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Social Media Demystified

Social Media DemystifiedI had a few conversations this week that caused me to realize that as much as social media has evolved, there still remains mass amounts of confusion around the topic of social media. Given the prolific amounts of misinformation in circulation, I thought it worthwhile to repost this piece. If you find all the noise around social media to be confusing, rest assured that you’re not alone. If you’re among the group of active users who no longer find it confusing, but still haven’t hit your stride, you’re also in good company. Blogging since 2002, being actively involved in digital marketing since the early 90’s, and being online since the days of the ARPANET I have a bit of history with most things digital.  What’s interesting to me is that with every major advancement in the web comes a mixed bag of apathy, over exuberance, confusion, chicanery and even outright skulduggery that makes life much more complicated than it needs to be. In today’s post I’ll bust a few myths, reveal an evil secret or two, and share with you what you need to know in order to be successful with social media…

Understanding the Context
Let me cut right to the chase – business is fluid. Successful businesses adapt to market innovations and thrive, while those that fail to make iterative leaps fall by the wayside. With each major advancement in technology, communications, or business practice we find ourselves yet again at this all too familiar precipice. If you adapted to desktop computers, fax machines, cell phones and the Internet, then I suggest you need to view social media as the next progression on the continuim of advancement. When markets make a major move, you either move with them or get run over by them. As a leader how can you make good decisions, set the vision and model behavior for something you don’t understand or participate in?

What the Soothsayers Want You to Believe
Have you ever noticed that profiteers seem to congregate around the complex, or at least what they can alter to appear as complex? Anytime new advances can be spun into something bewildering or beguiling there are fortunes to be won and lost. Regrettably, there seem to be legions of social media “experts” who take great delight in unnecessarily complicating something that is really not complex at all. Allow me to let you in on an evil little secret – social media is really quite simple.

While I’m not going to deny that social media brings with it new tools, platforms and communication channels, I vehemently object to the premise that you need to morph into an uber geek or communications savant to learn to use them and to reap their many benefits. Spare me the complex charts & diagrams, and the trite commentary from the latest guru. What’s needed is less smoke and mirrors and more common sense. As you’ll see below, social media is nothing more than leveraging technology and resources to communicate with meaningful constituencies in meaningful ways – How could that possibly be a bad thing?

The Evil Secret Revealed
The simple reality is that social media has way more to do with common sense than it does with rocket science. Let me make this as simple as I can…social media simply provides you with tools and channels that allow you to extend your reach and better engage those with whom you wish to communicate. What’s so complicated and confusing about tools that put you right where you’ve always wanted to be, and perhaps more importantly, right where you need to be?

Forget all the buzzwords and acronyms, social media is about meeting your constituencies where they are – in a setting of their choosing, and communicating with them on their terms. Social Media affords you an exceptional opportunity to listen, gather intelligence, build trust, engender confidence and credibility, publish valuable content and have meaningful dialog in ways that were once thought to be impossible. Social Media doesn’t make things more complex, rather it reduces things down to the ultimate level of simplicity. It’s really this simple…if it’s not a priority for you to efficiently and effectively engage with your stakeholders, then you need to reevaluate your priorities.

The Key to Success
Success or failure in social media is nothing more than making a simple set of good choices. You must choose to get off the sideline and into the game, then you must choose to endure the learning curve, and finally you must choose to deploy the needed resources to be successful. Let me be very clear here – as the CEO or entrepreneur, YOU and not your legal counsel, marketing director, ad agency or PR firm must make this choice. Don’t allow yourself to be dissuaded by conventional thinking, flimsy logic or uninformed opinions.

If you believe the hype, social media will immediately solve all your problems and require no time, energy or effort on your part. I’m always amazed at those who think all they have to do is launch a blog, create a LinkedIn profile, put up a Twitter page and open a Facebook account and all their business problems will be solved. If you buy into this line of thinking my guess is that it won’t be the first time you’ve fallen prey to a failed initiative around the latest trend.

