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Twitter’s exponential, exhilarating growth, seems to have come to an end.  To social-media-marketing-analytics junkies, the “unstoppable” Twitter has lost its luster.  Perhaps to some it never really gained a real luster and instead only gained a lot of hype  – just a bunch of Every Day Joes hopping on to connect with (or more accurately voyeristically follow) their closest celebrity pals.

What these numbers, charts, and pontifications illustrate to me is that many users are missing the point.  The utility and incredible power of Twitter is the way in which you can connect with others.  A connection that knows few obstacles.  In both the social media and eco-conscious realms I have not only meet amazing thinkers but also built meaningful connections with people from all over the map.

The ability to quickly and succinctly find information in real time is an incredibly powerful tool.  Before I start overly singing the praises of Twitter, I believe its current form is only a stepping stone.  This particular format won’t stick around forever.  Instead it will evolve and with that evolution bring more into its fold.

For now, I will continue to meet incredible people, learn new things, and be apart of a fascinating community.  The flatline of new users may be fodder for the ‘I told you so’ers out there and strike fear into the hearts of social media marketers.  To me it’s just fine, there’s still lots of conversation to be had.

What do you think?  Is Twitter on its way out?  Is this just a blip on the radar?  Should be be looking at a totally different metric to gauge its effectiveness?

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I just read a really insightful post on the implications of social media in the PR world and it got me thinking about the larger migration of the way we communicate with each other and “the man” (brands, corporations, and even the government).  In case you missed it, even the White House is tweeting and posting videos!

“OK, great,” you say.  “I’m on twitter, can’t get enough of Hulu and have my visage all over Flickr.  I get it.”  You understand the functionality of the tools and the platforms.  That’s only a small part of the equation.  The proof is in how you use it, how you craft and communicate your message.  The substance of the evolution to social media is the nessecity for authenticity. 

Authenticity

Perhaps there was a time where you could hide behind a well crafted image.  You had time for meetings and pontification for the perfect response to whatever came up.  The evolution of communication has narrowed that window.  You have no choice to be authentic and available, almost immediately.  From the nightmare of a stupid employee to the ability to raise money and awareness for charity, the most successful users are relevant and quick to show up at the dance.

The evolution is 1 part platform and 10 parts message.  To grow and thrive in this new frontier, which will soon be the only frontier, you have to be there.  Really there.  For authentic conversation.

I fancy myself a bit of  purist.  When it comes to food, I don’t like a lot of condiments.  I will stick to one beverage during the course of an evening.  When I find a website on a particular topic that I like I stay there.

What’s interesting is I don’t have a taste du jour in social media.  I’m everywhere*.  LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter… but in each arena there’s a different aspect of me.  I believe each area presents a different aspect of who I am. 

It begs the question – if you want to be fully engaged in the digital community are you compelled to maintain a full digital persona and be involved in each of these arenas (and perhaps many others)? 

Here’s one better – as a marketer, should you be focused on one platform?  I argue no.  Your message should be simple and consistent and have the ability to be clearly and effectively communicated no matter the social platform.  That will produce effective marketing that immediately has the ability to become viral.  Let your top brand fans do the leg work for you and spread a powerful message about you.

*OK, for true social media junkies, this list is hardly everywhere.  But stick with me.

 Social media is a cultural revolution, not a social revolution. – Toby Daniels  

Social media is changing everything related to how we communicate.  Perhaps as revolutionary as the telephone or email, the way in which we interact with each other and brands is rapidly changing.   

According to one industry expert, Steve Rubel, we are in the midst of a “deforestation” of traditional media.  Newspapers are collapsing and those that are able to stay afloat are forced to run advertising on the front page.  Consumers believe that marketers owe them something and that they control the relationship – don’t worry, we’ll find you.  

A traditional marketer clamors for the hard, metrics-showing value of social media marketing.  Turns out the value is in what you can’t measure.  The value is being a part of a trusted relationship. Being there to right an out-of-left-field, inflammatory message that spreads across the world in a matter of days.

Intrusive doesn’t work. – Chris Cunningham, Appssavvy  

You are at a cocktail party, chatting with an old friend.  All of the sudden another friend comes up to you, dressed as a cow and pokes you in the arm.  If that’s not enough, they ask you to return the favor and poke them back.  What would your reaction be?  Probably some combination of complete embarrassment and promptly telling them to go away.   

I just described the digital cocktail party some of us like to call Facebook.  The evolving social media network user isn’t interested in the goofy distractions.  They are interested in calling the shots in how they use the platform.  They look for their friends, chat, and then look for more to do in applications. 

This is where the new frontier is developing for a marketer.  Getting involved in applications where they can determine, reward, and understand a consumer’s behavior.  As a brand it’s becoming your role to come alongside the consumer and offer him something.  Establishing this relationship establishes not only brand loyalty but a voice in the digital world that is ready to come to your defense when an incorrect message spreads.  

Consumerism and gouging on media is dying. – Steve Rubel, Edelman Digital  

Digital bankruptcy (i.e. emptying your inbox of all the unread message, relying on the notion “if it’s important, someone will find me”), scanning 20 percent of a Web page and spending usually no more than 56 seconds on the page is evidence that we are media-tired.  The average American visits only 111 domains per month and goes to 2,554 Web sites.    (Wish I could claim these as ideas as soley mine… thanks to Steve Rubel’s insights and numbers.)

As a marketer, doing that quick math probably leaves you uneasy.  How do I make a meaningful impact with my message when the consumer isn’t making in a meaningful effort to consume information?  The answer is simple: conversation.  Be there.  And you better be authentic.  

So now what?   

452 – number of times you have seen “So now what?” in a post about social media.  I kid about that, but most of the posts I have read about social media boil down to this: we don’t know what it means yet but we do know you should do it.  So do it.  Helpful right?  Not exactly.   

Here’s what I contend:

  1. Be committed: If your brand is in an app, or a blog, or tweeting customer service, you are now committed to join this social media wild ride.  Your digital foot print will be out there for a long time to come and should be grown intentionally.
  2. Measure: This is the biggest sticking point I come across.  The suits want metrics.  And they should get them, just not necessarily the way they expect.  You have the freedom to define the metrics.  Choose a vectors: reach, engagement, reputation, and direct response.  Or come up with the ones that make the most sense.  If you are trying to get the most followers on twitter, are you doing it?
  3. Let your users do the heavy lifting: Empower and equip your brand all-stars to spread the word about how great you are.  Their word-of-mouth brand push is more valuable than any banner ad.  And they will be there to defend you the minute something inflammatory is posted on YouTube.

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