7 Signs of the Post Social Media Era

Social media is not a new driver of the Internet, relatively speaking. At best, social data is harnessed to serve larger technology trends like contextual media, marketing automation, and more. In turn, social media and related marketing conversations are no longer groundbreaking. The larger business world has moved on to the next thing.

This “post social media” trend crystallized for me at SxSW V2V last week. Start-ups were working on new technologies and approaches, but they widely ranged from space start-ups to Shinola (CEO Jacques Panis pictured above), a Detroit based maker of high quality wrist watches. What wasn’t central to the V2V conversation was social media. At most, start-ups discussed social as a means to include customers in conversations and innovation, but not the end product of their innovation.

Several larger stories and trend corroborate this post social trend. Here are seven signs that the U.S. social media era of innovation is coming to a close:

1) The Medium Changed

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Internet media evolved and became more mobile, visual and data-centric, and the dollars and associated conversations followed. If you look at what Internet start-ups are focusing on today it tends to be mobile-centric, automation, data applications, contextual use, location media and other types of applications.

New social networking apps, while still developing, are not generating huge investment rounds or attention anymore. Heck, even the most mainstream of social networking apps are retooling to meet the new mobile visual Internet. As the old adage goes, follow the money.

2) Wall Street IPOs Are Waning

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In that vein, the social media IPO craze — led by LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter — looks like it may be coming to close. This year’s biggest social media IPOs are coming from Chinese start-ups Line and Alibaba. No big U.S. social media start-ups are on the horizon with the exception of Pinterest.

3) The Rise of “Dark” Social

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Original image by Blake Herman

Dark social is the movement towards conversations that are not public anymore. Private social network communities and newer networks like WhatsApp and SnapChat thrive on people saying what they think without the repercussions of public data, ad retargeting, attention from customer service nazis, and helicopter actions from bosses and parents.

The movement away from public conversation is a significant loss for social media in the conventional sense. People are no longer willing to be transparent because the repercussions of public discourse are too high. Eventually, even those private conversations will become dangerous (like texts and emails that end up in court) causing more off-line dialogue.

4) Thought Leadership Vacuum Appearing

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When my friend Jeremiah Owyang started focusing on collaborative economy models instead of social media, I was really happy for him. At the same time, I could not help but note that another thought leader had moved on from the general social media discussion. With each passing month another member of the old guard stops blogging or moves on to a new venture.

Those that remain — new and old — seem challenged to offer a new conversation beyond Facebook and Twitter dalliances, influencers, and content marketing. While there may be new wrinkles every now and then, I see granular progress compared to the advancements made a few years ago.

5) The Commoditization of Social Media Content

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Original Image by the Foodie Buddha

When discussing the above thought leadership trend with Rich Becker last week, he said one of the primary drivers is the commoditization of social media content. I had to agree with him. To be clear we’re not talking all content, rather content about social media and how to use it.

There are so many people producing social media marketing and trend blog posts that even when a thought leader writes something original, their content fails to stand out. The growing crowd of social media experts — from AdAge beat reporters to mom and pop bloggers — is an underlying cause of today’s content shock conversation, too. A gourmet burger is still just a burger in an online world with a chain on every corner.

6) Gaming Google with Social Gets Harder

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It used to be that social media was a primary way to drive SEO for topical issues. Brands and SEO experts figured out how to use social updates and content to achieve top rank, and the games began. But Google has responded with a series of initiatives — Panda, Penguin and eliminating keywords — that are effectively dampening and possibly even eliminating the SEO industry.

Online word of mouth is still used as a search algorithm signal, but increasingly it must be organic and earned, something many marketers won’t invest in. It’s much easier to buy access with ads and other tactics. As a result, those people and brands not truly vested in social communities are moving on.

7) The Biggest Trend in Social Is… TV?

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Original Image by CBS LA.

Today’s biggest advances in social media marketing seem to be the integration of traditional television programming (live and on demand), native advertising, and visual social elements in a cross-screen smorgasbord of transmedia delight. Even social TV and transmedia not new trends. Rather, this is the maturation of media and technology to serve the advertising industry.

So those are the seven signals that are making me think we’ve quietly entered a new era in Internet marketing. What do you think?

Want more? Read 12 Ways to Boost Your Visual Media Performance.

