Is Social Media the latest lifeline in a downturn economy?

Posted on December 10, 2008. Filed under: blogging, Business, Marketing, Social Media, twitter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

A life preserver icon.

In times of economic uncertainty people instinctively look for some way in which to add additional value to their position, either within an organization or within the broader business environment.

The Rise of The ‘Expert’

In 2007/2008 SEO & SEM became attached to almost any position that vaguely involves some form of online activity. Marketers, PR, copywriters, web designers, web developers everyone suddenly claimed that they had the secret sauce that would enable your website to be on page one of any search any results remotely connected with your business.

The second half of 2008 has seen a shift of this toward Social Media. With the rise in popularity of Social Media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn & Facebook and their increasing use by corporates as a communication tool employees and freelance individuals are shifting their attention to becoming Social Media ‘experts’.

This is not all that surprising. It happens with the advent of all new technologies and for that matter non-technology trends.

The Cool Kids

There have been some interesting conversations on Twitter regarding the craze for gaining a high number of followers and achieving this by following as many people as possible. Indeed Gennefer Snowfield (@acclimedia) made the astute observation that the trend for applications like Tweetdeck that allow the management of large quantities of followers is a reaction to this method of using Twitter.

This method is perhaps being inspired by the perception of Social Media “rockstars” like Chris Brogan, Guy Kawasaki, Robert Scoble & others who are seen as having large numbers of followers and that there is some correlation between having a large following on Twitter and the degree of ‘expertise’ in Social Media. Therefore if you are to be seen as a Social Media ‘expert’ you should have a large number of followers and to achieve this you should follow a large number of people.

This is where unfortunately the ‘Social’ in Social Media gets over-emphasized and the Media part gets practically ignored. Social Media isn’t high school. It isn’t about being like the cool kids. Chris Brogan et al are not the Senior year whilst the rest are all Freshmen.

However, this type of behavior is to be expected in uncertain times. In the late 90’s everyone wanted to append the title ‘Webmaster’ to themselves. Not just because it was cool, but because the trend in business was to start using the Internet and in particular the web as a new method of communication. Social Media is the new channel. So individuals with no marketing communication experience are suddenly becoming Social Media ‘experts’.

Just as there are those who have and continue to present themselves as being SEO ‘experts’ without anything more than a slim veneer of search engine knowledge so I believe we will see a rise in the number of Social Media ‘experts’. Of course this is all possible because even someone with a shallow level of knowledge can be convincing in a room full of people with no knowledge. 2010 will see the shake out of those people, but 2009 will be their year. As more and more organizations wake up to the way communications between provider and consumers are happening and start to invest in Social Media and realize that they need help but can’t afford the A listers so they will turn to whatever resource they can find, either internally or amongst the budget providers.

I actually don’t see too much wrong with this. Of course there will be some charlatans, and Caveat Emptor will always apply. Organizations that don’t carry out some form of due diligence when hiring consultants of any nature share the responsibility if they implement bad advice.

Embracing The Talent You Have

What I think will continue to happen will be the rise in the numbers of Social Media participants who are conducting self branding campaigns. Jeremiah Owyang posted an article about how corporations respond to employees who develop personal brands. Given that there are over a million blogs created daily in the US the likelihood that a large or even medium sized organization doesn’t already have several bloggers amongst its workforce is fairly slim. Instead of restricting this activity why not nurture it? Provide training, hone skills, develop an integrated communications strategy that includes these individuals.

Does your organization encourage or discourage your Social Media activity?

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Keep Blogging Weird: Not Wired

Posted on October 23, 2008. Filed under: Observations, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , |

In a recent article for Wired Magazine Paul Boutin declared the Blog dead. His argument is that blogs were good while they were being written by the little guy but now that the blogosphere is dominated by the likes of the Huffington Post and other magazine style writings, the little guy should move over to tools like Facebook, Twitter & Flickr.  I spoke with Robert Scoble last night at the Austin Tweetup about the so called “death of blogging”. He reminded me that this article appears on a regular basis and that there are always people claiming to have found the reason why blogging is dead.

I have to take issue with this.  I am a transplanted Austinite, originally from London, England.  Here in Austin we have a slogan “Keep Austin Weird”, it refers to the area south of Ladybird Lake downtown where you will find an eclectic mix of independently owned stores. No big box chain emporiums but rather odd and yes sometimes rather weird places that, be you resident or visitor, will make you smile, laugh and quite probably part with your money.

If we were to talk Paul’s advice then we would simply shutdown this eclectic mix of stores and invite in the big boxes because after all they have the marketing budget, they run ads on TV and in the Sunday inserts, so how can the small single owned store possibly compete and yet they do.

In the article Paul argues that the only feedback you will receive for blogging will be naysayers and hecklers and that your chances of appearing on page one of Google results for any given topic that you blog about are zero.  I think Paul is sadly misled as to why most bloggers blog.  Certainly speaking for myself I do not blog to end up on page one of Google. 

Perhaps Paul would be well guided to pick up the classic “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser.  Chapter Two addresses the most relevant point in any writers mind – “Who am I Writing For?”

“Dont try to visualize the great mass audience. There is no such audience – every reader is a different person….. You are writing primarily to please yourself…if you lose the dullards back in the dust you don’t want them anyway”

I do not write with the expectation that thousands of people will search for my article on google.  Those who enjoy what I have to share know where to find it and some of them are kind enough to pass on the location to their friends, just as many people, having visited the weird shops in Austin pass on their location to others.

I agree that Twitter, Facebook and Flickr are great tools but they do not replace blog writing, they augment it. I am an avid user of Twitter and have written about it several times, as I have Facebook.  But they do not provide the outlet that writing a blog does.  Twitter takes me little or no discipline.  I post here 5 days a week, I write 7 days a week ( I post to Dad-O-Matic on Sundays), that takes discipline.  I am a better writer for it and I feel as though I am providing something for those who like to read.

So to Paul Boutin I say, Keep Blogging Weird.

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