Social Media and Socialising...Let's not muddy the waters.

As an avid Twitter user I recently came across a white paper written by Michael Stelzner – it's the first official 'marketing industry report' on social media that I have come across – no doubt many, many more will follow.

The report, titled; How Marketers are using Social Media to Grow their Businesses is most certainly worth a read. It documents the findings of research geared to 'marketers' with a sample size of approx 900 participating.

Of course, it is a US sample – but given the context of the questions (behaviour based) – geographical location is pretty much irrelevant.

Whilst I've been 'in marketing' for over 15 years – I am a relative newbie to Social Media (just about 9 months!). Yes, I've been blogging for about 9 months now – and participating in forums for about the same time – and have absorbed myself in Twitter for the past few months.

I've never really been a Facebook fan – as when I dabbled some months back – I felt that it was more of a 'popularity contest' – (how many friends do I have) rather than a useful resource – and from a B2B perspective, in my view, it still has a lot of ground to break. I had researched Facebook and the other social networks, both established and emerging, quite rigourously – about 18 months ago – as I was (and still am) involved in the development of which for me, is a far more practical and useful (not to mention more private) resource.

On Twitter I've connected with some really very interesting and useful people. And often I think of myself as a 'student' – listening to the wise musings of those that appear to have been part of the social media scene for years!

When digging around however, for research and best practice methodologies and strategies for social media – there's not much around. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Top 10, Top 20, Top 100 articles (some of which are very useful) – but clearly the territory is still too fertile for established 'research' and documented strategies.

I was therefore somewhat comforted to read in Michael Stelzner's report findings that 72% of those using social media in their business – have only been doing so for a 'few months or less'.

Further, it was good to see that the main platforms that 'marketers' were engaging in were; Twitter, Blogs, Linked-In and Facebook. So the fact that I am active in three out of the four didn't make me feel too left behind.

I was surprised that Forums didn't rate higher than they did. I participate in two or three very relevant forums and I find them really useful. Where relevant I can point people to solutions I may have written about in my blog – or to other resources – and answer specific questions, sharing my experience, advice and views. And of course, when stuck or looking for a 'feel' on things – then I can pose questions. A forum is far more 'tightly knit' than say 'Twitter' – and I notice that forum members tend to be genuinely protective of 'the community space' – spammers and users on a forum for a quick sell, are quickly given the boot.

It was during a forum thread about Social Media that I came across a tribe of people who are clearly upset that 'marketers' have jumped on the social media bandwagon and have bastardised the concept – ruining the platforms for people who want to have genuine conversations and connect. The view was that people were sick of 'marketers' muscling in on 'their' spaces and that they were going to have to find another means to 'socialise'!

Now then, I do indeed socialise, I have various groups of friends that I keep in contact with – from days as a singleton living and working in London, to old school friends I've known for over 35 years (blimey is it really that long...) and of course, to the fabulous network of 'mums' that have assisted my sanity and survival in the epic adventure known as motherhood (and who, thankfully, continue to do so)! Do I 'Twitter' with these people, no I do not – do I Facebook (if that's a term) with these people – no I do not. Do I 'Link In' with these people (perhaps a few I was at Business School with and who I don't really keep in touch with and am interested to see what they're up to) – but with my 'friends' – no, I do not.

Instead - I call them, drop them an email with latest news, send a card and call me crazy, but I meet up with them, organise a quick 'glass of wine' – or visit them or invite them to visit me.

Don't get me wrong, I truly appreciate that there are not enough hours in the day to fit everything in – and email and sharing photos etc (I do this via Bizzbug but I can see how people find FaceBook useful for this purpose too – but it's a bit open for me [interject here for a mo with a quick Facebook dilemma, I was 'befriended' by a long distant uncle from my husbands side of the family whom I have never met and given his ridiculous postings nor would I wish to – but how do I switch him off without him knowing!]) - anyway the point is that technology certainly helps me nurture friendships when I don't have the time to call or it's not logistically feasible to regularly meet up with folks. But it's certainly no substitute.

And I now regularly 'speak' to people online via these channels – but I'd call that 'networking' instead of 'socialising'.

For those that are upset because we 'terrible marketers' – are using social media platforms as another communication channel and advising our clients to do the same – my advice is 'get out more' – (in the nicest possible way...).

I've written a couple of posts about how I am using social media, both personally and with one particular client of mine.

As I mentioned before – I'm involved with a social media resource – and when putting together the strategic model for growth the team behind Bizzbug considered the growth framework:

  • Influencers
  • Early adopters
  • Early majority
  • Laggards (late comers)

Even though the main social platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Linked In have significant numbers of users (we're talking millions) – if we categorise Marketers as 'Influencers' – advising their clients and contacts to leverage these platforms and educating them in doing so – and given that 72% of marketers surveyed stated that they've only been using social media platforms as part of their marketing for the past 'few months' – then that would suggest that we really are only scratching the surface of what's to come...

And to cement my thinking, I recently read a great post by Seth Godin 'The Paradox Of The Middle Of The Market'' – in essence the article focuses on the importance of designing products/services which are 'interesting' enough to be picked up by the Influencers – but that have practical appeal with the all important 'middle market'.

When products/services cross the chasm – (as Twitter is now doing/has possibly already done) – then those 'first users' – can feel left out – almost cheated (by those nasty marketers)! But actually, it's naive to think that the guys behind Twitter didn't design the product without the vision of the all important middle market in mind. Not many products and services do cross the chasm – but when they do – boy do they reap the rewards.

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Michelle Carvill is owner and Marketing Director at Carvill Creative - a graphic design and marketing services agency based in Maidenhead, Berkshire.  The agency covers all aspects of graphic design and marketing - covering social media marketing and website planning and website design.