Credibility from Stability

Success can be fleeting. Everyone wants to capture lightning in a bottle, but if you can’t keep it on the shelf why bother?

Repeat successes demonstrate a strong team or player. Can you harness that talent consistently?

Credibility is more than just winning repeatedly. It’s also about stability, the belief that you can not only count on someone (or a brand) to perform for you, but also when you need them, now and in the future.

One of my friends from Georgetown used to say showing up is half the battle. He meant that performance was part of the equation, but so was the simple fact of everyday presence.

Markets need stable players they can rely on. Always strong, these blue chips can be trusted as service providers, as sources of intelligence, as persons/organizations that can help. They offer lightning when you need it.

Building the Business for the Long Term

When I look back at Livingston Communication and then Zoetica, I regret selling the first company. If I had the fortitude to make it through that period… But, at the same time those experiences made me understand the value of stick-to-itness. You can’t change yesterday.

People ask me if I am excited about Tenacity5 Media. Excitement is not the right word. I am having fun, but my enthusiasm is tempered with a healthy sense of realism.

After two start-ups, I am conscious of what it means to build a business. It takes at least five or ten years to really develop something worth keeping. There are many late and sleepless nights (I typed this line in at 11:54 on a Saturday night, for example). There is a constant tension of investment versus cash flow. There are periods of intense work. This is what stops me from being excited. I know what lies ahead.

The good news? There is no disillusionment. I look forward to meeting these challenges.

It is how I imagine a marathon runner must feel before they start their race. You don’t get crazy about the first mile. You envision the whole race, and are ready to finish it. All of it. The hills and valleys will still be there, they’ll just be less dramatic.

This is about building a stable services team for the long-term. Talk is cheap, and I get that. So let the walk do the talk.

Image by Doug Mall.

Breathe, then Think

Four weeks ago I blogged that I was pressing pause, and then took a two week vacation. I let everything hit the floor, and stayed offline and out of business for the most part. Heck, I didn’t even write until the end of the vacation.

Finally, after a few days I was able to breathe.

When you let yourself breathe several things happen. You relax, develop perspective, and can make a few decisions.

Here’s where I wound up.

Getting Ready to Scale

For the past two years, I have served as an uber consultant taking on long-term in-depth contracts that often brought me on site working with clients. This was good from a business and life perspective allowing me to be home more often with the kid. Plus I needed a break after the last start-up.

But Soleil is older, and I am getting hungry again. Plus, I have become the sole bread-winner for my house, putting more weight on my shoulders. Being dependent on one client presents uncomfortable economic weaknesses, plus you end up fulfilling the work 50 hours a week, all while marketing and hopefully getting the next client in the pipe.

It’s time to scale and build a company again.

My role as interim head of communications at Vocus is winding down with a permanent director on board. I am fortunate to contuue working with Vocus on content. Meanwhile, I have picked up five additional clients, including a couple of Fortune 500 companies.

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Look for Lady Soleil the brand to evolve beyond a shell company created for tax and legal purposes. In some ways this has already begun, a necessary step if a business is to be built beyond a singular personality. A logo and web site is in the works. Consultants are already working with me. The first hire will come soon.

Prepared for a Long Book March

Exodus was downloaded more than 1000 times during my initial launch. A good start for my first novel, but I didn’t market Exodus in September. I wanted to see how the book was received, and I needed to rest.

One thing I have learned about book marketing is it ends when the author stops pushing. Now I plan on a long entrenched marketing effort that focuses on building out the world unveiled in the text, and expanding the reach of the book into more traditional literary and science fiction circles.

Most of it will not be on this blog, though what you see will be an expansion of thinking behind the book, and more free content. In the short term, I have three quick updates for you:

  • I published a new story called “Steam” from The Fundamentalists online this weekend. Steam offers some clues about one of the primary plot themes in the next book.
  • Several folks have asked, so I set up a Google Hangout to answer questions, chat, and discuss future books in the trilogy. The hangout is scheduled for Friday, October 25 at 2 p.m. Join us if you can!
  • Finally, publishing industry magazine Kirkus Reviews just published their thoughts on Exodus. It was a very positive take on the book, check it out.

Distance Is Good

I have intentionally removed myself from most of the day-to-day scrums within the online marketing conversation. I like and follow lots of people, but find the cliques and anti-clique cliques to be tiresome.

