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Social Media – What are we doing this for?

Over the weekend I became addicted to twitter all over again because of one simple feature – “track”. “Track” in twitter will allow you to have any tweets with what you want to track sent to you. For the past couple of days I’ve been conducting a couple of experiments to see if it is as clever as it sounds…and so far, it is. And it can let you stalk people much more efficiently. Not that I am. Let’s move on.

What are we using social media for? What are we trying to achieve?

Because of the track feature I was able find some really interesting twitter-ers, thoughts and bloggers all thinking about social media. One of them was Ben Yoskovitz of Instigator Blog with his post Ignore the Social Media Scoreboard. In his post he questions what are we in Social Media for? He takes his Social Media Scoreboard (really good analogy by the way) down the personal path of how we can get seduced into getting more friends, more followers and better ranking against other bloggers. How it all becomes a numbers game and we loose sight of why we joined MySpace/Facebook in the first place. Hint – it wasn’t about the numbers.

Now I’ve seen a similar theme popping up on the brand/marketing side of the social media fence as well. David Armano talks about the Bright and Shiny Object Syndrome – B.S.O.S – and how marketers are falling for the latest buzz/hype. That if marketers/advertisers just create a widget, Facebook app, MySpace page with thousands and thousands of friends for the brand/marketing message, the message will be fine and conquered new media. Even creatives are being seduced by B.S.O.S and the magical Social Media Scoreboard. Ad Pulp shared Sally Hogshead’s thoughts from AdAge on how creatives are not creating concepts or insights into brand/humans but relying on creating clever tactics – the latest B.S.O. (Bright Shiny Object…oh I wanted to just leave it B.S.). I can attest to that. I work on a brand that has thousands of MySpace friends. I stare at them [the friends] and you know what, they just stare back at me. And in my mind I keep wondering…what?…why do we have these friends?…well, hi there friends, nice to see you…. (to be transparent, it is my fault that we have not leveraged them yet…I’m working a few programs now to do that).

So I go back to, what are we using social media for? What are we trying to achieve?

This is what I think our communal blogosphere conversation on social media needs to move towards answering. The shiny objects and the numbers on the scoreboard are always going to be there. New social networks are popping up all the time (Wixi is a really cool one btw…kind of what I wish Orkut was) along with the newest Twitter killers. It’s not about the new tactics. So what is it about? Reading between the lines of Execs stumble in new media world, I get an idea that when consumers/people become the users…we have very different needs. Different desires. That we [consumers] didn’t come here for the message/communication, we came for something else. I think there is a cross somewhere between connection + conversation + content/functionality tied to a creative concept/idea that will get us out of tactics and into something more brand/market/connection. How we exactly do that? Not sure, lets have a chat about it.

Update: One other thought. For me, this post is more than just arguing ‘get past the tactics’. I feel like we are missing the point with social media because it has the ‘media’ tag to it. The media tag always has this…measure it with numbers feel to it. And a…we make this message, we deliver it to you feel/history. To me, that misses the entire point of social media. Social media is that grey matter that you can’t explain, touch or measure…but you inherently know what it is. It is that connection, that conversation, that experience we share. I believe that brand/market communication can exist and work in this social media space. But it is not about broadcasting a price or a reason to buy this product. It is about that handshake you give when you sell a pound of tomatoes at the farmers market. This post is a tiny crack in open a very large door. I’m looking to think on it some more…