With the annual celebration of Thanksgiving upon us here in the U.S., many people pause to think about what they’re thankful for: family, friends, Netflix, Tom Brady leaving the New England Patriots…
I’m thankful for all of those things too of course, but also for the development and growth of social media. Here are a few reasons why:
Social media makes it easy to reconnect with old friends and co-workers. How did we do this before? There were ways: reunions, phone calls…but most often, we just didn’t. Now, social media tools like Facebook and LinkedIn make it easy and (usually) non-awkward. I was recently friended on Facebook by a guy I went to high school with. Back then, I thought he was kind of a jerk quite frankly. I discovered he’s now a cancer survivor and a completely different person. It happens.
I’ve written recommendations for folks I worked with in the past and had some nice ones provided for me as well. Old connections also often lead to new ones: I’ve introduced people who should know each other and been introduced to others who have become mentors, clients, or friends.
Social media makes it easy to connect with new people who share your interests…anywhere on earth. Before social networks (and even more so before email became widespread), it was difficult to make and maintain acquaintances with professional peers or people with similar interests in other parts of the country, much less the world.
And second-level connections (getting to know the people whom the people you know know) were even more difficult to make. Now I routinely trade updates and information with smart marketers and other interesting people across North America as well as in the UK, Belgium, France, Germany, South Africa, India, Thailand, Malaysia, The Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and elsewhere.
Just a few of the cool people I likely never would have gotten to know without social media include Shelly Kramer, Judy Bellem, Jennifer Kane, Marissa Pick, Ardath Albee, Frank Strong, Neal Schaffer, Tony Karrer (my cofounder of the B2B Marketing Zone and Social Media Informer), or Casey Allen.
Social media is a meritocracy (mostly). Early in my career I worked for a company that produced digital prepress equipment for printing companies, and we had a huge poster in the office that read:
“Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.”
If you were wealthy, fortunate, obnoxious (or in a few cases, talented) enough to be involved in publishing, you had a voice. Others, for the most part, didn’t. The Internet opened things up a bit, but creating websites (a dozen years ago) was hard unless you were a programmer. Blogging opened things up considerably more. Social media has blown the gates wide open. Anyone with an interesting point of view and knowledge to share gets to be an influential star, at least in his or her corner of the social mediasphere. Blowhards (usually) tend to get called out and ignored.
Social media is fantastic for research and learning. Want to know what your customers and prospects are thinking? Sure, surveys and focus groups still have their place, but you can learn a lot from what they’re saying in social media circles. At the very least, you’ll be able to craft more intelligent, informed questions for your survey.
Your competitor recently released a new product? Cool. Their press release, and perhaps a puff piece in an industry trade pub where they advertise, are no longer the only sources of information about it. You can now, easily, find out what other people are saying. Real people. Customers, prospects, thought leaders, people who have some expertise on the product but aren’t part of, or paid by, the company.
Want to know how to perform a certain task or process? Social media can not only lead you to the answer, but let you know which alternative answer is probably best based on the level of social influence of the writer.
Social media makes marketing more fun. A dialog is more enjoyable and interesting than a monologue. Sure, social media makes marketing a bit messier (because marketing and PR people no longer control the messaging) and more challenging (thought leadership content is more difficult to write than sales copy), but engaging in conversations gives marketers a direct line to prospects—enabling them to craft messaging that really resonates with their audience. Social media also provides a variety of near real-time methods for measuring audience response, so marketers know more quickly what works and what doesn’t. You can’t get that from a print ad.
Got your own reasons to be thankful? Leave a comment to share.