Six for Six

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Day 71 - Dreidl Die
Image by slgckgc

Next Monday marks the six year anniversary of my first blog post. As I’m blogging less these days, I decided my final post of this year with six reflections based on my experiences over these years. Here are my observations about social media, blogging and marketing based on my journey:

1) The Idealism of Better Business Through Social

When I began blogging, I believed in The Cluetrain Manifesto. Its raw message that businesses would be forced to act better thanks to social media spoke to me. Cluetrain inspired hope that conversations could change the very fiber of business in favor of people. I was full of passion for that change, and my first book Now Is Gone reflected this idealism.

Today there are some who are still pursuing the noble goal in the name of social business, but it seems watered down. This new iteration of changing business has a different motive. Social business harnesses conversation to maximize efficiency and profitability. These are worthy business goals, but not quite the same thing as making companies more accountable to customers and society as a whole.

The truth? I was a fool to believe in such idealism at the not so young-man age of 33. And I was twice the fool for thinking that like-minded peers would not succumb to the siren’s song of riches and fame. For me, the dream is dead. My old friend Scott Baradell said big business would eat social media marketing’s soul, and he was right. It’s business as usual.

2) Great Things Do Happen Online

The Pyramids

At the same time, great things do happen online in spite of the commercialized social web. We’ve seen people come together for incredible movements, from the revolutions throughout the Middle East and the Komen whiplash to Twestival and America’s Giving Challenge.

Change can happen anywhere now. We are all empowered to make a difference with these tools. We are all members of the Fifth Estate.

Is it easy? No, great things take real work. Building a grassroots movement is something that takes time, toil and passion. But I see people striving to make a real difference in the world everyday in my work with Razoo. I have done it myself, too. And that’s why I believe that any of us can make a huge impact in our community if we we’re willing to do the work.

3) Our Social Conversation Is Lopsided

The lopsided marketing conversation favors social media, in large part because businesses and nonprofits have struggled to adapt. As a result, most leading marketing blogs are really social media blogs, and don’t cover the whole marketing profession, from strategy and lead generation to advertising and public relations.

Heck, this blog is as bad as the rest of them. That’s because anytime I write about some other aspect of marketing besides social media, you can hear the crickets through the ether.

But make no bones about it, most CMOs know social makes for a small fraction of their overall marketing effort. Social media may be the new jack in town, but it’s not the ace, king or queen, at least for a vast majority of companies. My own experience shows this is true, and it’s the primary reason why I was thrilled to write Marketing in the Round with Gini Dietrich, the forthcoming book on integrated multichannel communications.

4) Blogs and Books

Soleil says, "The Fifth Estate, huh?"

It seems like every blogger with any kind of readership has become an author. It’s no coincidence that the first themes of this post also feature my three books, too.

In reality, this trend makes sense to me. I tried to get published as an author for ten years before I started blogging. Within a year of waxing poetic online, I got my first contract.

Publishing was in trouble before blogging. What blogging allowed publishers to do was to recruit new authors who already had some sort of subject matter knowledge (real or perceived) and a latent audience for books. In essence, blogging became the minor league of writing, and many of the best players were given a shot in the majors, right or wrong.

5) Opinions versus Data

Everyone has an opinion. Some of them are grounded in experience and training, and others are simply just someone’s gut instinct or response.

We see conversations that are completely polarized. Some people would stifle opinions in the name of civility, and others demand strong discourse. There are those who would rather not partake in any conversation at all, lest they offend. And then there are those who complain when criticized, claiming “Haters Going to Hate.”

Wherever you sit on the spectrum, one thing is clear, everyone has an opinion now. Even not saying anything says something. But what does all of this opinion get us? I’m not sure that the popular conversations have led us to a better place, at least quickly. Increasingly, I rely on statistically valid research, experience and case studies to inform my opinion.

That’s why Big Data interests me. Mining this proliferation of data scares me because some companies will clearly abuse privacy. At the same time, the actual migratory use of media and the way we reveal ourselves sociologically fascinates me. People may or may not poo poo opinions, but the numbers rarely lie. It will be interesting to see what happens in the Big Data era.

6) We Really Want Shiny and New

Porsche 2009 Panamera (24)
Image by SOCIALisBETTER

Generally, as a marketplace and a culture, we in the United States like things that are shiny and new. Though we may publicly decry it, we really want the attention economy. Broadcasters and online voices are only responding to our media usage patterns.

Consider our own space! Social media is about people and relationships, but you couldn’t tell that from a vast majority of the posts that are shared online. We’re fascinated by the newest social media form, and tout its marketing wares, whether or not it’s a success. For every Pinterest, it seems like there are ten Plurks.

Instead, we have this karaoke culture were the light shines on the newest and sexiest thing. Long live Google+, long live the uberinfluencer with his/her massive follower count.

Underneath it all there’s still an underground where real conversations are happening. Maybe it’s in a Facebook Group or on Path or just good old fashioned email and Usenets. Knowledge is shared, relationships are developed and strengthened, and people move towards progress. There were always be some of us who want more than an infographic.

So, thanks for the memories! I look forward to sharing more thoughts with you in year seven.

# # #

Would you like to learn how to create an integrated multichannel marketing program? Register today for a Marketing in the Round training with Gini Dietrich and me in Boston, Chicago, Kansas City, New York or Washington, DC.

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  • http://elainefogel.net Elaine Fogel

    Geoff, I found myself nodding in agreement with every word of this post. How validating. 

