Six for Six

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)

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.

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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.