The Washington, D.C.-area Ad-Marketing listserv managed by Mitch Arnowitz (@mitcharno) has been engaged in a lively exchange addressing whether or not the Netpreneur listserv should hop to another more "modern" venue, like LinkedIn.
The conversation led to various viewpoints of what "social media" is, how long SocMed has been around, and whether or not LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. meet today's needs better than older social networks like the listserv, launched in 1986. Ultimately, long time Netpreneur Dirk Johnson dubbed social media hype "the Koolaid of 2009." Dirk is on to something and here's why.
The Urban Dictionary defines "drink the Kool-aid" as follows: "To completely buy into an idea or system, whether good or bad" and/or "to go along with what a crowd desires." The term connotes being lured by the apparent sweetness of an idea, without attention to its more serious undertone.
Colorful language perhaps, but the characterization of Social Media as "the Kool-Aid of 2009" rings true for five reasons.
1. Social Media was a buzz term; the bigger the buzz, the more dramatic the silence. 2009 was the year everybody heard the chatter. Along with "social media" as the buzz du jour, a certain level of accompanying hysteria predicted outcomes for those who declined to "adopt it" or, worse, "do it wrong." Blog after blogster, expert after expert warned folks engaged in marketing to jump on the SocMed bandwagon and ride. The buzz worked. Today, a Google search for the precise term "social media" returns over 33 million results, along with the predictable response, "So what?"
2. Charlatans invaded the realm. 2009 also spawned the explosion of the so-called "social media consultant" -- folks who claimed expertise in "social media" and promised to help the uninitiated establish an effective Internet presence, particularly on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and blogs. Back in September 2008, writing on ReadWriteWeb, Marshall Kirkpatrick posed the question, "Is social media nothing but snake oil?" In that blog, Kirkpatrick cited seven people as the real-deal in social media consulting (Note: All remain stand-outs in the social media landscape). Dawn Foster, who was cited as one of Kirkpatrick's seven, observed in February 2009 "social media consultants popping up like dandelions." Today a Google search turns up close to two million entries for the exact term "social media consultants."
3. The term "social media" increasingly defies definition. Research by Danah Boyd at the School of Information, University of California-Berkeley defines social network sites as "web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system." Boyd notes that the first recognizable social network site launched in 1997 with SixDegrees.com. Today, Boyd refers to "the existence of "hundreds of social network sites (SNS)." Clearly, there is no such "thing" as social media.
4. Having a "presence on social media" was meaningless. RJMetrics reported 75 million Twitter accounts at the end of 2009. About 15 million were "active tweeters" [whatever the heck that means]. In short, with social media, "there's no there there."
5. Being "on" social media was not at all to understand how to return value from social media. Among marketers, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn were arguably the big social media winners last year. Much has been written about how to participate well and some have reportedly succeeded brilliantly (Google returns 578,000 hits for "twitter success stories" and 37,500 for "facebook success stories"). On the other hand -- despite advice to the contrary -- too many have focused Twitter and Facebook efforts on the number of "followers" or "fans." Likewise, for the majority of LinkedIn users, this venue merely adds up to an "online resume"-- not that there's anything wrong with that (while the term "linkedin success stories" returns just 27,500 Google strikes, search traffic hits related to networking and jobs remains high for LinkedIn, according to Alexa.)
So, yeah. Social Media was the Kool-aid of 2009 and we drank lots of it. In 2010, Marketing Brillo guesses that we'll come to more deeply appreciate this cool beverage, understanding that a) the mix isn't instant, b) the drink leads to more effort than gratification c) as with all disciplines, there truly are few experts d) one swallow won't quench the thirst.
scrubbed by Marketing Brillo