    I, too, started blogging six years ago (for MarketingProfs) and have been contributing content since 2004. It feels like eons ago. So much has changed. You are 100% correct in saying, “Social media may be the new jack in town, but it’s not the ace, king, or queen, at least for a vast majority of companies.”Yet, I still find it challenging when I encounter organizations that believe social media is the panacea to their revenue generating problems. This is especially true in the nonprofit sector where many jumped on the bandwagon without an overall marketing strategy.What you call the karaoke culture, I call the “Sesame Street” phenomenon. The generations raised on Sesame Street changed their attention every 30-60 seconds as the program shifted from one segment to the next. What can we expect now? Stick-to-it-iveness? Congrats on your anniversary!

    • http://twitter.com/geoffliving Geoff Livingston

       LOL, glad to see I am not the only one who lost his rose colored glasses. It’s odd how time and experience changes your viewpoint.

  • Mary-lynn

    Great post! I thank you for your honesty and for all of your posts. Your voice is one to be heard.

    • http://twitter.com/geoffliving Geoff Livingston

       Thanks for reading, Mary!

  • http://www.312digital.com Sean McGinnis

    Great post Geoff. I find your insights here fascinating. To this day I remain intrigued by Cluetrain. I reference it regularly and find that many of our colleagues have never even heard of it – and I find that a shame.

    Like you I am also fascinated by the movement towards big data. It’s such a difficult think to get right. Time and time again I have seen companies ask the wrong questions, frame their hypotheses too broadly, use incorrect data to interpret trends that did not exist and more. One of my greatest concerns is people accepting as gospel poorly interpreted social data  – in this day and age a critical and skeptical eye is more important than ever.

    • http://twitter.com/geoffliving Geoff Livingston

      I agree, Sean. Information or data literacy is a huge issue, and I hope our school systems evolve to meet it. Thank you so much for your kind words.

  • http://www.commstrategies.com/ Joel Don

    Interesting perspective after six years before the mast, so to speak. Your concerns sounded like a variation of the commercialization of Christmas. In this case, you seem to warn businesses to remember to keep the “social” in social business.

    • http://twitter.com/geoffliving Geoff Livingston

       Well, who knows, maybe it will pay off for them. In the end, that’s business, literally. It’s just less interesting to me as I see it as a bigger media form than that. But what do I know, eh?

  • http://www.jasonkonopinski.com/ Jason Konopinski

    I <3 Big Data. 

    • http://twitter.com/geoffliving Geoff Livingston

       And there you have it!

    • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

      Me too!!

  • http://twitter.com/skypulsemedia Howie at Sky Pulse Media

    I dunno Geoff this Vermont living has rubbed off on me challenging number 6. I used to LOVE modern architecture. And city life. Now I live in a re-1900 home. My fiancee’s folks live in a home circa 1800 with the other properties on the development also pre-1900 (all the home were moved to be there). And I live on a dirt road…that I have to cross a covered bridge to get too. LOL

    The most astute part of this post is the commercialization of the social web. In 2009 I felt Facebook was a communication platform I would pay for if it would shun advertising. Many people feel they would never pay but I would of if it meant making it a very slick tool to keep up with friends and not having ads. I felt they could reinvest the revenues into this experience. They went with the exploitation/ad model and instead invested in the brand/marketing experience which is actually falling flat. And as you wrote with Jennifer recently in Forbes this IPO is the culmination of this bubble of wrong focus. But I observed when i got into advertising that agencies will find a way to exploit everything with advertising/marketing. Very sad.

    Oh and on that note of facebook’s biz model and why they should of gone with a paid service? I use firefox and block their ads! So they make zero on me.

    • http://twitter.com/geoffliving Geoff Livingston

       It really breaks my heart still to think about a medium that has so much promise that has been turned into a spamming adventure.  But you get what you pay for as you noted, and we are now suffering through the popular and the commercialized. See, I would have paid for conversations sans bullshit. But we can still email.

      Thanks for your continued readership, Howie!  I really appreciate it!

  • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

    Like so many of the comments here, I agree with your points. I’m particularly intrigued with Big Data and it’s something I’ve begun incorporating into the presentations I give to CEO groups. They’re scared to death of it…which I find fascinating because most can’t separate their personal feelings about it as consumers to look at the business value of it. Add another layer of the marketing people inside organizations who have access to all of this data, but either don’t know what to do with it or don’t have time to deal with it and you have a culture of ignorance. I don’t know if it’ll be the job of agencies to bring this to the forefront or if the forward-thinking big brands will forge the path. 

    • http://twitter.com/geoffliving Geoff Livingston

       I’m glad we got you on the front line, Gini.  Isn’t it amazing how backwards corporate America is?  It’s no wonder that even minor innovations can lead to complete market changes. 

      To your question, big agencies will talk it, but some companies are already harnessing it. It’s a question of whether the knowledge becomes public, or amongst the pros, so to speak. We know this because Facebook and Google are selling it privately.

  • http://www.swordandthescript.com/ Frank Strong

    Well Geoff, if I might add a viewpoint that’s part experience, part gut and several years ahead of 33, I’d say don’t give up on the Cluetrain.  Philosophically, I’m a subscriber of Adam Smith who said that a socially responsible business focuses on profits.  It seems crass in a headline, but those that read and digest what Smith meant, is that an efficient company is a socially responsible company in more ways as a *result* of profit. Social media has it’s place.  People like you are ahead of the market.  Most companies today are where you were five years ago.  It’ll take time, but it will settle.  That said, I’d love to know specifically what you are referencing in that graph — by example. 

    BTW, love the shots of Giza.  Spent some time there recently (too much), as you might know. 

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