Social Media: The “next big thing” or just the latest thing?

I recently came across the question above on one of the LinkedIn groups I follow. For those still pondering the great question of the relevance of social media, here’s my bite-sized thoughts:

Social media is a bit of both. Remember those quaint days in 1999 where the common wisdom was that merely putting up a web page and mentioning in your TV and print ads: “See us on the web at h-t-t-p colon, slash, slash, areallyawkwardaddress-dot-com forward slash more awkward nonsese dot h-t-m-l” would quadruple your sales? Recall all those starry eyed conversations that went something like: “Well, there are 9349834 gazillion people on the web, if just 0.0000001% buy our product we’ll be instant billionaires!!!”

Now the web is just another media outlet. Yeah, you’re expected to be there, and it certainly is a valid and fairly mature medium, but it is no longer some magic potion that will shock, awe and amaze. Heck, you even have to follow old-school conventions like making pages look appealing, and providing quality content rather than a fancy rotating graphic that the heavily-pierced dude in IT coded up for you.

Social media will soon mature and fall into the same bucket. You’ll probably need to be on Facebook and have a presence of Twitter, and have a grasp of what is going on in the social media space, but it’s not this magic amulet that will generate oodles of revenue overnight. Treat it like another arrow in your quiver and you’ll do fine. Expect social media to magically change the world and triple your sales, and you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

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