The lure of social media

If you are connected to the great web for a longish period of time, you cannont escape the buzz about social media. Probably the same kind of buzz would have happened when man discovered fire… and wheel! It almost sounds as if a revolution of immense proportions is taking place. Fossils, who can’t understand the lingo or the relevance feel further fossilized. The ones who understand a bit more are getting conned into putting all their money on the net (dot com is hitting back with a vengence).

The ones who really understand, are surely not putting all their eggs in the social media basket… They are the ones who have undestood the implications of this revolution… implications that go beyond the virtual buzz and are transforming people out there in the real world… They have figured out the basic reason why it is happening. And are incorporating it into their brand communication. Not just presence on the web but making meaningful use of the opportunity.

Medium is not the message. The message is what people are doing with the medium. Oh and no rocket science here… everyone knows that social media is allowing people to hold conversations… with anyone and anywhere in the world. The boundaries have truly collapsed.

What it has meant is that people have knowledge at the click of a button… immense knowledge to decide and choose.

Trends start and end very quickly.

Substance gets buried under a whole lot of garbage.

Presence or lack of presence defines people, brands, products and personalities.

And everybody is now caught in the trap of  “be there or be square”… Read a discussion point on a networking site – “Does having a page on facebook help your brand or organization?” And this perhaps symbolizes what presence means to most brands and people. Because it is the hottest thing happening so let’s be present. Relevance be damned.

There was a time when everybody was watching TV so all brands were cluttering up the airtime. Rates were through the roof. And of course media planning and duration of the commercial was all important… rather than what needed to be said.

This perhaps led to the losing of the connect… the human connect. Brands were talking “to” people rather than holding conversations. At least in India the trend still continues and even more dangerous is the fact that brands are taking this into the virtual space too (a microsite for a promotion or launch does not constitute holding a dialogue)

And then there are brands like Threadless… Threadless is encompassing all the C’s of the Generation C to make a difference to the brand. The website is a facilitator… so is Twitter… but the core is connecting, co-creation and a dialogue with their consumers…

The important thing to realize is that it has now become all about conversation and while social media is a great place to hold conversation, it is not the be all and end all… The takeaway has to be that consumers are seeking a connection with the brands at an emotive and human level… They are refusing to be ‘talked at’. While the numbers are huge and exciting about people connecting, writing blogs, being part of communities… do not get taken in… these people have lives outside the virtual world too where the buying decisions actually happen. What are you doing at a retail level? How are you interacting? Is the product telling a story? And is the story engaging enough? While you are great and getting lot of hits and responses on the web, is it reflecting into tangible benefits on ground?

Virtual world would never replace the real world and products and brands are consumer in real world (not everyone lives a life on Second Life).

Getting carried away by the hype of social media would be dangerous… Stick with it and ignore other forms of communication and engagement at your own peril… because virtual world is like a kaliedoscope… every turn would throw up a different pattern and throw out the existing trends faster than  you can say click or impression or SEO…. or whatever…

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