Before I talk about social media, I want to say a few words about new media in general. I've made my living at advertising for over 15 years. Advertising is a product of the Industrial Age. Before that, almost all communication was word-of-mouth. Advertising came about because, with all the products being produced in factories, someone had to sell them… en masse. And that meant advertising… which led to newspapers, which led to mass communications, which led to mass media. Now we live in the Information Age, which plays by a different set of rules.
So, is advertising passe in the Information Age? I think so. I have a friend who runs an advertising school, and he tells me that people don't even want to use the word "advertising" anymore because it has a negative connotation on social media sites. Well, there you have it. If it doesn't fly on social media, it's not going to fly. There is nothing more out of place than to be discussing something on a social media site and have an advertising message suddenly dropped into the middle of the conversation. As a matter of fact, I believe ads are starting to look out of place all across the web. They are anti-social and non-relational. It is very disturbing to be reading something on a web site and have a pop-up window appear advertising some totally unrelated product. Advertisers are going to have to catch on and change their ways or they are going to be left in the dust.
What's the future of social media? I think it is the way of the future, but not in the form it exists today. Right now, you have to sift through a lot of garbage to find the gems on social media sites. In the future, it is going to be a lot easier, more targeted, and, I believe, a lot more interesting.
There is no mystery to social media. I hear people asking questions like, "How can I learn to be successful at social media?" Type… and have something relevant to say. It's that simple. Social media is nothing more than word-of-mouth in a social context on the Internet. Because it is social, you have to be nice, and because it is the Internet, you have to type - until social media becomes more interactive and better equipped to handle video conferencing and other forms of communication. But Skype, a way to do video calls on the Internet, is a social medium, and it has been around for years.
Above: These black-and-white patterns are the QR codes for five of my web sites. If you have a QR scanner app on your smartphone, you should be able to scan them and bring up the respective sites on your phone. Move the scanner around until it has zeroed in on one of the five patterns. It will beep when it has captured the code.
Don't feel that you have to jump on the Facebook bandwagon to do social media. (As a matter of fact, I got kicked off Facebook. To read about it, go to Why I Don't Trust Facebook - and Got Kicked Off!.) Facebook is just the tip of the iceberg. If you post a review on Amazon.com or one of the movie sites out there, you're doing social media. A blog is a social medium. Blogs are the new magazines, and everyone, it seems, thinks he's a publisher. All you need to publish a blog is to have something to say or something to share and be willing to do it on a regular basis. A forum is a social medium. Think of blogs, forums, marketplaces and such as modern-day equivalents of coffeehouses, pubs, shops and town squares - all places where people have traditionally gathered to be social.
Just to be clear: to be included in "social media," a medium has to allow a two- or multi-way conversation to go on, in which others can listen in. With traditional media, the communication is one-way. That's the difference. I would also include that the medium is probably going to use the Internet as its source of information, although I don't see why it should be limited to it. To be "social," all it has to do is allow for the possibility of other parties joining in.
Social media does not negate the importance of having a web site. Web sites are still just as necessary as ever. But people using the Web are going to have to learn to supplement their Internet marketing with more traditional approaches. Traditional media still have better response rates than social and other new media. Just because I think advertising is on the way out does not mean I think all media other than those that use the Internet are doomed - yet.
Just as there are still horses, there will always be cars; and just as there are still people gathering in coffee shops and pubs to swap the latest gossip, there will always be newspapers, television, radio and other traditional media. But…
They're on the way out, for the most part. Newspapers are all but museum pieces now. They're going out of business almost as fast as banks. The papers themselves are shrinking in size in all directions. I'm guessing Benjamin Franklin is spinning in his grave to see what his beloved newspaper has become. But I think he would enjoy some of the new media taking its place. The future of newspapers lies in the tablet, I think. If people can wake up in the morning and find a newspaper waiting for them on their iPad, Nook, Kindle or whatever tablet they're using for reading, then that would make sense. But the paper newspaper is out.
In the future, people are going to be sitting in their homes watching the Internet, not television. You can already download movies from the Internet. Oh, people may still call it television. But, technically, it will be the Internet. The only problem I see with this is if the Internet has a bandwidth issue. We are already seeing restrictions being placed on ISPs that use a lot of video, and it's only going to get worse. I'm starting to see gaps in my service during the busiest times. If there is a limit to how much traffic the Internet can handle, then there may be a place for traditional television, or a combination of the two. But the Internet will definitely dominate.
I don't know what to say about radio. It has become such a despicable medium. It used to have some admirable qualities, when it carried live shows, back in my parents' day. Or, in my day, if you were taking a long trip, it gave you something pleasant and soothing to listen to. But as it exists today, with back-to-back, poorly written commercials and belligerent talk radio tripe, it is little more than noise. Let's give it back to the Indians or the Boy Scouts or wherever it came from. We have been poor stewards of it. Except for weather reports and other emergency uses, I don't see any future for it. Let it go the way of the telegraph.
Movies are interesting because, if one thing is transitioning successfully into the Information Age, it's movies. I think that is due in part to their digitization; in part to the fact that about half of what we see in movies today was created on a computer; and in part to their universal and enduring appeal. Movies are the perfect medium for the Internet. So are phones, obviously. As a matter of fact, any screen can carry the content of the Internet.
Creative Sharks has been doing new media for our clients for over 15 years, so social media is nothing new to us. We've been moving in that direction all along. As a matter of fact, so has the Internet. It's just that one day, someone got out of bed and said, "We ought to call this thing we're doing "Social Media." And so we do. But don't let the label fool you: it's word-of-mouth via the Internet. It's not complicated, but it does require a good bit of work. Let us help you get started, or take you to the next level. Give us a call at 770.623.9763. Ask for me, Waitsel Smith, or email me by clicking the Contact Us button below. I look forward to talking with you.
Creative Director, Creative Sharks
Atlanta, GA, USA