Monday 8 August 2011

Social Media is not about being Social

Social Media is an odd name for any kind of business medium. It is a misnomer. Created on campuses and made popular by teenagers, wanting to check out and check in with friends, share ideas, lusts, growing pains, disappointments and glory; it has transformed into the most pervasive marketing concept of our time. But "Social" is the wrong word and its roots have nothing to do with its current place in history and its future.

For business, social media is not about being social.

Its not about making friends and sharing personal details. It is in fact an evolution in communication brought about by the Internet and explosive innovation in technology which is transforming the way we do business and market our products and services. It is a pervasive network that adapts to everything and permeates everything.

Clay Shirkly, professor, teacher, writer and philosopher has put it into perspective. He refers to this new evolution of connectivity and communication He calls it  "The largest increase in expressive capability in human history". But as you listen to him its clear that the new media he refers to is not about being social at all.

Social is a word that fits an aspect of what it is, it connect everyone instantly. Now consumers are producers, and every kind of Media has migrated to the Internet; they are neighbours on your desktop and in your pocket. You can view a movie on your smartphone, read the NY times, pay bills, trade in the stock market, book a hotel, see an advertisement, on a screen, in a mag, anywhere all at the same time, and share it with family and colleagues.

Community Collaboration vs Communication will drive business

Clay refers to the new media as participatory. I think "participatory" sums it up better than social. We are all participants in a new democracy of communication that are more community based and more collaborative. With it the very core of connection and communication has shifted.  Take a moment to listen to his speech, it can shift your thinking.

Media Becomes an Enabler

Clay reminds me of Marshall Mcluhan, but he is more understandable because he is more rational. Mcluhan was an artist and a poet. Many of his ideas and statements were designed to provoke, like  "the future of the future is the present". You have to be a poet to get that one. On the other hand he coined the "Global Village" and the "Medium is the Message" over 50 years ago.  How topical they are now, how true?

Clay will tell us more earthy things that are just as deep, "media is more and more about convening rather than publishing" and "things gets interesting when technology gets boring". This is true, in fact little happens with brand new technology until their is a critical mass. See our blog on the new order

For tourism marketers, the follow insights from Clay are worth pondering:

1. Communications is moving to group orientation, its no longer one to many, but many to many, between peer groups and individuals where there are many connections and dialogue is bi-directional.

2. Media has migrated to Net. All Media is beside each other and on your desktop and in your hand.

3. Consumers are publishers. This means a vast expansion in channels and mediators who transpose information relative to their peer group, and even to fragments with in peer groups.

4. The network that is vast and growing exponentially. The size is the square of the of number of nodes. Message will be vastly differentiated and targeted.

5. Media is more about convening communication and participation than delivering the message.

Implications for Tourism Marketing

Tourism destination, tourism operators, hotels and travel marketing companies absolutely will not be able to avoid the this thing we loosely call social media.  I suspect the word Social will be meaningless in the years ahead as all media will have a social aspect. All will be participatory. The result is a collective intelligence and relationships that determines outcomes and markets.
All successful Businesses will build face-to-face communities across online, mobile and traditional media.

The message, the media, the messenger and the consumer will have many guises in a landscape where we are all each one of these at sometime, and sometimes simultaneously. Conventional marketing is already changing. The message will not be the driving force as in the past. Participation in a social network is not about crafting the message and presenting it, but about listening and providing useful solutions, knowledge and processes that allow participation. Communications will be less about messages and more about processes, it will be two way rather than one way broadcast. Blasting out youtube video, Facebook messages and Tweets is not the way of the future. 

Branding in the age of Participation

In a fully semantic world of Web 2.0, html5 and applications, messages will be interactive, encouraging participation and collaboration.  Brand advocates are the new messengers and with this shift in marketing the brand will often be controlled by forces outside of market strategy and planning. In the age of participation the Interactive-Brand will be defined  by its users as much as by its owners.

Travel technology firms and tourism marketers will find more channel and devices with which to engage. Technology will integrate and aggregate information and process, repackaging and re-purposing products, services,  information, media and messenger to suit the occasion.  

On-Line Travel Agents (OTAs) are aware of this fragmentation and the opportunities. Because of their size and technical savvy, they may gain ground relative to Brand owners. Hotel and tourism owners will need to be alert to losing  “ownership” of their customers in the emerging interactive-media, and growing channel options. 

With so many others speaking for them, from OTAs to advocates and dis-tractors, the hotel and travel owners must listen and participate in order to be relevant. All travel shopping will be interactive. Traditional ads that are static broadcast just will not win favour in the interactive world.

arcRes in New York time

Sea more of Clay, its good for the mind.  

Charts "Where do buyers get information" Source: 
How National Geographic sold 2,500 Subscriptions in One Day

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