It is quite funny to read all the articles about social media: everyone is talking about number of likes, followers, shares and retweets as if those were the new Grail. It seems like being “famous” – meaning “having many fans and/or followers” – is what matters most, along with the feeling that the brand is successful on social media.
Well, this is a good starting point, for sure: the bigger the audience, the more people see your messages and might become customers or at least endorse your brand. This might be the new kind of KPI we were all waiting for. The need for recognition has become the major goal, would it be in terms of business or personal life. Our 15 minutes of fame have increased and will keep on increasing as long as we are able to publish thoughtful, informational or funny content.
Although this is very interesting, what is most is how we have been able to miss one major impact of social media on our way. We have lost the intrinsic “social” part of it, the part where we discuss and share along with our community. We design websites so that they generate engagement, but we think of them as tools rather than sharing places. We have community managers but they are trained to select the good content, sometimes create it and publish at ideal times. This is interesting if you advertise, but… Do you really need a community manager instead of a Mad Men team?
The truth is that social media goes far beyond the simple idea of creating an audience and spreading the good word. If you look at it a little more attentively and get back to its origins. Social media is the one and only way to get an almost instant feedback for our actions. Ask a question, you’ll get answers. Trying to choose between two directions? What does your community think about it? Trying to find the next big improvement in your product? Instead of brainstorming for hours with your R&D team, get to know your final customer and ask for what would be really useful for her.
Iteration is the most amazing possibility offered by social media: you can try something, then something else and again something else to see how people react. Test to see if they like it or not, if they liked option 2 better than options 1 and 3. No media ever let such a great opportunity of testing and involving the final user, let it be for consumer products, revolutionary concepts of simple editorial guidelines. However, iteration is nothing if we are unable to innovate from it.
In a world in which metrics rule, we have simply forgotten what the final goal is. We talk about engagement but what is a share worth? What is a comment worth? Not much unless we learn something from it. What should matter most should be to learn lessons from our audience in order to get better and offer quality content, quality products, even adapt our production to what is expected from us.
Social media is about engaging with our audience, not engaging our audience into sharing, liking or commenting our posts. Or so should it be. Instead of expecting our audience to do things, why don’t we do things according to what our audience tells us? We would get so much more, don’t you agree?