It's great that GaryVee spends 18 hours a day on social media sites. He does this because that's how HE stays in contact with HIS customers. But if you do the same thing, and your customers are NOT on those same social media sites, how many hours a day are you wasting?

Whenever I talk to companies about their using social media, they always ask 'well how much time do YOU spend with social media each day?' And I have to point out that that's like asking me how much time I spend with my business each day. I am an outlier, my usage is NOT the norm, and it's not what you should be trying to emulate.

Companies, take your social media cues from your customers, not your favorite blogger/Twitterer.


Chuck Hemann said...

Good heavens, Mack...this is a great post. By the way, Facebook is dying. There, I said it! I'm the first.

In all seriousness, the "XYZ Social Networking site is dying meme" has me nauseated. Twitter and blogging are both apparently dead, though I'm not sure how one can make such a claim when so many companies could utilize it to engage stakeholders.

You make a great point that the way you, or Steve, use social networks is drastically different than how a brand would use it. I love the idea of thinking about the time aspect as less about how much time YOU are spending, but how much time your customers are spending. That would seemingly be a great answer to the question of how am I going to find the time for one more thing question we so often hear.

At any rate, thanks for the post! I enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

My favorite line: it's not about how many hours you are "on" Social Media a day...but how much time are you spending on your business a day...and even more much time are you spending with your customers every day!
Great thoughts!

Callieo said...

Having skimmed through the blogging is dead post, I rather suspect that the comment refers more to the format of the typical blog host - blogger,blogpress etc which allow the blogger to post and readers to comment. You can have a voice online on a wiki, or a website too. I personally rather like wikis for hosting conversations and collections of thoughts and topics...

The sheer volume of these blogs means the volume of white noise is immensely high, making it that bit harder to find a voice you want to listen to. So maybe the mass blog is less popular and we are now looking for branded and authoritarian voices?
There are a myriad of social media channels, each of us will use and choose the ones we like at any given time. Moving from Facebook to Twitter to and then where?

Unknown said...

Absolutely. Do your homework! But not only "how are your CUSTOMERS using SM today and how can you connect" but also, "how are my potential customers using social media today?"

I say companies should also bear in mind:
"I haven't been able to reach them before.. maybe I can today through this new dynamic of conversation?"

Mack Collier said...

Callie I think it's about perspective, as well. When Rubel and others like him started blogging, it was literally the only game in town. There was no YouTube, there was no Twitter, there was no Friendfeed. There was Facebook, but of course none of us on the 'bleeding edge' knew what it was.

So our main/only social media outlet was blogging. Now fast forward 3-4 years, and blogging is only one of several social tools we use regularly. So yeah, blogging can feel like it's 'losing steam' to us.

But to a company that's just deciding to start looking at social media, this is ALL new to them! Blogs are just as fresh and amazing as Twitter or Facebook or even MySpace is.

It's all about perspective, the perspective of the social media early adopter is usually much different from the company that's just 'found' social media. Companies can't lose sight of that.

Michelle / chelpixie said...

When are the bleeding edge going to catch wind of the fact that the majority of people are lagging behind them?

Okay so Twitter is now in the mainstream.....those people are still trying to figure out if Twitter even works for them.

Blogging is a good way to publish content, fresh content, as often as you'd like. Companies are just now discovering that.

Blogging isn't dead but those who make " dead" statements are, I agree, surely getting the traffic gains they want because of the controversial nature of their claims. Reminds me of reading headlines at

Of course I stopped reading CNN for value content months ago.

Tony Tranh said...

Great, great message here. Reminds me so much of Geoffrey Moore's Technology Adoption Life Cycle - the innovators gravitate towards new technology because they're enthusiasts and visionaries. They're all about tech and certainly have much different expectations than the vast majority users. The pragmatists and laggards of the world.

It just so happens that, in regards to social media, customers are probably distributed along the Technology Adoption Life Cycle in the same way - and you'll almost certainly fail to meet the needs of laggards if you employ tactics that speak to visionaries.

