Social Media: A Personal Experience

Every now and then we have those "ah-ha" moments where we realize our near-dependence on technology in our everyday lives. Remember the first time you thought "How did people ever live without cell phones?" or "How would I have gotten here without GPS?" or "How could I have found this information without Google?" or "How did I ever watch TV without TiVo?" Social media has not yet demonstrated the utility to be categorized with these innovations, yet it is very quickly changing the paradigm of interpersonal communication, from a push (I call you) to a pull (You visit my MySpace). The question for marketers is this: If social media is going to achieve ubiquity as a preferred method of communication and therefore obtain a massive share of people's attention, what role can marketers play, if any?

Consider that of the innovations I listed above, only Google has achieved "effective" monetization through proper (read: relevant) integration of marketing. Mobile and TiVo/DVR, while laden with promise and suitors, has yet to find the breakthrough for marketer integration/relevancy. I do believe that automobile GPS will achieve ubiquity within a few generations of cars, and effective monetization will be achievable very quickly given the interface's non-personal nature, but this has not happened yet (more on this another week).



Then there is social media. The most difficult proposition facing marketers here is that they have to find a way to appropriately interact and integrate with a media like no other. Whereas traditional media was a form of pushed entertainment, social media is instead a very important combination of push and pull media for the purposes of entertainment and communication.

This past weekend I asked my girlfriend to marry me. Shockingly, she said yes! Without even thinking twice, we both updated our "status" on our various social networks, while making the phone calls to friends and families. Before we could get ahold of even immediate family through our cell phones, people we had only met virtually were congratulating us on our social networking profiles. By the next day my fiancée had received enough comments, or messages, that Microsoft's algorithm found it appropriate to serve bridal advertising on her Facebook home page. Now I am new to all of this, but I am assuming it's a bit early for this (maybe not, what do I know). More to the point, had my fiancée been actively seeking information for weddings, or marriage, by having a "dialog" with a search engine, these ads would have certainly been relevant, but there is something very different about relevance for marketers within a human dialog. Inserting advertising into a dialog among people feels a bit creepy.

Certainly the content on her page does not make it relevant to serve bridal advertisements to the people visiting her page. Just because she got engaged doesn't mean people visiting her page would be interested in wedding-related ads. Nor would they perceive her as an expert on the subject, as she only recently got engaged. So what's a marketer to do?

For me, three things happened this weekend. I became the happiest man on the planet. I realized the rapidly increasing role social media was playing so naturally, even in the most important events in my life. And I got to live a crystal-clear example of why you can't simply plug effective marketing methods from other media (like search) into social media and expect relevancy. Social media is quickly becoming the preferred method of mass interpersonal communication, even destabilizing email's role as the killer app for younger generations. Marketers and platform providers need to recognize and respect this difference between social media and traditional media and rethink their approach to marketing integration.

How has social media played a role in how you communicate?

(P.S. Thanks to all of those who wished me and my fiancée well on Facebook or Linkedin -- in case I don't get to respond to everyone!)

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