A couple years ago my friend Bryan created a site called Buzzword Hell. This was, naturally, where all good Buzzwords went to die. Only – they didn’t die. They went mainstream. And suddenly everyone was using terms like Web 2.0 and AJAX. And it didn’t matter that they had no idea what these words meant – using them just felt cool.
Each year at SXSWi there is a series called: “How to Bluff Your Way in _________”. In 2005 it was – “How to Bluff Your Way in CSS”, 2006 brought us “How to Bluff Your Way in Dom Scripting”, and by 2007 we were bluffing our way in Web 2.0.
The idea behind this series – is to learn just enough jargon about a particular topic to fool your friends and collegues at parties and social gatherings. And though it’s all meant in good fun – the sad truth is that’s what a lot of people are doing in Social Media today.
In the late 1990’s, Life Coaching became popular – and suddenly everyone was a Life Coach, Creativity Coach, Executive Coach, or Lifestyles Coach. Now don’t get me wrong – some of these “coaches” were amazingly effective at helping their clients achieve their goals. In fact, I had a “Life Coach” for several years – and am extremely grateful to her for helping me to become the person I am today.
However, not all Life Coaches were created equal. And a fair many of them were capitalizing on a fad. They figured out that “Coaching” was the latest fashion – and so they dressed themselves up with the latest jargon and buzzwords – and they found out that it worked! Suddenly they had paying clients – and were being billed as experts. And because “Perception is Reality” a lot of times – they got away with it. The trouble with wearing the latest fashion trends – is that sooner or later they are going to go out of style.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen the exact same trend with Social Media. And so has my friend Brian Solis – who posted a similar article today entitled “Get Rich Quick with Social Media“. 3 months ago – hardly anyone in my little neck of the woods had heard of Social Media – now there are “Social Media Gurus” popping up all over the place. And let’s not forget the “Blogging Coaches”, “Podcasting Coaches”, and even “Web 2.0 Gurus” <– YUCK!
I’ve been working in New Media for nearly 7 years and in web design for nearly 15 years. I started my first blog in 2001. I know a lot of the people who created the so-called “Web 2.0” tools that are popular today – and I’ve private beta tested more applications than I can even begin to count. But guess what? I’m NOT a Social Media Guru. Not even close. And the truth is – I’m not sure I want to be.
The problem is – Social Media is NOT about technology or Web 2.0 applications. The first question a potential client usually asks me is “What is Social Media?”. Here’s the answer I always give.
Social Media is Word-of-Mouth or Community Based Marketing that leverages technology to enable conversation.
Let’s break that down.
First and foremost Social Media is Word-of-Mouth Marketing. This concept is by no means new. When my Grandma Opal was young – chances are she went to the same stores as her mother went to, used the same mechanic, bought her meat from the same butcher, and got her hair cut at the same beauty salon. Why? Because her mother recommended them – and what’s more – she already had an established relationship with them. Relationships mattered. People mattered.
Social Media also helps people to connect and create communities around, well, almost anything. Pick a topic, product, service,idea – or even an “object” – and you can use Social Media to create a living breathing community. Of course the health of that community is only as good as the people and ideas who make it up – but that’s another post all together.
Social Media Leverages Technology. Did you notice that I didn’t say Social Media IS Technology? Social Media uses the power of online tools and social networks to help people communicate. Period.
The Tools – the Technology. They only do one thing. They enable conversation. And conversations help build relationships between people. And Social Media is about relationships. People want to do business with people they trust. And people don’t trust strangers. So once again Relationships Matter. People Matter.
So if you want to participate in this new Social Media revolution. And you want to be more than just a fad. Then it’s time to find your own uniqueness, stop using jargon and buzzwords, and start being authentic. Maybe then you’ll become a classic.