Paging Dr. Facebook
I will admit that when I used my phone to find out what was going on in the world, I used it primarily to check one site: Facebook. Good thing, too, because it was via Facebook that I learned about two major events: the tornadoes that devastated the South and the killing of bin Laden. And, in looking at the time of the posts and the time of the news events, it appears I actually learned about those pretty much in real time simply by the luck of having checked my news feed while sipping a café crème.
What does it say that I learned about major news events through a site that was originally designed to enable people to stay in touch for social reasons? For one, it means I clearly have an incredibly smart and worldly group of individuals who care deeply about the world. (If only ... I don't think I can make that claim based on the number of status updates I read -- and enjoy -- that are more like this one: "Men -- let me be clear -- short sleeve button-down with tie -- NO! not even in the summer. Thank you.") What I really think is that it is simply another demonstration of how even the social channels most intended for pithiness and entertainment run the gamut from the ridiculous to the utterly important.
It also reminded me of what a powerful tool social communities can be in helping people understand and manage health and wellness issues. I have a relative who was faced with a devastating diagnosis eight years ago and the support he received through CaringBridge played an enormous role in helping him get well (and stay well!) not to mention the emotional support it lent to his wife and son.
When I had another family member diagnosed with a condition of which I was not familiar, one of the first things I did was go to Facebook and ask if anyone had any experience with it. Within minutes I had been contacted by two people within my community, both of whom offered helpful information and links to great sites it would have taken me much longer to find on my own. We are going through a spate of pregnancies in my office right now, and I'm amazed to see the conversations and content that circulates based on status updates and comments.
What will it mean for our ability as marketers to reach and motivate people if, increasingly, they get their information and insights from their friends and not by trolling the web on their own? Clearly, the challenge continues to be to figure out how to tap into that collective desire, interest and inherent trust that comes in the social space in a way that is respectful, on target and adds to the conversation versus intruding on it.
That is not an easy task and is one that will require clients and agencies to deeply understand the motivations and needs of their audience and deliver absolute value in tiny, snackable bits. As an industry, we haven't quite figured that out yet, and there is much to do to get us to be a well-integrated part of the relevant conversations for which people are searching. Anyone up for discussing how to best do this, say at a café overlooking the Seine?