March 4, 2009

The social media fallacy

David SparkOne of my pet peeves about the topic of social media is it almost always revolves around “the conversation” and “the tools that enable conversation.” While that is all useful, and it’s the part of social media that excites everyone, I get the sense that people are forgetting that social media is first and foremost about media. And for any conversation to begin, you have to have something to talk about.

Last year I gave a short presentation to the Silicon Valley American Marketing Association (SVAMA) about what I call The Social Media Fallacy. I argued — and still do — that the way social media is being sold to us through the general media and social media consultancies is misleading. Most often the focus is always on the last stage of the publishing process-distribution. The big story that’s repeatedly sidestepped is that social media should first be about the process of creating great editorial content.

I put together this 6-minute narrated Slideshare presentation to debunk the traditional way social media is being sold and offer a more sane and logical approach to developing industry voice to grow your business, using social media.

I’m interested to know your opinion. Do you agree/disagree this is how it’s being sold and do you believe/not believe that the social media evangelists are sidestepping the issue of content?

David Spark, a partner in Socialmedia.biz, helps businesses grow by developing thought leadership through storytelling and covering live events. Contact David by email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.

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  • David,

    What you said resonated in me. The fallacy comes that, beyond the talks and demo, not a lot of folks have really try to do something (I mean more than upload a video here, create a group there and so on..). It's complex and there's really no magic to succeed in social media, one needs to put time and work. As you put raw $ in an advertising campaign to keep it going, time is the capital you need to invest in social media to keep it going. No way out of it. And, this investment should be made across the organization, not just PR which is somewhat where the debate stays on social media.
    I often talk about the social media engagement process which contains the steps that you outlined.
    I think the assess phase you talk about should include assessing the social media landscape. i.e: where does my customers socialize online?. Which basically means 'segmenting' the social media marketing and thinking about the strategy for participation.

    If you'd like to talk more, I'd be love to

    • Yes, definitely Laurent. “Where do my customers socialize online?” is a question we ask during the “Assessment” phase. There are actual tons of questions you need to ask during that phase and the findings set you up really well for editorial and then production.

      More than happy to discuss more here or privately. Feel free to contact me directly.

  • Evan Scott

    David, I agree wholeheartedly. I would use different terms to describe your points. For instance, I developed a communications development process that has four steps:

    Collect (the right information),
    Evaluate (going to the right people),
    Categorize (for the right reason), and
    Distribute (delivered in the right way)

    I would suggest that even beyond Social Media, marketers have long been enamored of the tools of the trade rather than the substance of our business – which is storytelling. No more, no less — we are in the business of telling stories and you can dress that up any way you want but in the end, we are – and our products are – our stories. I have a saying I came up with when I was teaching marketing strategies for start up companies in Dayton, Ohio – "News is not news. Stories are news."

    (more in next post…)

  • (continued from last)

    I would further suggest that this focus on tools has a great analogy in home building – many marketers focus on the trades – plumbers, framers, tile work – and forget that every tool user first needs a plan, an architect who answers the big questions like traffic flow; what is the family like and how do they want to entertain guests? What is their lifestyle? Tranlating this to business, I would argue that even the word "content" is not a storytellers word – it's a word created by Silicon Valley technologists during the Dotcom Boom to talk about just the point you make – they were looking at the technologies they were building and thought of stories and communications as mere "content" – stuff to fill in the pages of their cool technologies.

    (continued in next…)

  • (from last post)

    Storytellers have been pushed to the periphery of marketing communications, which is ludicrous since storytellers ARE marketing communications. I recently spoke at an IABC (http://www.iabc.com) luncheon where I solicited a solemn vow from my fellow communicators to reassert their role as storytellers. The presentation is titled Storytelling 2.0: It's a New World and Everyone is Paying Attention.

    Keep up the good fight, David Spark — keep up the good fight!

  • Great insight Evan. You're on target that it is storytelling and it's very easy to forget that when company people go into "marketing" mode. It's hard to take off that hat and realize that nobody cares about them or their wonderful product. All they care about is themselves. What you have to do is answer the question that's constantly running through their mind: "Why do I give a shit?"

    Explain first why they should be listening to you. And a story that's related to their situation, showing that you actually care about them, is the best way to do that.

  • Great insight Evan. You're on target that it is storytelling and it's very easy to forget that when company people go into “marketing” mode. It's hard to take off that hat and realize that nobody cares about them or their wonderful product. All they care about is themselves. What you have to do is answer the question that's constantly running through their mind: “Why do I give a shit?”

    Explain first why they should be listening to you. And a story that's related to their situation, showing that you actually care about them, is the best way to do that.

  • Yes, definitely Laurent. "Where do my customers socialize online?" is a question we ask during the "Assessment" phase. There are actual tons of questions you need to ask during that phase and the findings set you up really well for editorial and then production.

    More than happy to discuss more here or privately. Feel free to contact me directly.