Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Social media is still a car with four wheels

OK, I think that I need to get one thing straight - we did not invent the successor to the car somewhere between 2005 and 2008. One of the hardest things to do in the promotion of Web 2.0 thinking in organisations is to remind everyone that social media is still a car with four wheels.

We're not quite in flying cars yet!

So when I go into a meeting and say we can use social media and Web 2.0 thinking to connect with customers it is not green fields, not a flying car. Social media is still just connecting with customers like we always have done, just in a fancy new way.

Bringing everyone back down from Mars and getting them out of their flying cars, I like to remind people that there are plenty of precedents to the things we do in social media. It is not like everyone has been wandering Earth aimlessly in a silent vacuum. People talk, it's natural. People communicate by voice, pencil, pen, computer, phone, mobile phone, text message, gestures, looks, emotions ...

Social media just makes some of these things easier, and sometimes opens a new door to talking to new people you couldn't have previously. What it doesn't do is make conversations start that never would have started in the first place. Social media won't make people do things if they don't want to do them.

An example of a social media tool that has worked is Twitter. Twitter is not a flying car, it is still a four wheeled car. But why Twitter is successful is because it allows conversations to start that previously could not have, not for lack of want, but just because it was too hard. I can now talk to the guys at NASA that operate the Mars Lander if I want. Say Telstra had poor coverage in my area, I could tell Telstra via Twitter and not only would Telstra know, but all my followers too - Twitter is customer service in the public - a powerful tool.

Another example of social media that works are blogs. Back in the 90s it would have been cool to have your own personal web page to tell everyone how much you loved Pearl Jam and were annoyed when a case of beer cost more than $24. But unless you knew HTML and were prepared to put in hours of work and be happy with a pretty average result, it was too hard. Now with blogs, everyone is their own news service and we can all tell the world how ridiculous and dictatorial a government imposed clean feed internet censorship policy is.

Now to leave you with a little history lesson to prove that social media has been around for years, it's just that in the past few years technology has made our job a little easier.

Way back in the 1980s, before MySpace was invented, and MP3s were the stuff of science fiction novels, bands had trouble getting their music to their fans. They had to rely on a wireless receiver, or by then know as a radio. Getting music into record stores meant getting into bed with slimey record companies that would 'own your soul'.

No MySpace! What to do!?

A little New York band in just such a predicament had a solution. Staffed by the members of They Might Be Giants, the band Dial-a-song, recorded songs to an answering machine and told all their fans what the phone number was. Fans could dial up the number and listen to the music whenever they wanted (that is, whenever someone else wasn't calling!). Bypassing radios and record labels and going straight to the fans, that's social media!

So there you go. Even in the 1980s the people were out there inventing the social media cause.

The moral of this story is don't get carried away. We're not in our flying cars just yet.

1 comment:

Mick Leyden said...

Well said, it's very easy to get caught up in thinking about the ideal world and forget about the 25 steps you need to take before you get there.