Thursday, July 29, 2010

Social Media – Just a Click Away?

A single click is all it takes for me to know what the world around me wants, thinks, enjoys, loves, hates, patronizes, looks forward to, is crazy about, or stays away from! A single click tells me that I have two more fans and five more followers. It tells me that I share basic interests with seven others and that my article has been read by 20 more people of whom 17 have wanted me to know their opinion. My website has been marked as favorite by five scientists; I’m connected to the CEO of a popular startup; my long lost childhood friend has finally found me (his wife and kids say hello) and two communities insist that I should be an active member of their group.

Now those of you not familiar with social media would think that I’m bragging, as someone so popular should have been hounded by the paparazzi and made headlines by now! Admit it or not, social media have made a celebrity out every human being! Facts suggest that 60-70% of the world urban population is already a part of this exemplary tsunami called social media.

Social media has taken over mankind stealthily. Much more stealthily than any other media – let’s say the mobile, the television or radio could ever imagine. The latter have no doubt, created waves during their invention but were available only to an affluent few, even though the whole world knew about them. But by the time the world knew what social media is, it was theirs to take home, right at their fingertips, and totally free of any cost!

Having said that, plunging into social media might seem pretty straightforward in the beginning. All you have to do is open a free FaceBook, Twitter, or Orkut account and you have transformed into that popular luminary overnight. Unfortunately, we all know that it’s not half as easy as that. It requires plenty of patience, persistence, and hard work to get there.

And it is not just about connecting to old friends (or new ones), either. At most times, it might be imperative to connect to people whom we aren’t familiar with due to professional or other reasons. What then? How will you locate that one person on the vast social web and ask him to help you? Or more importantly, why will this person want to connect with you – a stranger?!

Is there a way of proving your mettle to that client in remote New Jersey? Does your newly launched product or service clearly fit in with needs of the industry? Can the social media help a fresh graduate land a well-deserved job in that high-ranking organization? Will your patented technology reach the remote areas which could benefit from it, maximally? Will you be able to sell your (almost) brand new car at the best possible price? And when you have only the web or the social media to assist you, is there an answer to every need you have in mind? Will a single click answer to all those whats, hows, whos, whens and wheres?

Elaboration on what social media is or how one can be part of it, will be of no use at this point. We need assistance at the next level.

Millions of websites, blogs, newsletters, articles, emails, case-studies, books, e-books, encyclopedias (you name it) have revealed at length the art of mastering the social media. “10 Tips to Be Awesome Online, 16 Tips for Successful Online Video Marketing, 42 Top Social Media Tips And Tools, 20 Social Media Tips Under 140 Characters, The 11 Rules of Social Media Etiquette, the list goes on and on.

On an average, I receive almost 50 articles or webinar invites daily that dwell on the ‘million dollar question’ – how to triumph over in the world of social media? I’m also sure that most of you, who have had an interest in this area have also been drowned (and subsequently lost) in such delusional literature.

With due apologies to all who have authored articles on social media, is it actually possible to become an expert after you have read (and implemented) the advice in all these articles? Can one transform into that much sought celebrity by following 5, 10, 20 or even 100 generalized guidelines? And can you follow most of these procedures to the T? Do all those free whitepapers, e-books, portals, and webinars give you a 360 degree insight into the vast world of social media? As a matter of fact …the majority of them do.

I’m sure that every one of those articles must have been penned down or conceptualized based on some real life experience. People have taken years to get where they are now, socially. For giving those 10 tips the author would have attempted some 10,000 ideas out of which 1000 could have been responsive, 100 would have been successful enough to be finally concentrated and framed to form a total of 10 tips. Tips that can be easily attempted without a single thought as to how they might have evolved!

But I beg to disagree. Social media is personal or specific to every individual and organization, just like our personality and purposes in life. It should be not chosen because it’s the in thing and everyone has been doing it. The articulate instructions should be given a careful thought before implementation. The relevance of social media has to be understood at the preliminary level and customized adequately to suit the actual needs.

For example, if you own a small neighborhood retail store that has housewives or domestic helps as its regulars, putting up a glossy website and a fancy FaceBook account will only be an illogical exertion. Paper pamphlets or small handwritten hoardings could easily accomplish your purpose. Similarly if you are an organization offering scientific research as a service, being social media shy and having an old, outdated website is definitely getting you nowhere near that much needed recognition in the industry or for that matter the clients or the big bucks.

And it does not stop there. Once you have taken the plunge, there is tons of work as follow-up. Regular updation of the portals, putting up interesting articles, adding useful facts videos, blogs, webinars, email campaigns, getting the topmost rank on all popular search engines, subtly promoting your cause, waiting patiently for responses (which might take weeks to years ranging on how well you have performed and reached out), monitoring the traffic to your website or portal, getting those responses, handling the negative feedback-not just on your site but other places on the web, follow-up on certain important customers or interested parties, take an interest in what you are doing and respond accordingly, account for the return on investment this list doesn’t stop as easily as opening that first free account.

All said and done, the social media beckon is impossible to resist. After all, the world out there is….just a click away!

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