For the past few years, and this year in particular, social media has been the darling of the marketing and advertising world. The promise of reaching the customer where they already are online, coupled with meteoric rises in traffic to sites such as Facebook and Twitter have made this realm an incredibly attractive realm for marketers and advertisers.
But the real power of social media does not lie in the tools themselves. Nor does it lie in the fact that this activity is taking place online.
The internet is an inherently social medium. Always has been, always will be. Even in the early days of email, IRC, chat rooms, bulletin board systems and such, the internet provided the medium through which communication could take place online. It continues to do so to this day.
The communication tools have changed, but the process has not.
So, what is the power of social media?
The power of social media lies in what it allows you to do. For businesses, that could be how it helps to improve customer service. Or, how it helps to drive sales, generate demand, or increase brand awareness.
Recently, a group of colleagues and I met for lunch. During the course of the conversation, the question was asked, “What is the future of social media?” An off-hand comment was made that “this” is the future of social media — the face-to-face conversation taking place around the table between six people. In a way, that’s the truest answer possible. However, that’s not all. Social media helps to enable that conversation. It allows those around the table to stay connected beyond the 60-90 minutes of lunch conversation. It allows the conversation to extend as long and as far as necessary, through a variety of communication channels.
It helps to remove the limitations of time and space from communication.
Social media in and of itself is a tool — a means to and end — much like a hammer, a car, or Adobe Photoshop. The real magic happens when the tools are matched with a skilled operator with a specific purpose. Just as you have a blueprint for the house in place before you start whacking away with a hammer, a good plan and solid strategy should be developed before any social media efforts are implemented.
Otherwise, you may just be driving around in circles.