If you spent time watching TV in the late 70s-80s, you no doubt saw that rascally rabbit trying to outsmart those kids into giving him some Trix cereal (apparently the poor guy’s still at it). When they foiled his attempts they’d taunt him with “Silly Rabbit. Trix are for kids.” If you had half a heart, you wanted to yell at those whippersnappers and say “Just give the darn bunny some cereal!! He’s hungry.”
A lot of organizations seem to be caught up in this same delusion that social media is only for kids. It may have started that way. They may be more proficient than the rest of us but if that’s the reason you’ve written it off, you’re missing out.
Social networking has changed the way in which customers/constituents expect us to do business. Yes, it should have changed the way you do business, but the reason why social media is so important is because of the way it’s changed the audience expectations. Social networking is the cause, while social media is the result. Are you participating in social networking and if you are have you changed the way in which you reach out and share your message and calls to action?
Social networking and the subsequent increase in a social focus has:
1. Magnified the sound of the squeaky wheel. The squeaky wheel gets the oil but now not only are people in the immediate vicinity hearing the squeak, an entire world can hear it and call your attention to it. You want to make sure you’re listening, otherwise you’ll be one of those oblivious drivers of a clunking car that everyone passes wondering why he doesn’t notice the cacophonous sounds emanating from under his own hood.
2. Yielded a new responsibility of consumerism. Social networkers now feel responsible for giving their opinion on everything — bad service, long waits, customer reviews, the weather…the list is endless. There’s a joke about bloggers that instead of asking them what they blog about, it’s more appropriate to ask what they gripe about. Everyone has a pulpit and a bullhorn.
3. Made everyone more vulnerable to competition. With the added pressure of “openness” it is now more difficult to remain in the ivory tower. You’re being called on to participate and engage and your decision to leave social networking to “the kids” and “start-ups” paints a view of you as uncaring/not willing to share and engage or uninformed/old-fashioned. For a very few organizations, that might be okay, but for the rest, some form of engaging those interested in you may be called for.
4. Placed content curration and reporting in the hands of the masses. From news to video, today’s average person is doing a lot of sharing. Movement is occurring shifting brand ownership from the companies who created it, to the people who love it. Some prognosticators think this type of interest will eventually place the consumer into an R&D role, allowing them to bring products to market through companies listening and responding by delivering goods.
5. Changed our idea of community. Okay, I actually stole the idea of evolving networks from Chris Brogan. What once used to be our network — family, local friends, co-workers, etc., has now expanded into global connections. Our network goes with us wherever we do (as long as we have Internet access) so our ideas of sharing and distribution must also evolve.
You already have a network within your organization. Isn’t it time that you gave it the parameters of a community? It’s an odd concept to embrace but by creating the boundaries of an online community you are actually making the numbers you are able to reach and connect with grow. You can have more in-depth conversations in a private, online community — no concerns about privacy and ownership.
Social networking is coming of age. If you’re thinking social networking is all about cat stories and status posts about sleeping and waking, you’re missing its multifaceted capabilities. The writing implement is not the author. With a pencil you can scribble or transcribe your life’s opus. It’s all in how you use it. So go ahead and ignore social media, leave it to “the kids.” Your competition will thank you for it.