Grayson: Atlanta, GA said...

Enjoyed this post! As an early adopter type to some SM tools I admit I was a little hesitant to click-on, but you're right.

Stuart Foster said...

Agreed. The vast amount of companies are still waaaay behind the early adopters. They are just beginning to understand the implications of these things.

Is it fun to write about social media as much as it once was? Heck no. When it was new I can imagine the opportunities to do cool stuff must have been an everyday occurrence. Now you have to dig and analyze for meeting.

Guess the early guys don't like digging.

Maggie McGary said...

Great post and great advice for companies. The fact is that lots of early adopters hate that "their" secret tools are now totally mainstream. They are also, no doubt, threatened by the amount of competetition they now face. It's one thing to be known as a blogger because there are hardly any others out there; now that bloggers are a dime a dozen and new influencers are constantly rising to the surface, I'm sure there's some measure of wanting to quit while you're ahead mixed in with the "blogging is dead so I'm not doing it anymore" thing.

Daniel said...

I'm glad you said it, Mack.

By the way, podcasting is dead. ;P

(still podcasting since 2005, btw).

Amy Africa said...

Thanks for this post, Mack. I started a blog (technically a QLOG) less than two months ago and you cannot imagine the snarky comments I've gotten. "Blogging is dead." "Blogging was so five years ago." Really? I can't imagine that five years ago, I'd have gotten the 30,000 new names a month I'm collecting now. Why? Because my audience (folks interested in making more money online -- and not in an acai berry way, I might add) are JUST starting to read blogs. In fact, less than 1% of my audience uses RSS, they actually prefer e-mails. (You know, the things that were dead NINE years ago.)

I've been doing this internet schtick since the early 90's and every couple months something else has supposedly been rushed to the morgue. Perhaps if the consultants who are pronouncing it dead could actually sell their expertise/experience/consulting services, we could have fewer casualties and more improvements/headway in the marketplace.

Mack Collier said...

Daniel, podcasting is definitely the 'ugly stepsister' of social media, but I really think it can be a great tool for companies that is often-overlooked. I think a big barrier is the creation/editing process. If that were to simplify, then I think podcasting would really grow, but that's another post for another day.

BTW Amy gets more emails to one post than I have gotten to all of mine in the last 4 years combined. My readers prefer to comment, Amy's prefer to email. Nothing wrong with that, everyone uses the tools they are most comfortable with.

Saying that blogs are dead is all well and good, until you realize that being dead to the bleeding edge is NOT the same as being 'dead' to the average customer that's just now discovering them.

John Carson said...

What's the point of being on the "bleeding edge" if you're the only one bloody sitting there?

Susan said...

Mack, Great post. So much is happening with technology; personally we're just at the tip of the iceberg in using social media for internal communications. Blogging is just beginning in that environment! Personally I keep tabs on what is going on in social media, but I have to take baby steps when it comes to incorporating the appropriate social media tools into my business communications plan.

Tony Brice said...

Hear, hear to your "what's 'dying' to the bleeding edge isn't what's 'dying' to companies" observation. Many companies are just now beginning to seriously consider launching secure, private communities inside the enterprise. Selling into this market it's clear that for corporate social media, 2008 was a 'barely on the radar' year, 2009 is a 'we are not sure why but we really need to do this year', and 2010 will be the 'we have money, now help us spend it wisely' year.

The good companies selling enterprise social media platforms understand that every company is different in terms of what it needs, or should be needing, from social media. The needs will dictate what social tools to use -- Q&A for capturing the intellectual capital of soon-departing baby boomers, public & private groups for collaboration, blogs by managers and execs trying to communicate company strategy, vision etc. They're all important and, in our experience, people find their way whether through training, word of mouth, or trial and error.

Gavin Heaton said...

I read this earlier and forgot to comment! I have a feeling that blogs are just starting to kick along. Yes, there are a lot of blogs out there - but we are only now starting to understand how best to use them. We are maturing in the way that we publish and the way that we read ... and perhaps more importantly, we are beginning to use them as a platform for innovation within our businesses that has been stifled for years.

