Social Media Isn’t Social At All

In one of the better lead-ins to a product pitch I’ve experienced in a while, Jacob Markiewicz asked me an interesting question on Twitter recently.

The ensuing conversation was great food for thought. My response was that social media wasn’t really supposed to. Flippant, yes, but the point was that social media – that which leverages online networks at least – is limited to people with faces in devices. Thus, by definition, they can’t be face-to-face.

That teed Jacob up nicely to show me how it could with a neat, Android-only (for now) video app called Movy, so I stepped right in his trap. But the discussion is certainly one for marketers to consider.

Using the Internet To Get People Off of the Internet

Face-to-face, or more specifically, offline, in-real-life interactions are infinitely more powerful than any we can have online. It is my position, then, that the truly successful online marketing efforts are those that move people offline to interact with the brand or its community.

Fiskars was one of the first true social media success stories, but it wasn’t really. It was a word-of-mouth case study. The scissor company built a private, online social network for its fans and customers. That community facilitated offline meetings and scrapbooking sessions and product recommendations in real life, as well as in the fake (er … Internet) one. (Sadly, they killed the program and site last year.)

Merriam-Webster defines the word “social” as “relating to or involving activities in which people spend time talking to each other or doing enjoyable things with each other.” Oreo’s Super Bowl and real-time marketing experience isn’t a social experience because people retweet and like its posts on social networks. It’s a social experience because people turn to a co-worker and say, “Hey! Did you see this?”

The Concept of Convergence

Working with Elasticity, my team at CafePress and I have circled around the concept of convergence. Andy Barnett is largely responsible for it. Convergence happens when your strong content is distributed through social channels and amplified by your public relations to produce strong search engine optimization for your brand and that content.

But the resulting organic SEO lift isn’t the only benefit. The true social benefit of convergence is when an audience member turns to someone else and says, “Hey! Did you see this?”

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association has long reported that this type of marketing is 62 times more powerful than a basic advertisement. It’s more powerful than online shared content, too. So if we truly wish to optimize our content, we’ll create with the intent to produce an offline effect.

A perfectly-written viral post on social media isn’t genuinely social until it provokes authentic human interaction in real life – be it convergence, a purchase or your co-worker tapping you on the shoulder to ask, “Hey! Did you see this?”

That’s what makes your marketing truly social.