When I got back, someone showed me a “who are your favorite marketing speakers” post. All the cool kids were referring themselves as usual. Most of us know that there were much more negative conversations in private online groups and conversations.

This is human nature, and happens offline, too. At the same time, these types of conversations can be a big distraction, and matter very little to clients. Plus deep participation creates homogenous thinking, and a scary return to high-school like politicking.

I feel better when I focus on more productive activities. My only private online group participation are two baseball groups, and a writer’s group. Everything I have to say professionally about marketing remains said publicly, and otherwise it’s heads down.

Stay the course, and remain in the wide open blue ocean rather than at harbor with the rest of the crew.

So these were my big three takeaways from vacation. Clarity helps.

Taking on Challenges

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When it comes to seeking clients, I try to find challenging projects and start-ups. Building a brand from the bottom-up and executing marketing turnarounds are some of the best ways to build a reputation as a marketer.

Seeking opportunities with “good” companies — while always nice for your client list and resume — don’t necessarily distinguish you. It’s always easier to guide a boat on course than one in turbulent waters.
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5 Tips for Forging a New Brand

8513073813_b06cefeb80I’ve launched a couple of my own companies, and helped more than a half dozen other brands as well as others’ book projects launch. The media landscape changed, but there are common approaches I would execute today if I were to launch a new company and brand.

Here are my top five activities for forging a new brand:

1) Align with stakeholders: Usually a company, brand or service is created with a vision in mind, a way to do things better. But sometimes that entrepreneurial vision is not in line or positioned well with market needs.
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Full of Life, Zoetica Launches

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And so Zoetica begins. Together with top-ranked nonprofit blogger Beth Kanter and PR maven Kami Huyse, I am proud to launch Zoetica. Zoetica, a social enterprise, provides superior communication consulting, training, and strategy to help mindful organizations affect social change. As part of our mission, the consultancy will allocate 10 percent of our annual profits to organizations selected by Zoetica’s three founders.

What a crazy, yet fitting name! A mouthful of four syllables, yet only seven characters starting with a unique Z, a state of almost Internet nirvana. We got it from the biological term zoetic, which means pertaining to life. And that’s fitting as the company aspires to achieve social impact and make our lives better through communications.

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I’ve been through my fair share of communications start-ups, so I’d like to tell you some of the things that are different about our team going out the door.

1) The social mission is important to us. Beth’s entire career is nonprofit focused, and Kami and I have reached a point in our careers where we want to have real, meaningful impact. Whether it’s a nonprofit or a company with a strong social responsibility or environmental program, given our collective skill set this seems like the best way to affect social change.

2) While not an agency, the consultancy is communications focused. In the words of Edward Moore, “Shoemaker, stick to thy last.” And so, we stick to our core competency.

3) We each have strengths and weaknesses, which combined as an entity provide a balanced team. While we’re all strategists who have been in the marketplace on our own, there are certain natural roles: Beth’s the best blogger, and should be the frontperson. Kami is the best manager, and should run teams and projects. I’m the best marketer of the group, and will be on the frontline with clients. The roles are essential: As someone who ran a company solo, the big danger for an entrepreneur is trying to do everything her/himself. No one is the master of all.

4) All three of us have worked together. In an era where superstar blogger teams come together and break apart at the first twinge of ego-stress, this cannot be underestimated. I’ve worked with Kami for three years and Beth for two. Together, we’ve been working on Zoetica for five months. Further, we’ve all been through hard times on our own. It’s easier to trust known elements when push comes to shove.

5) The corporate structure allows for consensus and movement. While we each have our accepted roles, we also are equal partners. Our structure enables us to move through internal challenges using a majority rule, yet at the same time honors the voice of the minority. Private companies are just that, but this factor makes our collective future direction easier.

6) The national footprint adds strength! One city alone is a regional entity, but with Houston, San Francisco and Washington covered, we’re truly a national entity.

7) I mentioned strengths and weaknesses as they relate to a team versus a sole proprietor. There’s another aspect to this. It’s lonely running a company by yourself. Frankly, the Livingston Communications experience made me realize that I need peers in my work life. What better people than Beth and Kami? Two great people that I enjoy working with, that have similar values, and who are masters in their own right.

So in the words of John Lennon, “A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” It’s time for Zoetica.

You can check out both Beth and Kami’s take on the new company, You can also check out the official press release.