Is it sexy? No. Does it work. Yes.

Blaine Millet said...

Great post! Being a "business guy" that happens to have also been in "social media" for a while and an author of a book on "customer experiences", this is a great summation of the REAL WORLD.

At the end of the day, who cares about the tools and the latest and greatest - companies care about higher sales and better customer loyalty - that's it. As we have been seeing in the current economy, without these companies are dropping faster than twitter accounts.

Blogs get the word out in a way that creates "freshness" and "vitality" to the person or organization - so far I haven't found any other tool that you can do this with beyond 140 characters. Thanks for standing up for this - I will write about it as well and link to your post.


Eric Tsai said...

I completely agree with you and after I read that post I thought it was funny that Steve calls it life stream. I think blog is the hub for connecting relationships and is the true real voice of any brand from personal to corporate.

Social media is about OTHERS not you and it's about the dynamic conversation to demonstrate trust.

Linda Ireland said...

Thank you for your 'stop the maddness' sensibility. It sure feels like 1998 again. E-commerce - now it's social media - is the future! No, it's dying!

In reality, the interaction between each of us and our own customers must guide the use - and usefullness - of social media. If it helps you get a customer further faster to solving the need they want solved, it will help the customer experience. If not, it won't.

Again, thanks for the great post, and you may also find this thinking interesting:

Anonymous said...

An interesting article, though I think its not so much an issue of blogging being dead as it is an issue of blogging morphing into something new and more near time/real time. I create a FriendFeed conversation about it at and I welcome you to add some comments there as well as I believe this is a very important topic and one that should be explored further. Thanks for writing this piece, it definitely got me thinking.

Kathy said...

Excellent post. If blogging is dead to the early adopters, so be it. I'm more than happy for them to be off in search of the next big thing so they can let me know about it later.

In the meantime, I'll keep telling my clients to test different media but not to fall for the hype of "blogging is dead" or "if you're not already using Twitter, you're too late." Most of my clients target older adults, and that's a very different type of audience. Spending 10 hours a day on Twitter to reach them wouldn't be the best use of time.

Unknown said...

I, too, work with an older base of people, REALTORS in San Mateo County. They would benefit from using social media, but are still skittish about jumping in. Blogging dead? Oh, please say its not so, as I have a whole industry of people just waking up to the beauty of bloggers!

GeekMommy said...

Hm. Well... I agree and don't agree (big surprise!)

I think that having an early adopter make a claim that turns out to be inaccurate in the long run doesn't necessarily mean that companies should "ignore social media early-adopters" -- we are all wrong at times -- but we are right at other times as well.

If all companies had ignored early adopters, few would have realized the potential that things like Facebook and Twitter offered when "the bleeding edge" first started advocating them.

No need to ignore the early-adopters -- just don't mistakenly assume that they're always going to be giving you advice that's best for your business.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing this. I'd like to hope that this is not the case in most businesses, but sometimes people forget common sense.

Nick Ayres said...

Great post Mack - thanks for the much-needed reality check to many (including myself some days!)

Eric Brown said...

Hi Mack,
Nicely done, And to the point of many of the commentators here, if blogging is dead and the early folks are off to the next big adventure, so be it, as there are a whole passel of folks just starting to read and interact with blogs,not to mention the SEO value to blogging.

Point is, Blogging is far from being in the same category as the Buggy Whip!

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Marcy said...

Companies should rethink of how they're reaching their customers. Social media is a big hit - they should cook up something, at least how they can reach their customers through social media

Unknown said...

I totally agree. Blogging dying? The only thing dying about blogging is how new of a concept it is. After blogging became hot, Facebook, YouTube, and now Twitter followed. And all these new things complement blogging. They don't totally supersede it. In fact, online video these days can and has really helped drive fair amounts of traffic to blogs. These and other new services like Vimeo and AdWido really do not replace or "kill" blogs; they can certainly help them.