Social Media Is Growing Up: You Can Stop Copying the Cool Kids Now

My partner @Shane sent me a link today “Why They Stopped Using Foursquare” by David Berkowitz. It summarizes a number of my social media friends and peers who have weaned themselves off this geo-location social network also known as a check-in service. As Shane reminded me, he stopped using them almost a year ago: yet again he changes his behavior in advance of many of his peers. (If only we could trade in his futures stock!) It is a long-standing aspect of our company. We are extreme early adopters – which means a lot of talking greek – or shall I say geek – to those who won’t know about these trends for years.

As a trainer, this early adopter thing works fine – I get my juice from showing people how things work and that doesn’t go away. However, it is also my job as a trainer to give people the latest and the greatest info on topics. As big a splash as Groupon made in the market and all the talk about extravagant valuations and their turning down a $6B offer from Google less than year ago, it turns out they may not have a sustainable business model. But enough about Groupon!

I was never a fan of FourSquare, as the mayorship and the discounts hold no attraction for me personally. I do use Gowalla now and then, but very strategically. I mostly use it for two reasons: to support the small biz where I am checking in (I think this type of crowd-sourced marketing can be very useful to small businesses) and to market myself in subtle ways. The places where I choose to check in emanate a type of energy that I am interested in sharing with my network: airports and beaches figure in a lot! For the brand of Roxanne Darling: I like being one who shares adventure and beauty with others. I can be their chill out moment in an otherwise harried day.

The good news about right now is that businesses and nonprofits are at last paying attention to social media. The bad news about now is that many are running scared and are “following” without really thinking first. We now have lots of data about how people behave on social networks and lots of good examples of campaigns and strategies that produce positive results. But because the territory of social networks in general is still confusing and overwhelming (understandably so!), many businesses tend to copy rather than investigate.

I also believe many people run without thinking into social media in part for a genuine desire for a deeper human connection. I support that intention, though it is such a complex phenomenon! While you and I might be connecting, company X is mining our data and a stalker or a house thief is planning his next move.

On a larger note, social media is reaching a tipping point. Now that we can all be publishers, the noise level is extreme and the competition for attention drives too many to simply resort to link bait strategies in lieu of thoughtful conversations. Or to offer Groupons that get you a lot of business but it turns out to cost a lot of cash and not produce return customers. (Which is why I got on the Groupon thing above…I knew this was coming!)

Everything we do is training our customers. If all we ever offer are deals, they will only want us with a deal. Social Media actually has the ability to offer so much more, but we have to understand it well enough to make use of it. I love talking about podcasting because the consumer data on it is so telling. When you build trust with an audience, they will respond with all kinds of love including market transactions. 90% of active podcast listeners have taken an action (40% made a purchase) subsequent to podcast advertising #podstudy via Tom Webster.

The really interesting apps these days are the ones that are integrating into CRM services, directly enabling a deeper understanding of what the customer wants and when and how to deliver it. There is an easy primer on the topic here on the Social Media Examiner and 18 Use Cases of Social CRM from the Altimeter Group here.

In contrast my friend and PR expert Piia Arma, shared this data today about the continued erosion of trust in PR and Advertising professionals. Meanwhile, my colleague at Social Media Club Tara Coomans outs Twitter for some of its empty promises.

I think it is useful for a profession to be able to examine itself as Piia and Tara have done above. I think it also useful for us to help guide you, the unsuspecting experts in other fields about how to use it well. My main advice is often to go for quality not quantity. It is an idea that I addressed years ago in “Are you addicted to big numbers (it’s three years old!) and that is often cited in the concept of 1000 True Fans.

What if we could just fine tune our radar and create communities of interest to be able to connect and yes buy and sell too, without having to shout and discount all over the place? This is happening too. I know that social media still holds enormous promise, but it’s easy to miss unless we take off the rose-colored glasses and stop running after trends. Slowing down has enormous value. Taking time to learn can only enrich us – this applies to me as much as to you.

Consciousness is everything. And so much more useful regardless if you are an early adopter or last one to the party. I’ve been both, and it doesn’t matter so long as we have our feet underneath us! This time in history is about freeing ourselves from having to fit in. Even sheep can survive alone in the field. Savor it! And tell me how you do it so I can add to my consciousness database.

Photo Credit: Sheep Alone by neate photos on Flickr. (What a concept!)