I always love the excuse “I don’t have time for social media.” Really? What are you so busy doing that you don’t have time to build better relationships with precisely those individuals and groups who can help you achieve your goals and objectives? Social Media is no different than anything else in life in that you get out of it what you put into it. No effort yields no results, part-time efforts yield part-time results, and exceptional efforts lead to exceptional results.

Yes – social media will require an investment of time and resources. That said, prudent investments into social media serve as a force multiplier catalyzing both leverage and velocity simply not available via other mediums, platforms and channels. My advice is simple…stop rationalizing and justifying doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons, stop whining & complaining  and get in the game  – do the right thing.

As always, I’m interested in your thoughts and opinions – please share your insights in the comments section below.

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No Comments

    PaulSteinbrueck

    April 2, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    Mike, I agree with you that when it comes to interactions in social media that "social media has way more to do with common sense than it does with rocket science."

    Where I think social media gets complex is that it opens the door to so many potential new relationships. I forget who it was, but some researcher determined that a person can really only manage relationships with about 150 people. Well, most people were already around 150 before social media arrived. So, now throw on top of that a few hundred Facebook friends and hundreds or potentially thousands of twitter followers and things start getting complicated. Then we look for tools and systems to manage those relationships and expand our capacity for more relationships, and they can add an additional layer of complexity.

      mikemyatt

      April 2, 2010 at 7:12 pm

      Hi Paul:

      Great insights, and you make an excellent point as well. There is truly a difference between connections and relationships. Moreover there also exists a definite hierarchy of connections and relationships that comprise a sphere of influence. From my perspective SM not only helps you extend your sphere of influence, but it also helps you manage and categorize your network.

      I have never believed in the 150 number as being either optimal or correct. For some the number is less and for others the number is significantly higher. Maybe I'm oversimplifying a bit, but I have always believed that relationships are the most valuable assets we possess. Not to invest in the use of mediums, tools, and platforms meant help us in this area seems nothing short of ludicrous. Thanks for stopping by Paul.

        PaulSteinbrueck

        April 2, 2010 at 8:03 pm

        Mike, your point about a hierarchy of connections and relationships is an extremely important one. A person can't be best friends with 2,000 people. It's just not possible to read & respond to the tweets of 2,000 followers, To connect with that many people online, a person has to have different levels or categories of connection, determine how they're going to engage with people in each category, and then group people into categories.

        I completely agree with you that social media is worthwhile, and it's worth investing the time and effort and worth investing in the tools to manage the relationships and connections well. I'm just saying that once you start scaling up like that you have to be very strategic and that gets complicated. But the good thing when a person first starts up and has a small number of connections it really is mostly common sense.

          mikemyatt

          April 2, 2010 at 8:13 pm

          Great points Paul…one thing to keep in mind is that complexity also restricts scalability. To the extent SM simplifies relationship building and management it also makes it more scalable. Always look forward to your thoughts Paul.

          Allan W.

          April 2, 2010 at 11:30 pm

          Your comment got me thinking, which grew long enough to warrant a blog post:

          http://allanwhite.net/blog/comments/commentary_so

          Allan W.

          April 2, 2010 at 11:31 pm

          Here's the short version:

          "A person can't be best friends with 2,000 people. It's just not possible to read & respond to the tweets of 2,000 followers."

          While this may be a true statement on the face of it, in practice it's not necessary to directly interact with each and every one to be engaging in the SM space.

          The key is knowing *when* – and how deeply – to interact. Having advanced keyword search tools (knowing when someone's talking about you or your product), identifying key influencers (say, on a Twitter list), and really looking at social media through a CRM lens (vv. using a dashboard tool like CoTweet or Hootsuite) can all address the "scale" challenges.

          This is where much of the true complexity lies. The principles the Mike describes in this article are excellent and common-sense; these are good principles to apply to the overall philosophy and strategy of the organizations social media interactions.

          The *real* SM experts, I predict, are going to be the ones that understand these fundamentals, and can also help businesses with the "plumbing" of tying these myriad channels together and welding them into a usable business tool.

