When I went to Lincoln’s house last Friday, there was something odd about the inside tour. There weren’t tour guides, first of all, but rather personnel stationed throughout the house to make sure you didn’t touch anything and to try to answer random questions to the best of their abilities. The second weird thing is that the little signs in each room had a cell phone number you could call for an audio tour. I thought that was kind of “retro.” Why not have a QR code or even something more creative, like a special account you could tweet for information?
After my trip, I looked up different historical sites on Twitter. I found quite a few, but most of them had very few followers, and most of the tweets were nothing more than announcements about upcoming events. In other words, promotion after promotion.
“This is weird,” I thought. “Not one of these organizations is using Twitter in a way that would help them really engage.”
I then thought about it a little more, and I came upon a realization.
The biggest problem in Social Media is not defining ROI. The biggest problem is defining, “Why should I?”
The Social Media Formula
A lot of bloggers are heading towards year 10 of blogging. Facebook and Twitter are celebrating their five-year anniversaries. This gives us enough time to start seeing trends and traditions form. Currently, success in the world of Social Media seems to look like this:
1. You start a blog site
2. You start tweeting to drive traffic to your blog site
3. Your blog starts getting really really big
4. You edit your blog posts into chapter format and publish a book
5. You go on a whirlwind book promo/speaking tour
6. Your blog keeps on growing
This is all well and good if you are an entrepreneur who is trying to make a living primarily based on these new opportunities Social Media offers. But there is a gigantic problem. A lot of people have jobs with companies that already exist. Some people work for companies that have existed for decades or maybe even a century. Our own little agency has existed for 57 years. If you’re already working for a company or if you own a company that has existed for awhile, you don’t really need a blog that makes you all of your money. Since that is what most people in Social Media seem geared toward right now, what point is there for existing companies to use Social Media?
The Social Media Pyramid
Right now, the structure of Social Media is like a pyramid. At the very pointy top, you have the mega-bloggers who make a pretty nice chunk of change off their blog site. Then you have the people just under them in scale, and so on and so forth right down to the base, the largest segment of people, who are wondering when the goodness will trickle down.
The problem with this pyramid structure is the same problem that holds true in pyramid schemes. The people at the tippy top are the pioneers. They set up the formula I mentioned above, and they have lived it. The people in the next segment of the pyramid are depending upon those people at the tippy top to lift them up. The people the next level down are hoping the 2 levels above them will help pull them up. But there’s only room for so many at the very tippy top. There’s only so many similar messages people will be interested in. There’s only so much money people will pay through affiliate links or clickable ads. If you aren’t there right now, one of two things will happen. Either you’ll have to find another means of success or you will start chipping away at the stream of revenue the people at the tippy top have been depending on.
In both scenarios, the current state of Social Media as an entity is not sustainable.
We need to diversify the gene pool
One of my favorite Eddie Izzard bits is when he talks about the royal family and the penalty they pay for cousins marrying each other. “Have you ever noticed that the royals are just kind of like, “Oh, eh, hello. You’re a plumber? I have NO idea what that means!”
Well, in Social Media, we’re starting to have the same problem. Because everyone is after that single formula of success (big blog, big book, big booking), the messages are very similar. “That kind of post got that person a lot of traffic. I will write something similar.” It’s going to get a bit crazy and super boring if we keep on that track.
What we need to do is get creative and learn how to weave in companies that already exist. We should be better prepared to answer the question, “Why should you be using Social Media as a tool right now?”
Rather than focusing on how to grow your blog, the focus needs to shift. How can you grow your existing company using this new tool? Yes, you’ve had success doing what you have always done. You’ve survived the dot com boom and bust, the rise and fall of print, radio, television, and Friendster. But this Social Media stuff can enhance the experience your customers have with your company!
Where is that message? Where is the advice for companies that don’t want to grow a big blog site but rather want to reach their existing and potential customers in new and fun ways?
If Social Media does not reach out to those folks, it is Social Media, not those companies, that will implode. Because right now, Social Media is eating itself up. It’s shifting traffic from one place to another, where the words and tone are different but the message is the same.
It’s time for Social Media to mature by acknowledging that the fun part of the revolution is over. Yes, you can talk to customers and prospects one-on-one. Who cares? What does that mean for companies who have been around before computers even existed? What’s the next step after you learn how to use these platforms?
What do you think?
1st image credit: http://www.sxc.hu/profile/CJLUC
2nd Image by Sigurd Decroos. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/cobrasoft