Friday, August 7, 2009

Why I fell out of love with social media, but we're still good friends...

"Love is an ideal thing, marriage a real thing." Goethe

You know that guy that when he first discovers a new band he likes, he goes nuts and has to play their music for everyone? The minute you walk into his house, he sits you down for a short speech followed by a reverent listening of a new favorite group. Fill in the blank with anything people are passionate, motorcycles, shoes(for the ladies!).

Well, time to fess up. I was that guy with social media. Thanks to a dynamic, passionate presentation by Geoff Livingston over a year ago, I was instantly hooked. I couldn't wait to sign up for every site that was out there. I couldn't wait to tell co-workers, friends, family and the guy at the bus stop about how Twitter and Facebook were going to absolutely change their life, absolutely. As laid out in Geoff's book Now is Gone, the world of communication had changed forever - especially in the areas of public relations and corporate communications. Geoff was right, and I'm really glad I was able to be exposed to the shift in thought, but...

The mistake I made was in becoming that guy, the over-excited guy. That excitement led to some great opportunities for speaking, meeting great new people, and a complete 180 in how I view the job of public relations. Plenty of good came of it.

So, where am I know? Per the title of this post, I am still "good friends" with social media. For a time, I'd considered jettisoning my various social media outlets. Following evaluation, I realized this was a bit strong, and instead chose to re-evaluate my usage and goals for each tool. As a metaphor, I needed to make sure I wasn't using my house key to try to start my car.

I see social media as an incredibly valuable tool for organizations, if used correctly. The tools are not the answer, in and of themselves. Companies used to desperately need a web site, but they weren't sure why. Today, companies want a social media presence, but they aren't sure why. It's up to the experts and the willing individuals with an organization's leadership to take the next step.

There's no denying, the use of these tools can be great fun. It's fun in the same way that any great social gathering can be. So, dig in, have fun. But be careful not to become that guy. Social media is a new, great thing, but it will soon find it's place among the other tools of the trade.

What's your take?

Photo Gracias: That's me fist-bumping my computer. Har-har.


Craig said...

You are singing a very familiar toon that I have heard playing in my head as well. Social media provides tools..each of which can and should be used in different ways...only when they will be of benefit. Just because a social media tool is available or the "newest" does not mean it will serve everyone.

Leo Bottary said...

Well said, but I hope you're not kicking yourself either. Your enthusiasm placed you on a fast track to learn and grow with this new medium. It's never been any more than a new tool among the tools, or ever promised to be, but to lack a grasp of social media is irresponsible for today's PR pro. Your new relationship with social media is as it should be. You get it...which puts you well ahead of most in your field.

Kristen said...

Wait - you forgot what it's like to be married to that guy. Remember, the one in the garage, with the speech, and the band, constantly telling you how Eddie Vedder is going to change the face of music forever, and the Tweeting about it.

In seriousness, as someone who has watched you (and your peers) go through this cycle, I admit that I stood on the outside looking in as what Richie (@vedo) would call a late adopter. However, your enthusiasm not only put Mansfield ISD on the cutting edge of utilizing social media tools for school districts, you two have helped a lot of other school districts and non-profits see the opportunities that are available.

Admittedly, I think that, like most things, social media is A tool - not THE tool. One thing I think we can't forget as PR pros is that the most powerful communication method will always be face to face communication.

And oh yea, about that wife - is it irritating, yep. But she's also really proud.

JT said...

Now we are on the same page on this topic. I'm falling a little more to the pro side, you are understanding a little more my initial reluctance. As usual. . .the real truth lies in the middle. . and so, like with most things, we meet in the middle!

Jeff Hurt said...

So you became a quick evangelist and early adopter of social media. Good for you. Now after a year's use, you've matured and decided to use it strategically and with intention. That's a good thing.

And your quick adoption has helped a small DFW school district get more exposure. That's a very good thing.

You see social media as the tool it is, with its pros and cons. Not as an end unto itself. That’s the best thing.

Social media is no different than using the radio, TV, telephone or the Internet. All are tools to help an organization, a business or a person complete their tasks. Each are communication channels with their own pros and cons. People can use or misuse each of those tools. They can become time enhancers or time wasters. It’s really up to each individual.

I hope you keep the passion and enthusiasm for learning and trying new things, for new ways to communicate and for helping the second wave of social media adopters. Still, the early adopters often catch the buzz (and worm too.)