Saturday, March 21, 2009

Don't "Get Into Social Media"

I highly recommend "getting into Social Media" on a personal level. But if your business has a goal of "getting into Social Media," my message is different: Don't do it! It's a bad investment and will lead your marketing and your organization astray.

Of course, I'm not suggesting brands ignore Social Media. Quite the opposite: Integrating Social Media into your marketing and operations is an absolute imperative. This is why the challenge isn't how your organization can get into Social Media but instead how Social Media can get into your organization. The former implies the company can continue to operate as it always has; the latter demands consideration for how processes and responsibilities must change to leverage the transformation Social Media will bring to business operations in the coming years.

Too often nowadays I am hearing of marketers who seek to "get into Social Media." Having a goal of "getting into" Web 2.0 makes no more sense than a goal of "getting into" television advertising, Out of Home, or the Web.

In 2009, no one would say, "We have to get into the Web." Instead, we recognize the Internet as a multifaceted platform with an endless variety of strategies, tactics, features, and channels that permit brands to build awareness, preference, loyalty, and influence. Marketers today don't "get into the Web" but instead develop and deploy strategies that encompass viral marketing, search engine marketing, banner advertising, virtual worlds, microsites, casual games, email, and other Internet technologies that achieve marketing goals. And, of course, the Internet isn't merely a marketing tool but is utilized by and has impacted every business division (and every single employee) in the enterprise.

While today we understand the breadth and complexity of the Internet medium, the same was not true in 1995. In the early days of Web 1.0, some brands and marketers got it, and some didn't; some organizations "got into" the Internet, and others drove the Internet into and throughout their organizations.

Those who didn't get the Internet were quick to dismiss it ("flash in the pan" was a common refrain), diminish its reach ("for kids and geeks" was another common criticism), miscategorize it ("it's like TV" or "like magazines" some people said), and most importantly treat the Internet like a marketing tactic they could choose to use in their own sweet time. Meanwhile, those who "got it" recognized the Internet would fundamentally change communications, expectations, and habits, and they began to reorganize their business strategies and operations to create Internet-enabled organizations.

Jeff Bezos got it. He began Amazon with a vision for how the Internet would change the way people gather knowledge, share information, and shop. More than that--he realized these changes would suggest (and eventually demand) new ways for business to operate.

Bezos launched from his garage in 1995 at a time when Borders and Barnes & Noble owned the bookselling business via hundreds of stores across the country. Bezos didn't merely see the Internet as a medium for commerce but developed and executed a vision for how it would change both consumers and business. This vision allowed Bezos to create an Internet-enabled organization that set a benchmark his larger competitors soon struggled to reach. Jeff Bezos didn't "get into" the Internet; he assertively created a business model that allowed the Internet to "get into" every aspect of his concern.

So, how is your organization approaching Social Media? Does it see Web 2.0 as something to "get into," or does it recognize Social Media as a sea change that will transform the enterprise? Does your company view Social Media as an interesting marketing tool to explore as time permits, or is your organization preparing innovative approaches for conducting business in a new, social, highly-networked, more transparent world? Is your approach to Social Media more akin to B&N or Amazon circa 1995?

Those who approach Social Media with a vision for how it can change their business will gain significant advantages over those who treat is simply as another tool in their marketing toolkit. Jeff Bezos "got it" and today he is the 68th richest individual on the planet with a personal net worth of $6.8 billion. The combined market capitalization of Barnes & Noble and Borders is a little over $1 billion.

So, should your organization "get into" Social Media? Or is it time for Social Media to get into your organization?


Anonymous said...

Great post Augie - it's clear you "get" Social Media.

Augie Ray said...

Thanks Deb. I hope WHD gets it too--despite the many challenges to become more open and transparent faced by organizations in your field!

Unknown said...

Excellent post, quite inspirational! The value of social media comes form active participation, a fundamental mindshift from the traditional marketing funnel. I've found becoming a true student of the space is providing valuable rewards. Thanks for your insights.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Deborah. A key phrase in your piece is that some leaders, when the web was still new, "drove the Internet into and throughout their organizations."

If an organization "did the Internet" properly, the Internet changed how they communicated and worked. Similarly, if an organization truly "does social media," they will find their internal functions changing in fundamental and permanent ways.

The reason is that social media activity gives an organization new eyes and ears ... and arms and legs. It allows an organization to be aware of new opportunities, and advancing threats. And it gives the organization new ways to service customers, more efficiently, and potentially in a way that reverberates with more people (e.g., now you can quell a customer complaint through something more public than search engines, such as a forum on an enthusiast social network site, or on Twitter).

All of this changes an organization as surely as the advent of the fax machine.

Augie Ray said...

John and Jeff, thanks for the comments and observations! I appreciate the feedback and insights!

Kanupriya said...

Hi there! Very nice post...even I've enocuntered many ppl using exact pharse, "let's get into social media". I think I must forward your post to some such ppl :-)

poojakashyap said...

Worth readin' - Don’t "get into" the Internet rather create a business model that allows the Internet to "get into"

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Augie Ray said...

Technoziac, Thanks for the very kind words. The support of visitors to my blog is greatly appreciated!