Sunday, November 2, 2008

Nov 08 - Getting Social

Stop any person in the street, ask them what advertising is, and chances are they’ll not only tell you, they’ll also have an opinion on it.

Ask that same person about social media, and there’s every possibility they’ll look at you like you had just asked them the square root of 347.

Of course social media and social networking are two of the marketing buzz-terms of 2008, but are we as an industry perhaps getting a little over excited by them?

I think we may be.

I’m not saying they’re not important or useful as marketing tools. I’m just saying that the average person in the street isn’t as aware or involved in social networking sites as we might think.

In fact, a recent survey by marketing intelligence group, Synovate, found more than half they people surveyed had no idea what social networking was. A similar survey conducted in April this year by Universal McCann also found social networking to be a minority activity.

Greg Verdino, from US agency Crayon, blogged on this subject recently. “Just because blogs, vlogs, virtual worlds and mobile social software might be woven into the very fabric of our day-to-day lives,” wrote Verdino, “doesn’t mean that any of these things have actually mainstreamed.”

When he uses the word ‘our’ Verdino is talking about thought leaders in marketing and the blogosphere. Not the populace at large.

“We're trying new things, overdosing on them and writing them off as yesterday's news long before the more typical consumer has even heard of them,” says Verdino.

“Take social networking for instance. Who among you doesn't at least have a Facebook profile? But imagine you're on a crowded train. Odds are the person sitting next to you couldn't tell you the first thing about MySpace or Facebook.”
I’m not completely sure I agree with Greg Verdino to be honest.

Whilst I don’t doubt that a large percentage of people may not have MySpace or Facebook accounts, that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t participate in social networking.

As Chris Grayson from Gigantico points out, “We are too close to it.”

For him, the most popular and widely used examples of social media applications are email and instant messaging! “The people you really know,” believes Grayson, “are in your phone list.”

For the go-getters at the vanguard of social media however, everyday tools like email and the phone are old hat.

But when you stop and think about it, you can share just as much information and conversation with your friends using email and phone as you can with a Facebook account. It’s just that Facebook makes it so much more simple.

So perhaps the Synovate survey is wrong. Maybe most people are social networking, they just don’t do it using the latest hip new web 2.0 gizmos. Which is a bit of a shame, as applications like MySpace and Facebook really do facilitate social networking.

What the experts are slowly starting to realise though, is that these new technologies are actually taking us back to the so called good old days.

Writing on the One Size Fits One blog, Anjali Ramachandran says, “Social networks like Facebook and Twitter have basically taken the social system back to the period of small-town life when everyone knew what you were up to all the time.”

“Most of the people we know,” argues Ramachandran, “or at least those that we interact with on a regular basis are likely to be on Facebook.

At the end of the day, your life is most impacted by those people. So even though I am not super active on Facebook or LinkedIn anymore, I still maintain my profiles, because that's where my friends are.”

That’s also the case for me too.

The days of checking Facebook on a regular basis are long gone. But check it I do, because it brings my friends from near and far together in the one place. The same with my teenage daughter and MySpace.

As Chris Grayson says, “What these sites are brimming with are happy loyal members of tight-knit online communities.

When you’re on most of these sites, they ask in your user profile whether you wish to share your website URL, your email address and instant messenger identities.

But the true lesson to be learned from these sites is that, irrespective of technology, content is still king.“


Greg Verdino

Chris Grayson

Anjali Ramachandran


Anonymous said...

Great post. I've just discovered your blog and already enjoy it a lot. I'll be back often.

Daniel Oyston said...

The surveys report a lack of knowledge/awareness of social media but did they give examples in the questions? E.g. Do you know what social media/networking is? (e.g. FaceBook or MySpace?)

I suspect that slipping in some references to FaceBook or MySpace into the questions would have increased the awareness results significantly.

But then you note that Grayson argues that the most popular and widely used examples of social media applications are email and instant messaging! Did these surveys ask people if they knew what email was? Suspect not because I think the awareness would have been close to 100%. Who hasn’t at least heard of email?

But then again, I think that if you asked the average person (who understands social networking/media a little bit) – “Do you think that sending an email is social networking?” that they would say no.

Grayson also says “What these sites are brimming with are happy loyal members of tight-knit online communities.” I completely disagree.

I think that FaceBook, and I have spoken to others who agree, is a community brimming with pointless “accept as a friend” relationships with people that the user hasn’t seen nor spoken to for 10-15 years let alone recognise if they passed them in the street. This is perpetuated by the gadget that suggests “people you might like to be friends with” and which is populated by searching for possible relationships.

I think the only way to obtain happy loyal members of tight-knit online community is to have a clean-out once in a while. I have 150 friends on FaceBook but maybe I should be routinely asked “do you still want to be friends with Bob?” and be forced to accept again – and him likewise.

I don’t think that FaceBook doesn’t have merit or value but I think it has been clogged up with so many applications, requests, pokes and whatevers that it is like a carnival of bright lights and activity and people spend too much time maintaining that stuff than really connecting with people in their network.

I completely agree with his comment about the people we know being in our phone book though.

Anonymous said...

Hi Stan - Great post. Just wanted to pass on one of my favourite 'how to explain Social Media to your Grandma tools':

I'm sure you've seen it but it's a good one nonetheless.



Stanley Johnson said...

Thanx for stopping by Brand Builder.

Daniel you make many good points. I pondered most of them myself. Thanx for your lengthy and well thought out comment.

Thanx also to Way Cool. Much appreciated.

Janette Toral said...

I was able to check out the McCann Wave 3.0 report and blogged about my disappointment on the Australia results. I observed that much of the advocacy on social media, blogging tools, and the likes are limited in hub areas in main cities and to a few circle. Not much goes around in reaching out to small businesses and students on its possible productive use.

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled across this post of yours quoting me and felt the need to make some clarifications.

@Stan Lee

You failed to mention in November of 2008 that you were quoting an article of mine from a year and a half before. In the context of your article, you write as if it were a contemporary piece to yours. A year and a half in Social Media is a lifetime (coincidentally, I wrote that article the same week that you made your first blog post).

In November 2008 you state:
"I’m just saying that the average person in the street isn’t as aware or involved in social networking sites as we might think."

Which was the entire point I was making a year and a half before when, in July 2007, I wrote that for the average user, when connecting online:
"Email and Instant Messaging are still the killer apps..."

In the summer of 2007, I'd say that was a pretty accurate statement.

@Daniel Oyston

You quote me as saying, “What these sites are brimming with are happy loyal members of tight-knit online communities.” and you attribute that quote to me speaking about Facebook. Perhaps you misread. That quote was not about Facebook at all. It was about the old-school ghetto of social media-- online Bulletin Boards. I even gave some specific examples of the type of bulletin board I was speaking of, such as a site called The Purse Forum:

The Purse Forum

I stand by my quote. The Purse Forum, like many bulletin boards, is a very tight knit community.

Anyone who wants to read my article in full can go to:
GignatiCo - Social Media Overload?

Best regards,

Stanley Johnson said...

Thanx for input and clarification Chris. Much appreciated.

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