Some thoughts over coffee about social media

I love all my fellow social media Kool-Aid drinkers.

But there are three things about which I typically disagree with many of them:

1. I believe use of the word “social” misses the mark in describing what’s taking place. Indeed, I believe the use of the word “social” is a hindrance to “the cause” of educating a broader audience regarding online identity and personal expression. (However, for marketing and “search” reasons, I always go with the flow on the use of popular marketing buzz-terms on this blog.)

2. I don’t believe social media — or digital media — “kills” other media. I believe it (they) compliment(s) and add(s) to, and enhance(s) other media. In the 15 years I’ve been immersed in the development or management of online communities and platforms designed to encourage online identity, expression and interaction, I haven’t seen any medium destroyed by social media (although I’ve seen the management of daily newspapers commit suicide on their medium). (Note: I certainly believe new business models related to media kill old business models, but that’s a different debate than the one I typically see waged in the rantosphere.)

3. I disagree with the way in which social media zealots say anyone who doesn’t use a specific online service the way they do, “doesn’t get it.” (My personal belief is that no one fully gets anything.)

Here’s where I probably disagree most with my fellow Kool-Aid drinkers:

I don’t believe we are living in a post-advertising age. And I certainly don’t believe print is dead. (Note: again, for clarification purposes — by “print” I am not referring to a specific “business model” but media that use ink on paper.)

I believe we are living in an exciting time in which traditional advertising is being overhauled dramatically. I believe we will soon be entering into a age in which consumers will have a better — and more “literal” — balance of power with producers and suppliers of products and services. And I believe there will be a better understanding among “producers/creators/evangelists” and “users” that we are a “we.”

But I don’t believe “traditional advertising” will be killed anymore than I believe a new search engine will kill Google.

Where did this post come from? Perhaps it was reading that Starbucks, who did not use traditional advertising in building its mighty (but currently hurting) brand, has started using newspapers, magazines and outdoor media to promote its social media efforts.

Or perhaps it was that I’m drinking a Grande Americano instead of Kool-Aid this morning.

  • I agree that nothing is dying, well, except maybe newspapers.

    If I was in a city where I rode the subway or bus everyday then I would still read newspapers regularly (or would bite the bullet and purchase a Kindle and WSJ subscription). But I think I am the last generation.

    In a way I think it may be a self-fulfilling prophecy. As newspaper readership declines, fewer young people get exposed to newspapers. Every once in a while I will pick up a Sunday paper because I have fond memories of being a kid and everyone reading the paper during breakfast. Without that exposure I would have no desire to read the Sunday paper. Likewise, it was when I was traveling all the time and got free newspapers that I became a fan of sitting down with the WSJ.

    Of course, this argument also might make me sound like a curmudgeon saying that “those kids today don’t have the values we did”.

  • @Jackson – It doesn’t help things that you and I live in a city that, like many, was victimized by the mis-guided corporate strategy of media companies that rolled up lots of dailies into a giant mush of nothingness. They have now decided to addicate the only thing worth having if you’re a local paper: localness.

    So, as I said in my post, newspapers are a victim of corporate suicide — it’s not the format.

    Also, to test your “it’s a generational thing” — poll anyone you know who attends a university with a daily university newspaper and ask them where they get their daily news about what’s going on around campus (not, news of their friends, but news of the campus) — specifically ask them if they get it from the student newspaper or from the student newspaper website.

    Also, the more I visit university classes, the more I believe we are seeing a generation of “neo-traditionalists” emerge, but their tradition is Facebook and they haven’t yet discovered the downside of living in such a walled-garden. (I feel a post coming on.)

  • that would be “abdicate.”

  • Great points Rex. Looking forward to the post on Walled Gardens of Adolescence.

  • Facewall? Facebookends?

    And now I know what “addicate” means, even if that wasn’t your intention.

  • @Mark – Even after reading that definition, I’m not sure what it means.

  • Hudge

    If you are drinking a starbucks beverage instead of one from a local mom-and-pop coffee shop, then you ARE having the kool-aid.

  • Clarice MacGarvey

    Rex, a refreshing and on-target take on social media. Thanks for the perspective.

  • Jumpcurve

    All advertising works together. The key is the mix and what economics work for your product or company. Example where do people think they get brand searches from? Yes some comes from people searching learning etc etc, but most people find out about a brand from some other form of marketing.At some point its all about understanding attribution, achieving scale, and lowering cost of acquisition. I wouldn’t be quick to dismiss anything.

  • Kirylyn

    but what if we’re not drinking a starbucks beverage at all??

    there ARE some quite nice local shops that I occasionally spend an evening at. But starbux?? *shudders*

    but yeah, newspapers are killing themselves, charging more and more and providing less and less pages. I’m trying to get my friend to subscribe to a daily crossword puzzle site and print out the puzzles she so loves to do. Otherwise, she just tosses it.

    personally? I read the online sites to have a counterpoint to the tv news