We love to surround ourselves with people who have similar thoughts and it creates this bubble perspective on the world. This is not unique in a social world because we also tend to do similar in our own work environment. There are many talking heads for social media advising brands in all sorts of ways. In many ways I am one too. This is not a negative for any of them and often they have some very good ideas. At the same time, should you follow the crowd or the advice? Are those of us thinking about these things living in our own little bubble? Are we drinking the Kool Aid? Maybe it is time we switch drinks.

Let me begin by saying I love social media and how it connects us to the world around us. Today, thanks to LinkedIn, I have built an extensive professional network. On and off of LinkedIn I have connected with so many amazing people allowing me to learn from so many of them. I have found old friends and built strong relationships with new friends. I have also found myself talking about social media for close to 6 years. Back in the early days we did not talk about that next viral hit, or how to push message. We did get excited about followers, until we realized how people manipulated the artificial number to make themselves feel better. The discussion was not about building the content warehouse or how a business would sell everything via social media. The conversation was much more basic than that. It was how social media would connect people, build relationships and break down the traditional silos that exist in society. We talked about how businesses would need to shift their approach to become a trusted partner with their Customers and not dictate a message. Businesses would have to learn to be more transparent and even trust their employee to become ambassadors of the brand. Behind every brand in the space, we knew the people involved. More important, we trusted them because they were one of us.

So what has happened since that time? I watched the conversation shift to a new group of talking heads, ones promising amazing results in social media. They could develop the next viral hit, or build millions of fans (it never matter if the fans were Customers, prospective Customers or human beings for that matter). Tools galore promised amazing reach for your content, and promises of top bloggers talking about your brand. Not a day goes by where I do not receive about 100 emails promising the greatest success in social media if I buy a tool or hire their agency. It cracks me up that these same tools promising social media success resort to spamming me via emails or cold calls. Studies galore demonstrate the amazing success these tools and firms have brought to their clients. Of course when your business tries to replicate the same success you do not see it, but the reality is the study was flawed from the start because it was designed to tell the story the business wanted to tell.

Listening became the buzz term, but really how good are businesses at listening? For years they have had Customers contacting them, but in their mind that was an annoying cost, not an opportunity to build a relationship or learn from the Customer. Customers have had survey data for years, yet did they really change based on the surveys? So now companies are told they must listen in social media. I would have suggested starting listening through all the other channels first, but that is me. So now they listen in social, but really what are they listening for? You will hear responses like innovation, process improvement, etc. The reality is most brands are listening to mentions of their brand to simply head off the next crisis. If we were truly interested in innovation or process improvement we would not focus on messages that state our brand. Instead we would be focusing on broader discussion involving what was important to our Customer. I expect many brands as they evaluate their listening tools, they will debate the value they have earned. The problem is it was most likely not the tool, but the way the business used the tool that will be a problem. Technology is not always the answer or the fix to your problem; it is much deeper than that.

At the end of the day social media is simply highlighting your brand for what it is. If you do not like the way your brand is portrayed, than you would need to work to change throughout the organization, not just apply new messaging to say how you are different. The world has changed before us and it will continue to evolve and it is important for your business to change with it. In my view this starts with understanding the relationship business you are in. Many businesses loved to use the term relationship, but the reality was the relationship in their mind was one sided. This is how the messaging always worked, but today this is no longer the case. Instead of getting frustrated by it, embrace the new paradigm before us. We have a chance to see the changes in business that we originally discussed back in 2007 and 2008. We had the fun, but now it is time to get down to the reality of social media. We have to embrace the power of our employees and our Customers. This is where you will find the true ROI in social media.

Source:  http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20131009164925-19577932-social-media-kool-aid?trk=cha-feed-art-title-211

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