Mike Keliher wrote last week on things to be thankful for about social media, and tagged me on a related topic: things I’d be thankful to see change in social media. Appropriately, it’s the day after Thanksgiving, so let’s have at it.
For me, the issues with social media are less with the media themselves, and more with how it insinuates itself into our lives an conversations. To whit:
1. Overstating Social Media’s Reach. I work in public relations and marketing; I live in a world with mothers and fathers, housewives, sales people, real estate agents, corporate marketing communications professionals, stock brokers, designers, financial executives, housekeepers, retirees, restaurateurs, lawyers, shopkeepers … it goes on an on. Just because you and your friends are Twittering and Uttering and blogging, snickering about the demise of newspapers and reviewing carefully compiled RSS feeds each day, doesn’t mean everyone is. Moreover, it doesn’t mean that most people are.
Most people are checking their email every day and have a few favorite websites they follow. They barely manage to keep up with the news, but they scan the paper. They have no time to read blogs. They are amazed that anyone would use Twitter.
I’d be thankful if communicators and social media evangelists would remember this. And, more importantly, respect it.
2. Understating Social Media’s Impact. Flip the coin over and you find that most people have little idea how deeply social media impacts their lives. Someone in their world is emailing them links to the hottest YouTube videos. TV takes them from the web, and then back into it again. Every Google search delivers more data to marketers, every product review read and followed amplifies the power of one person’s opinion. A friend of a friend of a friend shares a link or a bit of news on Twitter that makes it to your inbox in hours, if not minutes. And have you noticed how many of your friends, family, high school and college buddies have signed up for Facebook? How many colleagues are on LinkedIn?
I’d be thankful if those who shake their heads and say they have no time for this would pay attention to how much more entertaining, fulfilling and downright useful social media has already become in their lives.
3. Personally, I wish it were all easier. No matter how good you are with social media, it’s a pain. There are too many networks, too many websites and technologies and services to follow. Too many contacts to keep track of. When my kids grow up, I expect that communications and the Web and gaming will all be handled by The Chip. They’ll just stick this do-everything chip into their heads and they can call people and surf the net and play games just by thinking about it.
Okay, so I’m mostly joking, but I do know some folks who’d be first in line when The Chip hits the stores. Me, I’d be thankful if what want to know, who I want to follow and how I want to share would all just flow.
4. Could newspapers just figure it out already? Not directly “social media,” I know, but it’s my blog… Here’s the deal: We need journalism. We need professional journalists. We need people covering news beats in our daily lives, we need people to make sense of it all. And we need editors and fact checkers committed to the idea that they’re going to get the story right so their readers can trust what they report. We need business people and news leaders who run professional news organizations to stop fretting over classified ads that aren’t coming back and figure out a new millennium organizational and business model that will support this noble endeavor. I’d be thankful for that.
5. It’s OK to put it down for awhile. I’ve been visiting family for the past week. I haven’t Twittered (much) or blogged (until now), or kept up with much news (except Mumbai and the Minnesota Senate recount). My family asked me if the Blackberry makes me feel compelled to answer emails instantly. I said no. There’s a comfort to knowing you’re always connected. That if anyone needs you, they can find you. But there’s even more comfort in sinking into the couch, Thanksgiving dinner over and the kids in bed, goofing around with your family, no cell phone, computer or Chip in sight.
So there you go. I’ll tag Adam Singer to try the same topic, in part because I’m almost sure he’s written on it already.