What if Social Media is No Longer a Thang?

A couple of weeks ago, I participated in my first ever G+ hang-out. I know I haven’t been the most ardent supporter of Google Plus – some of the rather sexist articles that came out when Google Plus was in beta soured me on the platform a bit. The busy stream and other facets of G+ world never have gotten me too excited. However, the hang-outs are pretty neat. Much like Skype, the hangouts offer you a chance to talk to people face-to-face. Unlike Skype, it’s possible to talk (with ease) to a lot of different people (up to 9 others). No matter where they are or where you are, hanging out is as easy as a click of a button.

I found myself on kind of an endorphin high after my first hang-out experience. In fact, Brian Vickery and I created a new multi-platform show out of the deal. Talking to people with actual voices and faces and mouths that moved was so wonderful. Going back to the 2-D world of Facebook and Twitter seemed like kind of a let-down after that. Everyone was back to looking the way they always look when I see their avatars. There was no laughter, no tonality to anything that was being said.

Kaarina Dillabough and I will be offering deeper thoughts on this in a couple of weeks, but it seems like people are kind of getting restless with social media. In fact, Marcus Sheridan just wrote a post about how valuable social media conferences are because (ironically) they assist in connecting you to people face-to-face, in “real life.”

This all has to do with the personal nature of our lives and our dealings with other people. But I’m also wondering if perhaps we are moving away from the time when social media was a business in and of itself. I’m wondering if social media is evolving into something that is no longer a “thang.” You know what I mean? It’s no longer newsworthy in and of itself. It’s moving to a place where it’s no longer the whole story, it’s just a footnote. What could that mean for you, for me, and for all those people whose careers have been made by the social media thang?

It never should have been a “thang”

You might recall the “Social Media Revolution” videos that have been floating around YouTube for awhile now. It was hard not to get sucked into that mentality even two years ago. Facebook, Twitter, the potential for new kinds of communication – all of this was still new. But from the beginning, there have been voices cautioning against the “social media thang.” Take, for example, this presentation by Olivier Blanchard from 2010 – “Your business isn’t social media” is a point that is reiterated often in the talk. And that was from two years ago. More recently, Mike McGrail wrote a post suggesting that the age of the social media guru is coming to an end. Just today I read an article from AdWeek asking if social media community managers are really marketers. People are no longer buying into the aura of social media as a revolutionary concept. People want accountability. People want to get back to their real businesses.

What does this mean?

I’ve never been one to play the prediction game before, but in this case, I have a few guesses as to what is going to happen in the next few months to a year as a result of these trends.

The game will get uglier: As the value of a “social media guru” subsides, I think competition is going to drive a lot of the communication online to an increasingly ugly place. There will be increased supply versus decreasing demand. As people work to maintain the status they have built over the last five or so years in the online space, they will become more defensive, more prone to making broad generalizations, and more apt to dismiss people who disagree with them. There will be more “call-out” posts to undermine the competition, too.

Streams will quiet down: As people engross themselves in business versus social media, Facebook streams, blog communities, and Twitter feeds will slow to a crawl. I think a lot of us are already seeing this happen. This blog here is a prime example. I’ve barely blogged here for about two months. I just don’t have the time anymore.

Conversations will mature: Sound bites about ROI having to do with your mother will no longer be acceptable, which is the point Mike makes in his post. As social media changes from a “thang” to a tool, people will want more serious advice about how to use social media, how to measure social media efforts, and how to pivot if something either does not work or works better than expected.

The gurus will disappear: Blogs focusing only on social media best practices will die out, and it will seem sudden to those of us who have been in this space for any amount of time. People will no longer want to focus solely on how to get retweets. They’ll want to know how to use Twitter as part of an integrated marketing plan with a goal of increasing sales by 3%.

“Tradition” will make a come-back: There has been a lot of talk in the online world about how this or that thing is dead. Advertising, email, direct mail, the press release – almost anything NOT social media has been consigned to death at least once, right? As the shine evaporates on social media, people will begin to realize that some of those “traditional” marketing tactics weren’t so bad. In fact, we can now revisit those ideas in new and exciting ways that weren’t possible five years ago. Advertising, PR, and other marketing methods can be enriched and made more interactive with social media. They do not need to be replaced by social media. As we all long for handwritten notes and face-to-face connections, so too will companies begin to long for ways to actually market their products versus simply “engaging” with people.

