Reclaiming Social Media

We don’t like how ‘social media’ has gotten a bad rep. Here’s why we think that it’s time to take it back.

A dirty word

How did it come to this? Somehow, “social media” has gotten a bad rep. We look down on people who put something with social media in their bios. “Social media expert” has become a curse word. Gary Vaynerchuk famously said:

99.5 percent of all social media experts are clowns.

Maybe it’s just the normal process, when something is new and nobody really knows how it all works. Every crook in the world is smelling some easy money making opportunities and flocks to the space. The companies don’t know yet how to differentiate the experts from the amateurs and get burned.

Tactics will only get you so far

Most brands got into social media in a reactive way. Everybody seemed to talk about it so they had to be part of it, too, right? They moved onto every platform that was the place to be for that time. From corporate blogs to Twitter to “social media newsrooms” to Facebook to Quora to Google+. The approach has been completely tactical and purely based on current hypes, in most cases. That also means that most social media activities have been launched with one implicit goal: taking part. No wonder, defining KPIs is hard. What can you measure when you have no quantifiable goal? Most social media activities have been basically developed in a company sandbox, separated from everything else in the community departments, let alone the rest of the company.

I think this is about to change as social media is approaching a more mature phase within the next months and years. Once bigger brands all have their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts with a decent amount of fans, they will start asking the big question of “What now?”. You already can hear the much feared “ROI question” getting louder every day. This is good, very good. When companies have made their first steps and gained some experience, they have a better position to build solid, long-term social media strategies. And this is the kind of social media work we’re interested in.

We Do Social Media

At the speakers dinner at the Next11 conference, I spoke with someone about Third Wave and he said “But you’re not doing social stuff, too, are you?” Yes, we do. But to be honest, we were having a hard time admitting to it in the first months of this company. Sure, social media was at the core of what Igor and I in particular had been doing at our agencies. But we didn’t want to be perceived as “Yet Another Social Media Agency”. That’s why we focused on projects like CoCities in the beginning. Nevertheless, we’re still excited about the prospects of social media and see it at the core of our consulting business, especially as we enter the “second coming of social media” (as we jokingly refer to it).

We’re eager to help companies create social media strategies that will carry them through the next years and integrate tightly with their existing strategies, processes and efforts. We think it’s time to reclaim social media with competence, a comprehensive approach and earnest craft. Let’s give it the rep it deserves: as one of the most amazing developments to make communication more personal and human.

Also, check out the notes for Week 32 for some similar thoughts on how social media will become ubiquitous.

Author: Johannes

Johannes is a strategist and consultant for digital communications. His work is informed by his experience of working with brands like Deutsche Telekom, MTV, Postbank, Maggi and Nike and by his insatiable appetite for finding the bigger patterns behind current developments in technology and science. Holding a diploma in Media System Design, Johannes is a regular speaker at web and marketing conferences like Republica and the Social Media Summit.