Why Social Media Is Not Awesome

I’m one of thousands of people talking about social media these days. There are several breeds of us social media consultant types, and we’re all prone to be quite bullish about the prospects of social media. In fact, some of us even say things like, “You must use Facebook, or you’re not even marketing anymore.”

The problem is that saying something like that assumes several things:

  • It assumes the people you want to reach are online.
  • It assumes the people you want to reach are on Facebook.
  • It assumes that if you stop doing whatever you’re doing now and divert that energy to Facebook that you’ll be better off.
  • It assumes that Facebook (or whatever the technology example is here) is a silver bullet to marketing success.
  • It assumes that all other marketing opportunities are completely ineffective.

Sometimes, it’s easier to speak in definitive terms about social media and say things like that. It makes for good blog post rants and one-liners during conferences, but it doesn’t usually translate well in real business scenarios.

Why Social Media Is Excellent but Not Awesome
Social media is outstanding. It gives organizations direct access to the people they want to reach. It doesn’t require you to ask permission or go through middlemen. It lets you hear what people are saying about your organization so you can respond, reflect, or change whatever they’re talking about.

These are all significant benefits of social media and show the breadth of how marketing has changed, but it doesn’t simultaneously declare everything else dead.

I’m more convinced than ever that social media changed marketing forever, but it didn’t kill all other methods of marketing and promotion. The other stuff is still there, and sometimes, it still makes sense to use it. Sometimes, it makes sense to use it instead of social media. 

How We Got Here
I think we got here innocently enough. Over the last several years, we’ve worked to get social media recognized and validated among other marketing techniques, but now we’re there. Marketers are moving into social media in droves so it’s not necessary to keep waving the “social media is awesome” flag anymore. Social media got a seat at the table. It disrupted marketing and shifted power. That was all a good thing so let’s see that for what it is and be satisfied.

It Just Got Harder
Now the hard part is being able to choose wisely from all the options in front of us. Should we start a blog, do Google Adwords, or shoot a video for YouTube? Should we send a postcard, place a radio spot, or create a Foursquare offer?

Marketing is more complicated now than ever, and it’s going to take good marketers to make wise decisions and give good counsel. Social media is a key part of the marketing arsenal, but it’s likely not the totality of everything you could do. Smart marketers will be bullish about the new ways to reach people, to listen, to respond, and to earn attention. Shifting our mindset to really see all of this is where the next wave of marketing innovation will be found…and that will be awesome.

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Bill Seaver founded MicroExplosion Media in fall 2007 and has been blogging since June 2006. Bill has consulted numerous organizations to help them understand and apply social media into their marketing initiatives. He's led seminars, corporate training sessions, and numerous social media campaigns to include blog strategy and development, Google AdWords, podcasts, online video strategy, widget development, social media marketing campaigns, blogger networks, and social networking campaigns.