I try to keep up with the latest trends in social media. I’m especially interested in how my clients might use it to improve communications internally with employees or externally with customers and partners.
Over the years, I’ve seen the persistent criticism that the “social” in social media is Orwellian – it does the opposite of what it claims to do. Just as Big Brother promised freedom but offered enslavement, social media promise to create closely knit communities but actually insert an intermediate layer where none is needed. Rather than making us more social, it separates us further.
That’s the complaint… but is it true? As I use social media, I find that I need to segment the market to get real benefits. For some segments, social media doesn’t help me much at all. For other segments, it keeps me in better contact with people than ever before.
The two big segments for me are: 1) Bosom Buddies, and; 2) Christmas Card Friends. Bosom Buddies have two defining characteristics: 1) they’re close friends or colleagues that I want to keep up with, and; 2) I see them or talk to them or e-mail them often. I know what’s going on in their lives.
With Bosom Buddies, social media add no value whatsoever. I’ve never, ever learned a juicy new tidbit about a Bosom Buddy from a social media source. I’ve always heard it first from a more traditional source – a dinner party, a phone call, or just plain old-fashioned gossip. Social media add an unnecessary layer of communication that doesn’t get me any closer to my Bosom Buddies.
With Bosom Buddies, the grapevine is a powerful and prolific source of information. In fact, I sometimes hear that active participation in social media is an effective substitute for going to the office. With Bosom Buddies, the reverse is true: going to the office is an effective substitute for social media.
With Christmas Card Friends, things are different. I like my Christmas Card Friends just as much as my Bosom Buddies but I don’t see them nearly as often. They may live in another town. Or maybe they travel in slightly different social circles. Or maybe they have young children and don’t get around much any more.
Whatever the case, I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like. Nor do I hear from them (or they from me) frequently, even though I would like to. In some cases, I only hear from them though the traditional social medium called Christmas Cards.
With Christmas Card Friends, social media can add significant value. I can fairly easily keep up with people I enjoy but don’t interact with regularly. Social media are a source of new news. I regularly learn new things about Christmas Card Friends through social media. I enjoy that and I think it enriches our relationship.
As you think about social media – whether personal or professional – think about your market segments. You may find that targeting Christmas Card Friends rather than Bosom Buddies will lead you to richer, more enjoyable interactions.