Social Media: Hype or Communications Revolution?

No matter who I am speaking with, everyone wants to know about social media and how to best use it for their business.

The most frightening thing for me is the inflexibility from business owners and senior management teams. Used to throwing money at marketing and sales activities, this group of learned corporates expect this new media channel to fit within the existing consumer consumption paradigm. But it doesn’t.

Now, I could lie to any corporate waving a cheque in my direction and tell them that social media is where they need to be and that I can brand them up to Koo-ee… if I was that way inclined, but I’m not.

Quite possibly to my fiscal detriment I tell them THEY need to shift current practices, THEY need to engage personally, because social media is tactile and it’s about THEM. And in doing so, they need to be ready for anything. But very few are ready to hear the truth of best practice in social media.

The most common reaction I get is the age-old blank, silent ‘you have no idea what you’re talking about, I can’t possibly do that’ look of horror. They’re the ones you can’t help – yet. But rest assured, they’ll come knocking in about 6 – 12 months (maybe less) wanting to take the plunge and for you to hold their hand. That’s a good thing, they’ve had the critical shift in mindset: from observation to a considered willingness moving towards participation.

It’s hard to remember sometimes that nearly half of the Australian population do not know life without a mobile telephone…so for them, social media is about as strenuous a jump now, as what Atari to VCR was in the 80’s.

Mobile telephony and consumer communications are ubiquitous. What was once achieved with a full-page ad in the sunday papers, now needs to be re-purposed for iPad, iPhone, Blackberry just to ensure the target consumers have the chance (not guaranteed distribution) of engaging with your diligently crafted creative. Then in order to get positive Word Of Mouth (which SM does not guarantee), you need to Tweet, facebook, myspace, blog, retweet and Digg, in the interests of starting (or hopefully continuing) the desired brand and business conversation.

Marketing and Communications practices need to change in order to maximise the potential of new media technologies. It’s a bit like driving a car with stability control switched off because you already know how to drive; or outsourcing your call centre without conducting product training or considering systems management processes. It just kind of exists without adding tangible and measurable value intrinsically to your brand and your business.

Ceding control is confronting. It’s against every marketing and sales principle worth engaging. That was of course, until the arrival of social media capability.

Knowing if, when and how to cede control is the key to getting cut through within the savvy new media consumer sphere.

So is Social Media hype or part of a Communications Revolution? Neither, merely part of the evolution of 21st century communications.

A quick video to explain…

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=10032646&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=1&color=&fullscreen=1&autoplay=0&loop=0

Social Media from Phil Guest on Vimeo.

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