Social Media Is Not New

Face facts:  social media isn’t new anymore.  Actually, it hasn’t been new for a long time.

We’ve been socializing on the web for well over a decade – long before Twitter, Facebook and the glorification of monolithic walled gardens, which are nothing more than modern versions of AOL and prodigy with bells and whistles.

If you think the social web is new, you’re already far late to the party.  And if you are late, the worst thing you can do for your brand or yourself is to flat out ignore or brush off a form of communication that an entire generation already sees as “invisible.”

Kevin Kelly writes:

As technology becomes ubiquitous it also becomes invisible… The more networking succeeds, the less we’ll be aware of it.

This has already occurred.  The social web is invisible to my generation.  It’s invisible because we aren’t talking about how groundbreaking it is or how it is somehow disruptive, to us it always existed. It’s as normal as the telephone is to the previous generation.  We simply don’t know a world without it.  We use it, but we don’t really talk about it (except us metablogging geeks, but we don’t count – I am talking about regular people).

The web is not fascinating to an entire generation because we grew up in a world where it was native.  In fact, it’s uncomfortable for us to read how the older generation thinks this is new because it just shows that they were oblivious to shifts in communication happening around them.  For me, growing up and witnessing most of mainstream society ignore the web is actually somewhat depressing, as it is evidence that people are afraid of change and embracing what is new/different until they have no choice.

If you are a brand or a marketer and don’t “get it” by now, the worst thing you can do for your reputation is publicly state that you’re new or consider social media new.  There really isn’t an excuse for having ignored trends this long and it just shows you aren’t paying attention.  If you want to forever reinforce the way things are done today, being a communications professional is not for you.  Tomorrow is always different.

Going along with that, at this point I don’t think brands need social media experts, they need good marketers.  By now, marketers worth their salt understand all media, and if they are really good, they also have their finger on the pulse of where this is all headed.

The best thing you can do if you find yourself on the wrong side of the business digital divide right now is quietly learn or get consulting to become educated on how to modernize your marketing and brand.  It’s nearly 2010 – you’re going to look passé to all stakeholders if you don’t approach in a strategic and smart fashion.

Fluency in the web is not something to be put in a silo separated from the rest of your business like many have been doing.  It is a standard requirement that your entire team comprehends it – at least if you want to not just survive, but thrive in a connected society.

What I’m hoping to see in 2010:

  • A move away from people talking about social media as if it is new.  Even if it is new to you, it is already not new to far too many people for you to claim it as such and not position yourself poorly.
  • People presenting at conferences at a higher level.  Your audience understands the basics by now, it is okay to step it up – no one needs internet marketing 101 presentation anymore, and if they do they aren’t attending conferences for that.  Treat your audience as smart enough to Google the answer or ask questions at the close of your presentation if they don’t know something.  You should be presenting revelations, not things everyone already knows.
  • Less of traditional media writing sensationalist articles about social networking ruining the lives of teens.  All that these do are frighten parents.  For kids to have a shot in tomorrow’s economy, they need to be connected and on par with their peers in using technology.  Also stop blaming technology for the ills of new generations, blame bad parenting.  Technology is neutral, it is not inherently good or bad, application is what defines it as such.
  • Less blogging about Twitter.  Seriously, we get it.  Raise your hand if you honestly want to see more blog posts about Twitter.  99/100 posts about that network aren’t necessary.
  • More marketing discussions about strategy, theory and web-based interactions through the lens of sociology.  There is so much to be explored here and it’s far more interesting than posts from big name bloggers merely ripping each other off.
  • More blog posts about future trends  – pontificate about what’s coming next and why, these stories are great.
  • Less posts across the board, but higher quality conversations.
  • Less on specific tools, more on trends of web usage and content.
  • More sharing of content in the long tail as opposed to the obvious sites.  If you want an example of someone doing this well, follow Louis Gray and check out the links he shares.  He’s an A-lister, yet an overwhelming majority of content he shares is from sites in the long tail – and when he shares something the content is as good as any ultra-popular site (popularity does not dictate quality).  I have probably discovered more interesting content from Louis than any other single source in the last year.

Do you agree social media isn’t new?  What do you want to see going forward?