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What Social Media Isn't

Some people will tell you that social media is a "here today, gone tomorrow" fad, but those are the same people who are waiting for the eight-track tape deck to come back.

No, social media isn't a flash in the pan. In fact, it'll just keep evolving into something better, which is exactly what happened when personal computers (PCs) first came on the scene.

When PCs first arrived, word processing was about the only thing they were really good for. But then someone figured out a way to connect a few of them. When people started connecting them into expanded networks, they began to understand the true power of the technology.

One of the first services to try to leverage large-scale computer networks was CompuServe, which experienced relatively stable growth during the 1980s and 1990s. CompuServe plugged along fine until America Online (AOL) came along. AOL was the first company of its kind to leverage the power of a user-friendly interface. Thanks to that strategy, AOL grew from 10 million subscribers in 1996 to 27 million subscribers by 2002.

But things didn't last for AOL. When people realized that it was merely an add-on to the Internet, they decided to plug in directly. When that happened, the power of interconnected PCs really began to take off. First came early brochure-ware sites; then came blogs; then forums; then bookmarking, tagging, photo sharing, podcasting, virtual worlds, widgets, and … well, you get the point. Things started to change. And they changed in ways that we couldn't even imagine when the personal computer first came around.

That brings us back to our point: The evolution of the personal computer from a simple word processor to a complex web of interconnected minicomputers is similar to the evolution of social media from simple networks to the Web 3.0 technology it's becoming today. Both technologies continue to morph and evolve. And both technologies are here to stay.

With all that in mind, let's keep talking about what social media is not.

Social Media Isn't Traditional Marketing

As we've mentioned, traditional marketing is about having a monologue with your customers and prospects. Social media, on the other hand, is about having a dialogue. When you have a dialogue with a customer or prospect, the communication is much more fulfilling (and much more profitable).

In the old days, marketing was handled out of a single location (usually called headquarters) where a central authority analyzed customer research, sales trends, and demographic information to arrive at a unique selling proposition (USP).

Rosser Reeves of Ted Bates & Company invented the unique selling proposition. The idea was that, by identifying a single, unique point of differentiation for your brand, you could separate your brand from the competition. Reeves used this technique to create a campaign for Anacin that tripled its sales and, during one seven-year run, generated more revenue for Anacin than Gone with the Wind had generated in a quarter of a century.

For most of the twentieth century, traditional marketing was pretty simple: Figure out your USP, get the creative people at your agency to come up with a good TV commercial, and run the heck out of it during prime time.

Given how simple marketing was back then, it's no wonder the guys on Madison Avenue had time for three-martini lunches. They didn't have much else to do.

But social media is more complex and more fluid than traditional marketing. And it requires an entirely new mindset.

That brings us to our next point ….

Social Media Isn't Just for Young People

A recent study indicated that the fastest-growing segment on Facebook is women older than age 55 and that the largest demographic on Twitter is the 35–49 age group. So, no, social media isn't just for young people. It's for anybody who is interested in using new technologies to grow their sales and revenue.

However, people older than age 35 do take longer to adopt a new technology. Part of the reason is that most humans don't like change, but another reason is that the neural patterns in their brains are already structured for traditional technologies. New technologies require rewiring the brain.

So let's keep going. What else is social media not?

Social Media Isn't a YouTube Video

We can't tell you how many times we've heard someone say, "Sure, our company does social media. Just last month, we uploaded our CEO's annual speech onto YouTube."

For starters, let's get something straight: The only person who watched the CEO's annual speech on YouTube was the CEO and, perhaps, his or her family members. Nobody else tuned in. We're serious. Sorry to break the news to you.

Second, just because someone uploaded a YouTube video doesn't mean it's a social media campaign. Social media is about communicating across a wide variety of channels for a sustained period of time. It's not about tossing up a Facebook Fan Page or completing a LinkedIn Company Profile. It's much more than that.

A social media campaign is similar to a marriage. You can't expect to have a good marriage if your primary means of communication is a single conversation for ten minutes every morning. (Trust us, that doesn't work—we know some people who have tried.)

What does work is a prolonged, sustained, two-way conversation across multiple channels that enables both parties to feel as though they've contributed and they've been heard. When you can accomplish that, your social media campaign is in very good shape.

Social Media Isn't Always Online

For many of our readers, social media implies some form of digital social media or communications enabled through online technology. However, we can't forget that a great deal of social media marketing happens offline—after people have turned off their computers.

In a recent study from the Keller Fay Group and OMD, offline communications are still the predominant mode of marketing across a variety of age groups. This study indicated that word-of-mouth is considered to be "highly credible" more often than online conversations.

Despite these trends, we believe numerous experts exist in the area of offline word-of-mouth and that a number of strong books in this area have been written. Therefore, for the purposes of this book, we focus on digital tools and techniques reflecting the booming growth of online social media demand.

Social Media Isn't Something That Can't Be Measured

Okay, we're giving our editors heart palpitations because we used a double negative in this heading. But that doesn't mean it isn't true. Social media can be measured—and, depending on whom you ask, you can measure it in a dozen or even a hundred different ways. (Hey, look! We said whom instead of who.)

The great news about social media is that, when you take the time to measure it, you might discover that it is a significant source of profits. Significant profits can make you rich. And we can all agree that money is the only important thing in life.

Okay, that was a joke. Money isn't the only important thing in life. But you get our point—if you measure social media, you can track your ROI. If you track your ROI, you can increase profits. And that's certainly not a bad thing.

We could go on and on about what social media isn't, but then the title of the book would be What Social Media Isn't, which doesn't strike us as very appealing. So let's keep the ball moving forward and dive into the topic at hand, which is how to make money with social media.

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