Monday, November 29, 2010

We have to get over fame before we learn to connect

If you aren't a regular follower of Marketing Week (the UK mag for the Marketing industry) you may have missed my latest leader - published at the end of last week.
I wouldn't want to miss out on the opportunity of making connections - which are frankly more likely here than on the fame-hunting pages of MW so, the column is repeated below...

Does social media satisfy an urge for fame left as a hangover of the broadcast age? An urge we must get over before we achieve connection?

The use of the term social media has done many marketers a dis-service. Actually, it's led them up a garden path to a place where the trees don't quite bear the fruit they may have hoped for.

There are two reasons.
First: including the word 'media' made us believe this was all about communication. It is. But only as a means to an end.
The second: the hangover of our mass communication era concepts of fame.

The latter assumes people are broadcasting in social networks (etc). Those who believe that will point to the idea that when we use (eg) Twitter we are shouting out into the ether in order to acquire an audience.

And that would be the case if this was a broadcast model - an example of one to many.

But it isn't.

It's many to many. When we tweet (or express metadata - stuff about ourselves, our lives, our issues and concerns) we are not seeking an audience, we are seeking connections.

It's an important distinction.

I'm not saying that there aren't plenty of people seeking their little bit of fame through the use of the tools of social media. There are.

What I am saying is that they misunderstand the true value of a network over a broadcast model - that a network brings you connections.
And it's time we all got over that fame thing.

Unless we do, marketers will continue to make the mistake of seeking to gather audience when what they actually want - and need - is connection.

A recent example? I received an email from someone in the industry begging me to 'like' one of his clients facebook pages. If it acquired a certain (big) number of likes then the client would give a (big) cheque to Children In Need. Each like (should the target be reached) would have cost the client £2.50. That's a reasonable cost per acquisition I suppose - If you think audience has value.

The reality is if I 'like' your page only because I want to help a third party (in this case Children In Need) or for any other reason than genuine shared purpose/belief, then my eyes and ears are closed to you.

£2.50 down the drain.

A community without connection is just an audience with its eyes and ears shut.

Connection discovers and brings together people who care about the same things and gives the opportunity to do something about them together.

Connection means we join together to make things - products, services, co-created campaigns.

Social Media is more about connection and less about communication than is too often assumed. Letting go of our old world concepts of fame and audience reveals the real ROI of the web: A place for making with others - not taking from or broadcasting through.

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The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?