• Interesting perspective Geoff. I continue to struggle with SM as the ‘end all to be all’ and the lack of understanding that permeates its use. I see it as another addition to the communicator or better yet, marketer’s armamentarium which is why I find the explosion of ‘SM’ experts so troubling.

    The major changes I see are the ease with which consumers can now communicate directly with marketers (and visa versa) and depending on the industry, e.g. medicine, an ability to leverage and equal the playing field.

  • Thanks for continuing the conversation, Geoff :).

    However, my point was not about the general public needing to better understand social media. I completely agree with you that people by and large don’t compare about SM, etc., per se. Life is what they care about, and how can live it better is what they care about.

    To me what is exciting about technology is how it can make life better for us, or how we use it to make life better for ourselves, which was, as you remember, the focus of my Ignite presentation. But I really don’t care about the technology per se (oops, there go any future tech clients!).

    My point was that those of us who are immersed in the tools from a professional point of view often assume that there is a level of understanding from the “lay person.” I used the dinner party as an example to illustrate why it’s not… and because the folks I met are an example of the high-level executives and managers who, while they might be using these tools on a day-to-day basis without really caring about them as such, are not making the connection as to how they could use them better for business.

    That is what I meant when I wondered aloud as to whether we are really over the “adoption” phase.

    As far as the eMarketer study goes, yes, that certainly indicates SM use is growing. But it still cites 64% as the percentage of US internet users who use social media. That’s 64% of the approximately 77% of the US population who are Internet users, not 64% of the entire US population.

    I’m not going to quibble over how large the growth is, or the rate of growth. I’m just pointing out that numbers, as you say, don’t lie, but we also have to look at the entire context.

    Finally, I’m not demanding “more than a pedestrian interest from laypeople.” I’m asking professionals to remember that everyone isn’t as immersed in this as we are – which point I think you and I agree on – and that we can’t take it for granted there still isn’t a lot of education down the road, particularly for the C-suite and senior executives whose understanding of the benefits of incorporating social into their outreach will determine if, how and when they decide to include it in their budgets.

  • @Shonali “Are not making the connection as to how they could use them better for business,” is not an argument of adoption, it’s an argument for best practices. I would not confuse the two. Also, C-Suite professionals need to understand social media’s impact on their business just as they would the benefits of cash flow, sales and HR. I’m sorry, but your interest is as a communications professional, not as someone who is seeing the entire business or market picture.

  • Geoff, thanks for this. I think you’ve hit upon a great unspoken truth. Perhaps the reason we focus on it so much is because it’s relatively new. I wonder how much chatter there was of the newspaper, the radio or the television when each of those technologies were in their nascent years?

    But this is all going to die down, and “social media” is just going to be recognized for what it is: media. But media co-powered by individuals rather than solely by media empires. Love your point about technology being just that. We’re using it as a proxy for change right now, when the real change is how people are interacting with content.

    But here’s the kicker: people still want what they’ve always wanted – they want what’s in it for them. They care about themselves, their close friends, and their families. It’s the same universal human nature that’s been around for thousands of years. All we have to do is provide the content that’s worthy of their attention and that lets them do whatever they want to do with it.

    I just saw a report that gets at the heart of what you’re talking about – thinking about the content and people’s motivations, rather than focusing on the tools. The report noted that Americans like to share what they think their friends and family are interested in; conversely in Japan, people are more likely to share what they themselves find interesting.

  • Geoff – if they don’t make the connection as to how it would better impact their business, why would they make the connection to adopting it as a best practice? So no, I don’t believe I’m confusing the two, and if there’s one thing that people who’ve worked with me or attended any of my seminars/presentations know is that I do indeed focus on the entire business and market picture rather than just tools and tactics.

    I don’t know if we’re getting lost in semantics but clearly you and I are not going to change each others’ minds… which is fine, it’s a free world. How boring would it be if we agreed on everything all the time?! Delighted to have had the opportunity to respond and I thank you for that.

  • @Scott Exactly, the tools become something to do things with, rather then something we overfascinate with…. A master plumber that gets upset at his friends or his building management company when they don’t want to talk about snaking tools is well, out of touch. They just want the toilet fixed.

    I would say that in many brands’ cases, content will not be enough, that they will need to really engage and participate. In essence, the whole ivory tower thing will have to end for most brands if they want to be successful online.

    @Shonali It’s just a conversation as they say… And you know I have a great respect for you. But it’s not semantics. I’ve run two businesses, launched products, and have sold for a 70 person company. You know I have been online for a long time, and can pretty much run circles around many practitioners when it comes to social capability. My experience says I am seeing a shortfall.

