(originally shared this on my personal blog Notagrouch.com) Social networking is nothing new, it is simply the name given to the ever growing collection of websites and applications online where you can interact with other members. When I say it’s nothing new it is because ever since the Internet came to be we’ve had social networking. In the early 80s you had what was called a BBS, during the 90s, the Internet truly broke free with programs like EarthLink and AOL and other Internet service providers that made the Internet accessible to everyone. You could chat, and send email. Later on in the 90s and continued to today forums became very popular. Forums were just another way of communicating with many members of a community all at once. You could put a topic up for discussion and all the members that are part of the group can see that and respond and the conversation takes place.
During early 2000s blogs began emerging as a self-publishing platform and that made it very simple for people to post and share information without having to have a deep understanding of how the Internet works or how websites worked. You could also communicate with the author of a blog by leaving comments. Since then we have seen a tremendous explosion of new ways of communicating, from Friendster (long gone), to MySpace to Facebook and now things like Pinterest and Instagram. These websites, or applications, or even more specific, social networks, allow you to interact with other like minded members in a fun, casual, social kind of way.
Social networking is nothing more than a community building experience. Hundreds of years ago, even thousands of years ago people gathered at coffee shops or at bazaars and other local hot spots. This is where you would meet weaker neighbors and friends to discuss the latest happenings for things that were important to you. You could trade, and do business. You could learn about the family that moved into town, or the new shop the Bob opened up, and other things like that. These gathering places also allowed for people to learn about news worthy events happening somewhere else. Then the press came along, as time went by the press became more popular and inexpensive. It became easier to read pamphlets and billboards and even newspapers that allowed the greater distribution of news and information. But Newspapers were mostly a broadcasting mechanism. Then came the radio the radio was great because you could listen to stuff without having to read anything. Same thing happened with the TV. Television came along, and if you could afford one you would sit around the television with the family and watch your favorite program. Then the Internet came along.
The Internet broke all boundaries and what had been the traditional evolution of broadcast media, with the advent of websites, forums and chatrooms you could now connect with people and have a dialogue. The news came to you from various sources but you could actually interact with the sources, comment send an e-mail back. Social media is essentially, the interactive communities where people gather online for a particular purpose.
Social media is not anything new social networking is the new either it is just a new format of doing the old things. yes perhaps technology has advanced the interactions we have with other people in significant ways. For example you can take pictures of where you right now are and share them instantly on Facebook; you don’t have to setup a camera, take the film, develop it and then mail it to your friends. Who would do that anyway!? You can tell your friends where are you going to be tomorrow so that they can come and visit with you. You can do many new things with technology, but the essence remains the same. Social media meets and fulfills a basic human need; the need to connect, the need to matter, and also to know what is happening in the world that matters to you.
Social networking is the activity of using social media to share, to learn, to discover, and to interact with all those things that matter to you. You can learn about political change is happening across the world, you can find your favorite artists and what they’re up to. You can share a picture of your latest vacation spot your friends, and you can find about the latest adventures your friends are up to simply by looking at your Facebook timeline. But a much more important shift has taken place, and it is important for business to understand this. Social networking and social media have brought the consumers to the doorstep of the producers. If your company makes a widget, you can count on the consumer of that widget to have a voice that can benefit you or hurt you as a company. It is important to understand how social media has been changing business and will change the next century.
Social networking is bringing down the geographic boundaries that we’ve had for thousands of years. In the old days I would ask my neighbor what he thought was the best coffee maker and why, then I would go out and buy *that* coffeemaker because he suggested it and I trust his opinion about coffee. In similar fashion I would probably book a vacation based on where my friends have vacationed before and whether they had a good experience at that location are not. The examples can go on and on, and they span pretty much every single field you can imagine. The difference now is that I can go on Facebook or twitter or pinterest and ask the same questions but instead of one or two answers I may see 50 different answers. Various opinions, feedback, pictures, videos, and even reviews will be the factors that weigh into my decisions. As a business it is important that you understand how all of these elements affect the purchasing decisions of the consumers in your marketplace.
Even more important than understanding the psychology and the reasoning behind a purchasing decision, it is the ability to use these tools to your advantage to maximize your time and enhance your product offering. Over the next 30 days and beyond I will teach you how to use these tools. The course you are about to start is not about theory of content, and engagement, and sentiment and all that stuff that the purported social media gurus tell you about. Stop listening to the “gurus” and “experts” and start doing!
If you want to learn more about effective marketing theories, and how to change your message, how to connect with the hearts of your audiences, then I recommend you go read books and blogs by the top marketing people in the world; people like Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk, Mary Smith, Amy Porterfield, John Chow and learn what they tell you about engagement, about theory and how to really connect with your audience. For now, this month I will share with you the tips and tricks and techniques of using social networking to maximize your use of social media.