Ian Lurie Feb 23 2009
Note! This post has caused a kerfuffle! Read it at your own risk!
I’m getting ready for tomorrow’s Northwest Entrepreneur Network meeting. I have to give some opening remarks, and as always I find it a little easier if I write down my thoughts.
The panel is about ‘Social Media’ and ‘Social Networking’.
Love the concept. Hate the terms.
Before we all get swept up in the hype around social this and media that, it pays to step back, take a deep breath, and get some perspective:
First, the phrase is ridiculous. Have you ever heard of ‘anti-social media’?
Second, social media is not something new. It’s been around since one of our apish ancestors hooted to the rest of the tribe about a sabertooth tiger.
Third, you are not Barack Obama. If you’re expecting to reach millions of people overnight, it ain’t gonna happen.
What social media/networking is
Social networking happens any time you connect with others to get the word out. If you need to pass the message that all purple things are intelligent, you could stand on a street corner and yell “Purple things are intelligent!!!!”. If another crazy person is passing by, they’ll pick up the story and pass it along.
Online, social networking happens when you reach out to existing connections through one of the hundreds (thousands?) of tools out there like Twitter, Facebook or MySpace. Post your message, and everyone who follows you (on Twitter) or is your friend (on Facebook) sees that message. If they like it, they pass it along to their friends, who may also like it, and so on.
It’s like a sneaky chain letter, without the vague threats of horrific consequences.
What social media isn’t
Social media is not some phenomenon that’s unique to the online world.
It is not a revolution in marketing.
It is not the Way To Instant Millions In Your Inbox. It takes time.
It is not a substitute for other marketing tactics. Tell me that and I’ll punch you, or at least bat at you feebly (I’m kind of a wuss).
It’s about expectations
Lots of people claim they’re ‘social media experts’. There are no social media experts. Unless you’ve gone your entire life without humiliating moment of ass-clenching foot-in-mouth syndrome, you are not a social media expert.
There are some marketers who claim to be social media experts but don’t have a clue. Then there are a few who know a lot about the sites and the tools and can use them to support an internet marketing campaign. Neither is an expert. The latter is a great asset. The former is a danger to himself and others.
Set your expectations. Any form of social media or networking requires that you have an audience of interested listeners, first. If you think you’re going to get that in a week, think again.
Social media takes time
Yes, you can jump on Twitter, follow 7,000 people and then spam the 500 poor souls who follow you back. yes, you can do the same on Facebook. But that won’t build you a network that’s an asset. It’ll build a network of people who want to see you buried face-down in an anthill.
Instead, take the time to build a network. Find the people who’ll really benefit from what you have to tell them (or sell them). Then start reaching out.
Stop and think
I’m not actually saying we should replace the terms ‘social media’ or ‘social networking’. I am saying we need to stop and think before we hop on the bandwagon. Treat social media as part of a smart marketing campaign, not the risen savior of marketing.
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More