I have seen many signs pointing to these changes. Some subtle, like gentle whispers on a windy night. Some less subtle. But I think we are most decidedly moving in a direction that will take us away from social media as a “thang.”

What do you think?

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/modeltalk/5019679913/ via Creative Commons

23 comments
susansilver
susansilver

I think the biggest issue in social media has been that we ever thought it was separate from other activities. That is why it is kind of a dangerous place. Our public and personal lives are forever merged. 

 

I don't think the business of social media marketing is dead. I still know plenty of small businesses that do not see the advantage. Sometimes they are right and sometimes they are wrong. But if you are not ready to commit to that sort of personal daily interaction then it certainly won't work.

 

The scariest trend that I have seen lately, and  this goes with your points above, is guru against guru. People feel the need to determine who is real or fake. I don't get that mentality, but it may go with what you have noticed. That the space is shrinking to be a big fish in the social media world. 

 

Fierce_living
Fierce_living

I was confused for a minute...I thought the blog was done and then Boom it comes roaring back with several posts over the last week or so. No really, I get it that it will now pop up occasionally on an as needed basis (and by as needed I mean whenever you bloody well feel like it)  

 

I think I may have mentioned G+ hangouts to you a while ago, glad to see you finally got the memo :) I should have warned you that they can become very addicting. I have not really used them in a while because if you are not careful they can turn into a huge time suck. It's a great way to get a lot of followers, however and a great way to really engage with people.

 

I agree with you that the new social media push will be how can we use this medium as one of many tools in our tool box. The key IMHO is to have a good marketing strategy that uses each medium in a way that is optimal for your personal/ business situation and then evaluate and update the strategy as needed.

 

 

interacter
interacter

Great post there, Margie.  This is something that I've been thinking about for a while (and am planning a blog called How Marketers Ruined Social Media).

In my opinion, the social marketplace has matured since I got into it as a 18 year old 12 years ago.  Back then, it was all forums and MSN chats, where SM allowed people to arrange IRL meets etc.

Then it all changed and became somewhat geeky - Twitter, FB etc being operated from one's bedroom, throwing the net wider across the world to people you couldn't meet de to geography.

 

Now, it's settling down and the trend (that I've witnessed) is for people to use SM to arrange IRL stuff and do a bit of broadcasting in the meantime.

 

We haven't seen the end of the tail yet, but the landscape is really changing fast.  It's going to be interesting to see where the pieces fall.

Neil

 

barrettrossie
barrettrossie

I agree with Marcus, Margie, this IS very forward looking. I would even add brave. 

 

You really nailed something I've been hearing here and there, and even mumbled to myself a few times. To heck with gurus! I like helpfulness, but not faux authoritativeness. There are too many people telling me and you that you can do things this way, but not that way. 

 

The one thing I would like to see is less social media about social media. It sucks the air out of the room. I'd rather have social media about issues, ideas and just plain being sociable. 

Marcus_Sheridan
Marcus_Sheridan

Hey Margie, this was cool. You're a forward thinking person, and that's the type of stuff I get into.

 

Personally, I don't have a clue where all these "platforms" are going...and what the trends will be.

 

That's exactly why I try to stick with principles, because they're timeless....Like "great teaching leads to greater trust" vs "social media gets you lots of friends"...See what I'm saying?

 

Keep pushing thought my friend,

 

Marcus

WMD
WMD

The status quo: it keeps you in your place, prevents you from advancing, those with the power rule and the rest of us have to wriggle abut in what space we have and make ourselves comfortable. The comes something that shakes it all up, the lucky (or the prepared) get the chance to stake out new territory and move on up. examples of this: discovering America, the dot com thang, social media. In all cases eventually the powers-that-be move in and the early adopters become the establishment.So, when the late adopters realise that their aspirations are misplaced, a thang becomes a used-to-be

RaulColon
RaulColon

I read the headline first and I thought it originally said No Longer a Thong. Since I live near the beach it quickly caught my attention. On the other side I have to say that I laugh everytime people talk about social media as if it was something tangible. As if it was only one thing. 

