Skip to content

Social Media. Focus on the Social Part.

March 16, 2010

Most of us have fond memories of playgrounds. For a child, a playground has a bunch of fun stuff to do with your friends and with kids from other neighborhoods. A place to run, swing, slide and hang. It’s a totally social environment. Kids having fun with other kids with a myriad of social dynamics at play.

Now picture that playground without the children. It’s just plastic and rubber in all shapes and sizes. The playground isn’t social. The kids are social. They are the ones who bring it to life and make it a social environment.

So it is with social media. These new media, while exciting, are just toys for us to enjoy with each other. We make it social. The social part of social media is us. And that’s the part we should be focusing on.

Thank Boomers and Gen X for the technology, but thank Millennials for bringing social media to life.

Those of us who raised Generation Y made sure they had the latest technology, which was just beginning to explode on the scene. We bought the PC or Apple for ourselves and then wondered, why shouldn’t our kids have technology too? We reasoned that they needed to be prepared for a new world, so we gave them simple and fun educational (and not so educational) toys and video games. Schools jumped in too. The market then gave them the technology to keep in touch with their friends all the time. The rest of us have just followed their lead.

So when marketers and digital immigrants get all excited about the technology and the platforms, it’s no wonder that Gen Y looks up from their cell and smart phones with a “huh?”, wondering why anyone would want to tweet. To Gen Y, it’s always been about friends and games.

Now we’ve found that social media have opened a whole new world for most of us, splitting our identities in ways not easily deconstructed. Brian Solis has been artfully taking tries at such deconstruction in posts I recommend. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, or the new Chatroulette, new media are allowing us to socialize with a world without boundaries.

Whatever media we encounter and engage in, we are different now. Our expectations have changed. Our frame of reference has been forever altered.

And because we’re different now, all media are adjusting. In a sense, it’s all transitioning to be social. Television programs are asking us to follow them on Twitter and Facebook. TV ads continue the story on YouTube. Print too. It’s about engagement now, because we are social beings.

Ford is a brand that really gets that it’s all about social, whatever the medium. They have a world-class social media program that has successfully launched new brands, and they incorporate social into other media, such as their :15 television spots that have their car owners highlight how cool the technology is in their car. Technology doesn’t sell technology. People do.

In the midst of the social media frenzy, there are voices out there reticent to participate, skeptical about employing social media. But because the focus is on media, they miss the point.

It’s not about social media. It’s about your customers, just like it’s always been. Only now, whether they be natives or immigrants, technology has changed how your customers experience life and your brand.

Whatever your product, find ways to engage your consumers using whatever media work best. Engage them on your website, in emails, in your brochures and in social media. Find ways to draw them in, to continue to engage them in another medium.

Those of us involved in marketing higher education have been doing the social thing for decades–especially those at small private colleges that have emphasized community. But now it has to be adapted to the new media that engage us at levels unthought-of previously.

Stripping away all the social media hype, it’s still about finding out what the market is looking for and shaping your product and marketing plan to meet market demand. And once you do that in today’s environment, you’ll be looking for ways to be social.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 20, 2010 2:02 PM

    I agree that it’s still all about the audience and the strategy to get to the audience. However, social media allows the brand to become a medium in addition to the media – as in, people can connect to one another through you.

    I find that all too often the dominant question is still is “how do we promote ourselves to our audience?” instead of “how can our audience promote themselves through us?”


    • Rick Hardy permalink
      March 20, 2010 3:17 PM

      Michael, thanks for your comment. Good clarifying point. You’re right. Social media do allow brands to become media for people to connect with one another. It’s a fresh way to talk about community. In a community, we talk to brands, they to us, and we talk to one another. All of that should contribute to a positive sense of being in the brand’s community.

      When you put forward the goal of having the “…audience promote themselves through us,” are you talking about what is happening by this very exchange, where I end up finding out more about Inigral as a result of your comment? If so, that’s very true. But brands will only want to commit to social media if it ends up building a community that positively impacts their brand and bottom-line.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: