Social Media: Fad, Revolution, Money-In-The-Bank?
Friday, October 19th, 2012
by Theras Wood
Social media — some call it a fad, social theorists call it a digital organism, but Silicon Valley is calling it money in the bank.
From September 24 to 28, Social Media Week was hosted in 12 cities across the globe, including UrtheCast’s own hometown, Vancouver. As an active member of the social media (#SocMed) world, UrtheCast wasn’t too taken aback when the conversation began to heavily revolve around the word ‘content’.
“Content is King,” wrote Bill Gates back in 1996 (in a curiously hard-to-find article). If that’s true, then is being social now Queen? According to a recent Google study, multiscreen is truly Queen. But apart from theories and semantics, it remains that social media — and content in particular — can be extremely good for business.
“Social Media Is The Internet”
Social media can bring down entire governments, said @GaryVee during the Financial Post Reach Event, and yet it can’t earn the respect of many a business person. (@GaryVee is renowned video blogger and wine-salesman-turned-social-media-expert, Gary Vaynerchuck.)
The problem with social media, says Gary, is that many business people either see social media as a frivolity, or they see it as a sales push tool (cue the starbursts and sandwich boards). If you begin to shout “Sale! Come on down! Buy! Buy! Buy!,” at people, they’re likely going to tune you out with a single click of their mouse.
Rules of Engagement
Then there are those who simply don’t understand social media yet. The rules of engagement, however, are likely more simple than many realize. Regardless of whether you use #SocMed for fun, for business, or for both, the rules essentially remain the same — much like attending a cocktail party, surrounded by people who have similar interests: you swap stories, smile, share opinions, thank the host, and avoid the trolls.
Stop Selling, Stop Talking, and Listen
The business of being social online all comes back to the mom-and-pop style of doing business, Gary says, and forming long-term relationships with your customers.
The key here to harnessing the power of a social medium, is to “stop selling”. For Gary, social media is about listening, not talking, and zero hard sell. Instead, he suggests having conversations with people and adding value to their online lives before they’ve walked through your front door (virtual or sliding).
The Power of Guilt
At the end of the day, the person you sell to, and the person you converse with, may both purchase your service or product. But the person you converse with is going to keep coming back because you’ve built a relationship with them. Gary uses the word ‘guilt’ here; you’ve given someone something of value — targeted advice, interesting life hacks, etc. — and the equilibrium has been set askew, so they feel a twinge of guilt and purchase something from you to alleviate that inequality. (Gary, like any good salesman, is really a master of human behaviour.)
It Ain’t Rocket Science
Yes, being social isn’t rocket science, and nor should it be. But it does take time, resources, personality, and attention to detail. Much like an off-the-cuff remark spreading like wild fire through a social circle, so too does content on the internet become emblazoned on Google’s collective psyche. This is a good and a bad thing, depending on the nature of that content, and a savvy community manager knows how to leverage this tendency. (Take the U.S. Presidency campaigns, for instance.)
We know that content can be anything from videos, blogs, and infographics, to songs; it all depends on your industry and the message you’re trying to get across. But is it powerful enough to be king?
During Social Media Week, the answer was a resounding “yes”.
Words are inherently powerful things, and content (blog content in particular) is what brings more eyeballs to your site than anything else, explained @BoscoAnthony, during the Financial Post Reach Event. With the proper use of keywords, writing style, and other SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques, you can draw in readers/viewers, ensuring that your message is being received, and increasing the chances that it will fan out across the web.
Power To The People
Now, in the age of bloggers, citizen journalists, and Twitteratti, anyone can be a content creator — a fact that was reinforced all throughout Social Media Week. Twitter users, for instance, now create the news and spread it through their social networks…long before many professional journalists have had time to reach toward the glow of their smartphone in the morning.
So, people who create the news are becoming those who write about the news. Biased news, or not, that’s power. And if power makes you king, then it’s somewhat safe to say that content (and the people and companies who create it) reigns supreme.
Valley Girls & Boys
A couple weeks back I visited with our SFO web development team and a group of international bloggers with the Live Orange #BlogBus Tour, including @Dr_Black, @LeSanto, @JoanneJacobs, @AlexD, and @Gangle.
The UrtheCast team gave a quick presentation (highlighting some technical aspects, our key partnerships, and future applications), which we followed with a chat about tech startups, trends, and where Silicon Valley is heading.
As you might suspect, and as the #BlogBus tour explained, most of the startups popping up in Silicon Valley are pretty small-scale social media companies.
And although some are calling investors’ current fascination with social companies a ‘bubble’ (there’s probably little need to reinforce the image of the DotCom burst here) it must be pointed out that it’s both efficient and relatively cheap to get a social media startup off the ground.
On the other hand, how many social mediums can the market bear?
If folks like Gary are right, and social media is, or is becoming the Internet, then social media might indeed be the result of a revolution and not such a delicate bubble after all.
Join the conversation at www.facebook.com/UrtheCast.