          If done right, the "users" (the people in your company who use SM channels to interact with customers) just have simple, elegant ways to get their jobs done; the complexity is hidden (think of, well, my iPhone).

            mikemyatt

            April 3, 2010 at 2:20 am

            Hi Allan:

            Thanks for the comments as well as the mention on your blog. I appreciate the value added to the discussion with the detail outlined above. Great thoughts Allan and thanks for stopping by.

    davidburkus

    April 2, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    Good post. Are you familiar with Chris Brogan's outposts and embassies model for social media? What are your thoughts on it?

      mikemyatt

      April 2, 2010 at 8:18 pm

      Hi David:

      I'm a huge Chris Brogan fan. Chris not only has an intuitive feel for relationships, but also the desire to put his inclinations into practice. His concepts on social media modeling exemplify the best in blending of new media and common sense. One of the things I look most forward to is watching Chris continue to develop and refine his thoughts as the medium advances and matures.

    air tightness test

    April 3, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    Thats a good article… would use it and link back.

    robpetersen

    April 4, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Mike,

    Great advice and a great foundation piece on social media. I always enjoy reading your blolgs. I'm seeing a business principle take shape in social media called the "Goldilocks Rule." I hope to have explained it at http://barnraisersllc.com with the same common sense and sound thinking you have here.

    Thanks again for the post.

    Rob

      mikemyatt

      April 4, 2010 at 4:46 pm

      Hi Rob:

      Thanks for the comment and the kind words. I enjoyed reading your post as well. I have found that when it comes to social networks, different people have their "preferred" network of choice based upon what works best for specific circumstances. Oddly enough, I have also found it is usually the network where they spend the most time, energy and effort. As I said above, your yield usually directly correlates to your efforts. Thanks for the great insights Rob.

        robpetersen

        April 4, 2010 at 10:14 pm

        Makes perfect sense to me. Look forward to your next blog. Stay well Mike.

    Scott Gould

    April 4, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Hi Mike, et al,

    I do agree – Social Media is largely common sense, and unfortunately, many forget to employ this, coupled with the fact that many are inauthentic when it comes to Social Media as well.

    One important point for me is separating Broadcast Media from Social Media. If we do so, then we have a clearer understanding. I think this is where a lot of the mystifying comes from – an inherent misunderstanding of what Social is compared to Broadcast.

    But in the essence and application of most of this, the more I talk it through, the more I do realise how it really just is common sense!

    Scott

    mikemyatt

    April 4, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Hi Scott:

    Thanks for the sharing your observations. I am particularly grateful that you pointed out the difference between "Broadcast" and "Social" media. The differences while quite obvious, are all too often confused or just plain ignored. Thanks again for the keen insights Scott.

    gunnar

    April 5, 2010 at 4:36 am

    Mike, these are great observations and so true. Thanks for sharing!

      admin

      admin

      April 5, 2010 at 12:45 pm

      Hi Gunnar:

      My pleasure Sir…thanks for stopping by.

    Lisa Welch

    April 9, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Hi Mike:

    Thanks for taking something so confusing and adding clarity by doing little more than telling the truth. Nicely done Mike!

      mikemyatt

      April 9, 2010 at 8:12 pm

      Thanks Lisa…I appreciate the kind words and am glad you found the post useful.

    clarocada

    September 16, 2010 at 10:22 am

    Mike, an excellent piece – very well stated. I especially enjoy the evil secret, and it's also a simple but important that people should find time to cultivate contacts – to be sociable. What's the alternative? As you say – get in the game and do the right thing.

    I have to say that I almost automatically cringe when someone describing themselves as a social media expert, and if the word 'guru' is heard, I'm afraid I tend to burst into laughter.

    Thanks Mike, I enjoyed this, and I'll share it around. Some very astute comments here too – thank you all.

    Regards, David

      mikemyatt

      September 16, 2010 at 10:32 am

      Hi David:

      Good to hear from you and thanks for stopping by. Best wishes Sir.

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