Monday, March 23, 2009

Who is a Social Media "Expert"?

Forbes magazine has called social media a fundamental shift that is here to stay.

The good news for entrepreneurs, especially small-to-medium sized businesses is that social media applications can be accessed with a minimal amount of dollars. You will be charged zero dollars to post a YouTube video that has a potential viewing audience of millions. You could get e-mail from as far away as Antarctica from someone telling you how much they love your brand and what it stands for.(This actually happened last week).

The bad news is the flip side of the classic time/money equation. You will have to invest time in the new social media landscape to get a grasp of how it can fundamentally enhance the power of your brand. You will have to apply good old fashioned elbow grease to make these new wheels turn in your favour because there are no "one-size-fits-all" approaches that can be applied to your brand.

In other words, you will have to become your own expert, because no matter what anyone tells you, there aren't any out there to be found.

The word "expert" signifies a total understanding of a discipline or practice, impossible in a media landscape rapidly shifting beneath our laptops. First of all, social media "expert" status would apply to only a handful of people - like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg - who have developed multi-million dollar enterprises in the social media space. Secondly, if you accept the idea that it takes a master pianist (or painter, physicist or plumber) 10,000 hours to master their craft, social media has not been around long enough for anyone to invest that amount of time into the practice.

Social Media is still relatively new and some will be quick to call themselves an "expert", however it is more than likely these are folks who just have a good head start on you in terms of some of the technology. Considering that social media is a rapidly growing hodge-podge of content being spread through multiple channels, using multiple media (words, sounds, photos, videos) while engaging an audience in meaningful ways across multiple platforms (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), it could be that "social media" is nothing more than just the new, basic form of communication.

No different than the telephone, radio or television were in the past, at least according to Red Hat founder, Bob Young.

Big ad budgets ruled the day in the good old media-industrial complex days of Radio/Television/Newspaper. You could buy your way to the top of millions of minds with millions of dollars. Now your brand only arrives through the quality of the idea itself how it is shared shared on the web, however, being adept at using the tools themselves is a low-level skill. That’s not where branding magic exists.

The one fundamental that the new technology has not changed is that like any good advertising campaign, social media starts with a solid brand strategy. In other words, what is your brand all about, what principles does it stand for and who does it really speak to? Your brand has a character in much the same way any person has one, but that character has a chance to become magnified a million times over, hopefully in a seamless fashion where values translate into action. One company leading the way in aligning social media with the brand is Comcast and a program called "Comcast Cares" that allows front-line people like Frank make a difference with the customers they serve.

"Comcast Cares" has become a great example of how a brand can become an influential part of the on-line conversation. Celebrities like Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher are also using social media to enhance their brands, fighting back against the tabloids that threaten to destroy their careers. Demi and Ashton are Twitterities who say, in effect, "this is our life. We're just normal people like you". Ashton can be followed at while you can track Demi at

Don't wait for the "experts". Now is the time to jump in and learn.

Others to watch and learn from in the social media playground include:

Gary Vaynerchuk
Amber MacArthur
Matthew Ingram
Brian Solis

Jeremiah Owyang
Shel Israel
Robert Scoble
Chris Brogan
Mack Collier
Mitch Joel
Seth Godin

... and the final word today on TSB goes to the co-author of "Groundswell", captured on location at the recent SXSW 2009,Charlene Li

"When you reach for the stars, you may not quite get one, but you won't come up with a handful of mud either" LEO BURNETT

1 comment:

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