Social Media is Dead, Long Live Social Media

pinballI’ve decided to shelve for the moment my sub-domain for social media. I created it a couple years ago to detail how I can help small business people get a grip on social media ways and means. By now, though, I’m thinking we need to drop the term, social media, and forge ahead to more wide-open possibilities for communications.

Not that I think we should drop our social media activities, our participation on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, et al. We definitely should keep up these dialogues with all due enthusiasm. But we should no longer view them as the cutting edge. They have become utilitarian. They are our infrastructure, and the reality of that is awesome. Like it or not, it’s a fact that Twitter proclaims the news first. Fan or not, you can’t deny that Facebook’s hold on us is visceral.

What we’ve found, though, is that social media (for business) is after all just another tool for marketing and communications; another channel, with its uses and quirks and limitations. Indeed, it’s inexpensive, and you can directly measure the impact of your social media campaigns. You certainly don’t intend to stop your tweeting and updating. But like the dazed and obsessed pinball player looking up after hours chasing the bullet, you’re beginning to look elsewhere for clues.

Social media is technology applied to something that PR people have always known is central to business success: the quality of your relationships. The new online channels have certainly improved our capabilities immensely. Their potential is enormous and we’ve seen huge returns already.

But we’re also seeing that to a large extent social media is used in the old push marketing ways, as advertisement plain and simple. The Web 2.0 ideals of transparency, authenticity, and sharing are hardly observed at all anymore. If social media can be abused like this, we are forced to look elsewhere for platforms that are less susceptible to corruption. What might those new platforms look like?

  • Exclusivity in social media sites, if not outright private social clubs, perhaps.
  • Or maybe the cutting edge of your marketing and communications is, after all,  found offline.
  • Or perhaps concentrating far more intensely on your email list will bring the results you seek.

Social media was supposed to be about personal connections between real people, but it struggles to live up to that ideal today. I believe we are still shaping it, and we’ll collectively get better at it. In the meantime, though, perhaps we should admit the honeymoon is over. Social media is not an ultimate solution to the marketing challenge. It’s an important step forward but it’s not so new, after all. It helps us do what we already knew we must do.

Therefore, as so often happens, at this point the question is, what is the question? If technology helps but still does not deliver ultimate solutions for communications that work, we’re back to the drawing board.

What will perform more effectively in bringing us customers and nurturing the customers we have? Is it different technology, messaging, perspective, language, attitude, images, measurement … ?

That’s the question this blog asks, and the issue I consider every day in serving my clients. It’s all about strengthening connections, as the basis of abundance for your business. Social media is a part of that, a significant part, though not (as of yet) the ultimate solution.