There are a lot of social media infographics out there. Here’s one that seems to pop up in just about every presentation and webinar on the planet.While I love the way this infographic looks, here’s the underlying problem with it. It’s brand-centric. Not only is the brand at the center, but it suggests that the brand needs to find a way to be in all of the social media channels that are out there.
It’s enough to give a client heart palpitations.
The real question is: “What does the world look like if we put the consumer at the center of the social media universe?” To get to that answer, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane.
In the traditional era, you had word of mouth and you had traditional media outlets. Word of mouth was powerful, but with enough media weight, those traditional channels could wield a lot of influence. You might ask your neighbor what kind of peanut butter she bought, but chances are you saw a dozen ads that told you, “Choosy moms choose JIF.”
Fast forward to the 1990s. With just about everyone getting their own personal computer, digital media enters the scene. Just as filing cabinets and manila folders transformed into digital folders in Windows 95 , so print ads evolved to become digital banners on magazine websites. The direct mail envelopes stuffing people’s mailboxes became e-mail blasts cluttering their inboxes. It’s a natural progression, but at the end of the day it’s a lot of analog concepts with nothing more than digital icons.At the turn of the century, magic happens. All the content on all those websites becomes searchable. Consumers go from being passive to active, surfing the web (how did such a confusing, mixed metaphor come into existence?) and searching for answers. Sure, people still ask each other questions, but more often than not they Ask Jeeves or go to Ask.com or pay a visit to AltaVista, until eventually Google becomes a verb. For a few years, people are in awe of the answers provided by sophisticated algorithms.
Then along comes Napster. Followed by Friendster. Followed by MySpace. Followed by Facebook. And so many others. Peer- to-peer networks that put consumers back at the center of the conversation. With so many opinions and reviews and ideas created by and shared between people – who has time anymore to listen to another hum drum ad trying to sell you something? Why trust an algorithm when you can trust your friends?
This is what the social media revolution looks like from the consumers’ perspective. It’s a white picket fence made up of conversations and word of mouth, with a sign that says, “Friends only. Brands stay away. (Unless of course you have something that can make me look cooler or smarter in front of my friends.)”
So if you want to be a brand that’s successful in social media, start with these infographics, with consumers at the center of the universe.