The Potential of Social Media

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Social media feels like it has been around for a long period of time. Has it been 10 years yet? One of the key indicators of a paradigm shift is when it is hard to imagine a past prior to the trend or idea in question. I don’t know how we were able to express ourselves, respond to others and discover new things before social media.

There have been a lot articles that had tried to evangelize social media, some repeatedly so. We all know social media is important. We have been bombarded with information about “the best social media content strategy” or about “identifying a social voice.” We’ve heard of great, real-life cases about brands succeeding in social media, and some failing terribly. There are social media advocates, and there are detractors.

What I’d like to do is to move the conversation about the potential of social media based on what I’m seeing in the advertising world that I live in right now.

1. Social media is an expression of big data. With the number of young people tweeting whatever comes to mind and with no attention to proper grammar usage and spelling, it’s hard to take social media seriously. Even when I analyze social media at work, I sometimes find it hard to find conversations that are relevant to what I’m analyzing. There is a ton to sift out there. Sounds familiar? Think big data. Social listening is a method to structure and make sense out of it all. It is can lead to critical business decision-making.

2. Social media requires sophisticated analysis techniques in order to extract meaning out of just chatter. Just because someone is a millenial and has a Twitter account doesn’t mean he or she can be your next social media manager. A lot of smart thinking goes behind analyzing social media past the point of low-hanging metrics such as volume of buzz and trend over time. Wouldn’t you want someone to help you pare down the conversation into key nuggets of insight? It is a source of competitive advantage.

3. Social activation needs to happen now. Right this instant. As I’m typing this blog. Here, now. Quick reflexes are rewarded in today’s world. In an always-on world, someone else is finding an opportunity to be win as you’re sitting around. Companies who engage in social media need to take a few points from Oreo. Obviously, there is no one size fits all, but try to understand what Oreo did: it created an opportunity out of nothing and owned it. Did the brand team and agencies foresee the surge in publicity that happened after? I don’t think so. But they were keen enough to seize a moment that not other brands do often. Not only is it important to have a team that can respond to events in real-time, but you also need a team that can discover opportunities when many see none. It allows you to express your brand agility.

4. Think of social media as a continuous stream. People don’t stop tweeting, which many view as a curse. But companies should see this as a rich source of information. It’s an endless stream, from where you can fish for new learnings about your consumer or brand. When you really consider this fact, it is both maddening and exciting at the same time. It is a resource. Taking representative samples of soundbites from social media, as a statistician would a population, is crucial in constraining the data and making it meaningful.

Social media is not new, but there are new ways to look at it. It is reflective of our collective thinking. It helps us discover trends that we are not aware of yet. It helps us get closer to opportunity. The data is massive and it feels like overload. It is hard, but don’t dislike it. Embrace it. The challenge should excite us.

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