Our clients ask us quite a lot about Social Media, and what their strategy should be to deal with it. My standard answer seems to illicit quite a lot of confusion – “be yourself”. I’m not sure why, perhaps because “being yourself” is something that is quite foreign to many large companies. But also, I think it’s because people still regard digital as something new, different and scary. When of course it isn’t. The internet is just a technology that allows communication on a scale and speed that has never been seen before. But it’s still people communicating.
It’s like record companies complaining about music piracy and how the internet will kill music. It’s not going to kill music. It’s not even going to kill record labels (which is not the same thing as music incidently), given that a recent study in Denmark showed that those who are most likely to pirate music are also most likely to purchase it online. And in fact, today a new study was published in the British media (please excuse the link to The Daily Mail) backing the same statement. And anyway, sharing music with each other is nothing new. In fact, being able to share music you love is sort of fundamental, right? It’s just people communicating.
My favourite band in the world is The Pixies. I first heard Doolittle on my friend’s battered tape player back in 1992 on, you guessed it, a taped copy of the original album. Taped. Copied. Pirated.
I now own every single album The Pixies made. I own B-side collections, best-off compilations, rare releases of the Purple Tapes demos, a live DVD and even a DVD of them playing Newport Folk Festival. I’ve purchased all of these off the back of one pirated cassette tape that I played over and again until the tape wore out. I even own Bam Thowk for fuck’s sake.
The point is, of course, that pirating music isn’t actually anything new. In fact, it is all to do with the fundamental human desire to share things you like with people you like. And the internet makes it easier to share things than ever before. This is a good thing. If we share your product with someone else, they’re more likely to buy it in the future. This is what you as a corporation want right?
And of course this is how it’s always worked. My friend plays me music they like. I like it. I listen to it. Eventually I might buy it. Funnily enough there is no evidence to suggest that listening to a pirated copy of music actually then stops me buying the real thing. There’s no corrolation there.
So the internet is just people being people. And this is what I mean when I tell clients to be themselves. Find the people who are passionate about your organisation and get them talking to other people. Do it yourselves. I mean, if you’re not passionate about your own organisation, surely there’s a problem there.
I meet people who love the company they work for, genuinely talented passionate people who can talk for hours about what they do and where they do it, because they’re interested in it. Yet, they’re asking me for a “social media strategy” as if I have the secret recipe for instant internet success. Sorry, but there isn’t one. Just do what you’re doing already. Passionate people are interesting. Interesting people write interesting stories. Interesting stories spread.
Amelia Torode has a great post from her work with the IPA Social initiative. Her point is simple: “technology changes, people don’t”, and I like it because it expands on the idea of exactly why it is that people use social media. One of her main points is around Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and how social media can help to fulfil them. And as she points out, Maslow defined his hierarchy around 1934. There is nothing new here.
Or as Paul Graham said at iMedia earlier in the year – “social media is just people chatting”.
(picture in this post from birgerking’s flickr feed, reproduced under a creative commons licence)