Why Social Media Is in Its Adolescence and Where It’s Going
Last Thursday, Business Wire hosted a small event in San Francisco called “The Evolution of Social Media.” Sam Laird, writer at Mashable, Tim O’Keeffe, managing director at Horn Group, Drew Olanoff, West Coast editor at The Next Web, and Tom Simonite, West Coast technology editor at Technology Review all joined together to address how social media has progressed.
The conversation ranged from how social media has affected business to best practices for utilizing social media.
To kick off the event, the panelists addressed the first question of the morning: how has social media affected news and how news breaks?
The panelists unanimously agreed that social media has put readers in the midst of stories. The news surrounding Facebook’s IPO, for example, was not about the announcement itself, but rather the build up to the IPO. Readers were able to experience the IPO through live blogs, tweets, and photos shared by Facebook employees who participated in an overnight hackathon the evening before Marc Zuckerberg rang the bell on Wall Street. As readers, we are now able to follow along with a story as it unravels rather than waiting for the news to break.
What is the current state of social media?
Tim O’Keeffe argued that if social media were a person, it would be in its adolescence. Social media allows you to connect with people you already know, but is growing toward connecting you with new people who have common interests. Airtime and Highlight are two platforms which are helping social media evolve. There’s still a lot of room for growth in terms of finding and making new connections online and taking them offline.
What are the best practices for companies using social media?
The chief takeaway of the day was that social media has broken new ground and enabled a more human connection between companies and customers. However, not all companies are taking advantage of the strong relationships that can develop between a company and customer as a result of social media. There’s still a lot of work to do in terms of how companies operate their social media accounts.
All of the panelists strongly suggested that companies should manage their social media channels on a human level. If your CEO’s Twitter account is being handled by a PR person, it will be painfully obvious. Tom Simonite put it perfectly, “Be human, don’t be a robot.” Two of the best Twitter accounts are held by Robert Scoble, who represents Rackspace, and Pete Cashmore, who represents Mashable. Why? Because they are real.
Finally, figure out what your company culture is and portray exactly that. As the panelists all noted, not everyone is in a position forever, so when your social media manager moves on, it should be easy for the next social media manager to pick up the pieces and continue representing the company culture.
What should companies avoid doing on social media?
Drew Olanoff advised that companies should handle themselves online the way they would offline. He then shared a comical but completely accurate example of how NOT to run a social media account.
On Twitter, if we complain about Coca-Cola, Pepsi may very likely chime in and say, “Hey, we saw you aren’t happy with Coca-Cola, come and try our soda.” Now, imagine you were in a grocery store holding up a bottle of Coke and complaining about it, and a Pepsi employee ran up to you and told you to try their brand instead. In the words of Drew Olanoff, “You’d want to punch them in the face.”
People respond more positively to genuine human interactions. Think before you tweet. Instead of pushing content and trying to reach a following which attracts likes, just be yourself.
What’s next for social media?
Finally, the panel discussed the next big things in social media, the most obvious one being Pinterest. The panelists snickered when they were asked how to utilize Pinterest, saying that it was possibly a fad, but if you use it, make sure you are telling a story about your company. When asked about which sites to keep an eye on, they quickly responded: Tumblr and Project Glass by Google.
Social media has evolved quickly, but I agree that it is only in its adolescence. How do you see social media growing? Do you also think that it's just the beginning? What are your best practices for humanizing your company’s social channels?