    Back to CxOs, you may attend to the whole business as it applies to a communications strategy (as you should), but I still think there is a disconnect on how an entire business runs. It’s not that businesses don’t understand the use, but they are coming to understand the proportion of time they need to invest. Some will be better at this than others, for example Michael Dell. But I don’t think Michael Dell spends anything more than a few hours a week on social media. He has other functions to attend to…

    So, best practice, great. Show me the ROI. I know you believe in ROI, too. In that, sense we are in agreement. But the ROI may not match the ROI from another activity. Other businesses may see value in social media, but see MORE value in other communications actions as well as other business task. They may choose to invest elsewhere in what they see as more mission critical tasks.. Like scheduling business meetings with distributors or clients or vendors or prospects. To criticize them for being wrong, when in actuality they might just be right, is a mistake, in my opinion.

    I never responded to your comments about the numbers. When I see not one but three reports (Forrester, Pew and now eMarketer) showing adoption in the overall high 60th and low 70th percentile, with growth dramatically slowed in the under 40 segment, and senior groups ranging from 25-40+% in adoption, I think the game is over. Especially since the data is SIX months old. We are all capable of interpreting data as we see fit, but I have learned never to assume the Internet is stagnating in its evolution.

  • Here is the rub about people who believe technology will solve problems in the world (and I’m in that camp) > it is people that solve problems in the world. Not technology.

    I agree with @Geoff. I’ve been a product manager, I’ve run P&L’s in the $30 million range.

    The question any Sr. Business Leader is going to ask is? “What will be the result of investing X in Social Media Vs. X in Direct Marketing or SEM etc..”?

    The answer is very clear. SEM / Direct Marketing can show a clear ROI. I spend $1000 on Google Ads and I bring in $4000 in qualified leads that sign a check to the company.

    There is no question that a Sr. Executive is going to invest in direct measurable marketing and not in social media which is more like branding.

    I’m coming to the realization that Social Media is very very good for customer service.

    In fact, @Shonali wrote about this a few weeks ago.

    My example is that traditional customer service channels (phone, email, etc..) are overwhelmed and useless.

    Example? I had an issue with Bissel (vacuum and steam cleaners) a few months ago. I emailed them and called them in the traditional way.

    No response.

    I then Facebooked them and Tweeted them.

    Immediate response and resolution to the issue.

    I now love Bissel.

    Shaun Dakin

  • What I like most about this conversation is that we are discussing the heart of social media, and have not once even mentioned or debated a specific feature or technology – which is very much to Geoff’s point. I actually agree with every aspect he brings up—- except the conclusion on penetration ceilings. Curious how that works – but it also reflects thoughtful dialogue.

    I agree completely it’s about relationships, conversations and people engaging in these without caring that much about the tools, etc. It is precisely this that leads me to the different conclusion. In traditional media where the people are essentially there as a function of the medium (digital, TV, radio, even print) and for it’s professionally presented content, the medium or tool is very much on their mind and effects their behavior. When TV added a feature that made the content more interesting, say color, it drove more adoption. At some point the technology’s ability to make its medium and content more interesting levels out and adoption levels out with it. But in social people are engaging around a much more fundamental human behavior pattern of human to human dialogue and contact.

    Geoff says “Technology is not people. Technology is technology. Technology adoption is determined by percentage of use”

    I couldn’t agree more. But in my view social media adoption is not a function of technology adoption, but rather of people adoption. That is, adoption of dialoguing and having relationships with other people. This is something 100% (okay 95%+) the planet desperately want, but have been constrained or distracted from by among other things prior media technology. As long as physical access becomes ubiquitous (and it will), then the adoption rate of people to people (via social media) will get very close to 90%+ across all age segments. The best analogies here are the oldest. What % of people that could physically, easily access the Roman Forum (a place of people to people, ergo social) did so?

    Geoff, we are now agreeing so much it’s hard to tell we we disagree. You are right in every respect — except the people-people dynamic you highlight so well, will have the side effect of causing 95%+ adoption of social media technologies. For social media is not creating a new behavior that people must adopt, but rather unlocking one that is already there.

  • I think that Peter hit the nail on the head with his comment that “social media is not creating a new behavior that people must adopt but rather unlocking one that is already there.’ I’ve been saying this for some time now, that the new, shiny object isn’t really new; the current iteration is what’s new and unique.

    That aside, however – do people care about the technology? That depends on the industry. In healthcare, the tools and technology are a critical, essential part of the discussion AND the engagement, personal health records or utilization of online streaming for continuing medical education, for example. I may be missing the point but I do believe that the role and importance of technology may be industry-centric.

  • It is interesting that Social Media, which so many of us live and breathe every day, is just a way to communicate with other people for so many. It’s like obsessing over phone etiquette, perhaps.

    I think that there is something to learning about best practices – I think learning best practices can be helpful in learning how Social Media can be used for good. But there is, maybe, more to life :)

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