 

At least a thong we all know what it is ( I think). That social media Thang is something everyone sees with different eyes! 

chattyprof
chattyprof

Oh my goodness, if talking is coming back, I will be one happy cat. I think people are becoming more socially isolated because the "social" part of social media is fractured. Undoubtedly, that has to impact businesses, as well (I can only hypothesize because I am not a business). I will only watch... and hope that we can bring some more actual conversation back! Ellen @chattyprof 

rdopping
rdopping

If I was a pessimistic kinda guy the picture you are painting would sound pretty bleak but thankfully I like to look on the shiny side of the apple. It looks like the "industry" if that's what you want tot call it is maturing which is a good, no, check that, a GREAT thing. Not sure what that says for a fledgling blogger like me. I like to see it as there is plenty of opportunity for me to continue to learn and evolve from the experiences gained in this space.

 

I would love to be part of your hangouts especially if you are challenging folks to discuss on the topics you mentioned in your post.

 

Enjoyed it! Thanks for sharing.

KDillabough
KDillabough

Margie, I'm really looking forward to our upcoming post and our discussion scheduled for a Heckler's Hangout later this month. I think we'll generate some lively discussion. Although the "times" are different, to quote Dylan: "The present now will later be past. The first one now will later be last...the times they are a changing." http://youtu.be/vCWdCKPtnYE

 

Cheers! Kaarina

brand_BIG
brand_BIG

I'm looking forward to this future where the social gurus are dethroned. There really are no social gurus, just lots of people playing them on social media. I've also noticed a severe decline in Twitter activity. Personally, I'm burned out. I have more social media accounts than I can remember, and hardly use any of them. Social isn't going away, but it's settling into a dull roar.Traditional forms of marketing aren't dead, except in the hands of the uncreative who don't know how to use them as part of a comprehensive brand strategy. Great branding has always been social, whatever the media. Social was supposed to replace traditional advertising? Is that why Facebook is focusing on selling ads to create its great but elusive revenue stream? C'mon.I think a lot of people have had too much time in the past few years to mess around online. Hopefully, things are changing, and they have more work to do again.

dbvickery
dbvickery

I'm really looking forward to that dual-author post you are doing with Kaarina, Margie. I'm also looking forward to the subsequent Hecklers' Hangout open mic to discuss the points you make in that post.

 

Hangouts let you "cheat". When you can't afford the expense to travel and meet these online personalities IRL, you can still have a hangout to get a little face time. That does allow you to observe tonality and facial expressions, and you can establish depth to that online relationship (or not...depending upon your impression in the Hangout).

 

I'm happy to be a co-host with you on the Hecklers' Hangouts - I hope we can provide a nice service to readers/viewers with book releases, technology, social media/marketing, and open mic topics that may include the sociological impacts of social media.

 

FYI, not going to be fun if people decide to get "uglier" in social media...

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @barrettrossie Well thanks for the kind words, sir :) I have been picking up these threads for I'd say the last 6 months or so. Something is sort of shifting, it seems. And I don't think it's just me, either.

barrettrossie
barrettrossie

Of course, as I was writing the above, it was lost on me that this is social media about social media. Well, we can make an exception just this once. ;) 

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @Marcus_Sheridan That's something you're great at, too. You are (in my humble opinion) ahead of the curve on a lot of this (so it's a shame you don't follow trends) :) Your content is how to use social media as a business tool. If you were just writing about how to pick a snappy blog title, I'd be more worried for you.

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @WMD Now THAT is a new circle of life song. I like the sound of dot com thang,by the way. I think that's how it should be referred to from now on :) 

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @chattyprof I know we are on the same page on this as I have had the privilege to...wait for it...talk to you face-to-face :) AND on the phone. Craziness. 

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @rdopping Heya! 

 

I don't mean for it to be pessimistic. I think if people prepare for change they can flourish. What I fear is that many will not sense that the times are changing. When people cling to old ways they can become ultra-defensive and ultra-sensitive, and that is where problems can arise.

 

With preparation, however, I agree that these changes could be a great improvement. Social Media will no longer be divorced from other marketing tactics - as it never should have been anyway.

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @brand_BIG So well said. I think it's sad that so many people are now sort of revolting against social media as something that's too trendy or too...whatever. It can be a great tool, just like phones and email and fax machines made big differences to businesses at different times. But to say "I'm a telemarketing guru" is just odd - so it is with social media, or so it will be, I think. Especially if you can't back that up with anything solid and actionable. 

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @dbvickery Hey you :)

 

I am not sure the ugliness will cover all of the online world - I hope not. But I think there will be more tension, especially among folks whose entire lives revolve solely around their online presence. There is going to come a time when that just isn't enough - for lots of reasons. I worry for those folks.

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