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why should I do social media?

A customer recently  asked me a question; “Why should I do social media?” After spending 15 minutes telling me about his business and the reality that his business is built on old school principals of word-of-mouth, I was reminded of a beautiful theory that WORD-of-mouth has now become WORLD-of-mouth.

However, the reality is, there is no short and simple answer to that question. While my initial response was, everyone needs social media, the reality is, not every one NEEDS it, but it certainly does make finding your business that much easier in this day and age.

I am not quite a millennial, but as I am still in my 30’s I can somewhat associate with their thinking; and the reality is, if they do a quick search on Facebook, Twitter, and last resort, Google, and they don’t find you, you don’t exist in their world. They are driven by this need to be engaged and interacted with, on a nearly constant scale.

They read Facebook first thing in the morning, to see what their friends did in the time between going to sleep and waking the next morning. As silly as this sounds, the world has just become intangibly smaller, so their friends are no longer a block away, in the same time zone, but rather across the ocean, 8-hours away. So popping onto Facebook at 6am is not unusual, because John’s best mate has only just finished his shift at this snazzy new bar down the road.

Those millennials, like me, who are lucky enough to exist in the Apple-Kingdom will have the twitter app open on their macbook all day, constantly consuming the data. And when they’re not in front of their computers? They are on their smart phone or tablet, consuming even more, with Instagram & Pinterest Apps. Gone are the days of finding something to do, data is now constantly jumping out at people and encouraging them to engage.

If all this is true, then the question should not be WHY should I do social media, but WHEN and HOW WELL do I do social media? If your brand is not out there, engaging with them, then you’re brand doesn’t exist to them. The millennial will do a quick Milli-second search on Google and if you do not rank on page 1, more so, top 3, then you do not exist to them. Gone are the days of purposefully looking for things, the average data consumer has become idle in their need to find a specific brand. There is certainly space for loyalists, but with so many competing brands, if you are not there for them to find, they will go with the second or third best options.

And before you assume this is only millennials, the largest and fastest growing segment of Twitter, is the 45-65 year old group. The millennials are affecting the way everyone is consuming information, engaging with data and interacting with brands. So what does this mean for WORD-of-mouth businesses?

Its time to join the Social Revolution, where everything really has become WORLD-of-mouth!

a nostalgic look at the birth of ‘social media’

Whenever people discuss social media with me, I think back to ‘simpler times’ before life was so rich with the need to consume content. However, recently I started to ask the question, “was life really that much simpler when I was younger?”. I think this question is prominent to a lot of millennials. Millennials being defined as any person reaching young adulthood at the turn of the millennium. I remember welcoming in Y2K so many moons ago, partying the night away at a local pub. Remember the world was going to come to an end at midnight? All computers were going to stop working? Electricity would cease to function? We were going to be thrown back into the dark ages. Even then, we had a heavy reliance on technology, but nowhere near the level we are at today.

I smile when I write this, as we always asked, which midnight? Midnight in South Africa we’d go dark, but America would not know about us going dark, cause we’d be unable to let them know. Or was South Africa going to make it through, but America go dark and we’d not know until we tried to tune into CNN. Either way, we really did highlight the international need for technology. Life without a compute would be unlivable. How strange, for a mere twelve years earlier, I was around 7 or 8 at the time, it was not unheard of for a home not to have a computer. In fact the exact opposite was true. The only reason our house had a computer, was my old man worked in the military and it was a requirement for him, but almost none of my friends’ parents had a computer. Life simply was not lived that way.

And cellphones were not in existence yet. It would be at least another 7 years, I would be 16 or so, just to give you further contact, before a cellphone would enter our lives. The bulky and unsightly, although at the time high tech, Nokia 1610. Do you remember the brick? The uber cool belt clip? It changed the way we lived our lives forever. My entire life until that point had been lived on landlines. If someone did not answer their phone, they simply were not home. In fact it was quite common not to reach someone on their home phone. They were either out, or simply eating dinner. We had a rule, no answering of the telephone during dinner time and certainly not during family time. Some parents were cool and had an answering machine, the old tape recorder type, none of this digital recorder nonsense.

I took a slight detour down my own little memory lane here, but I needed to highlight that it was not too long ago that we had no computers, no cell phones, let alone internet. Internet for me became a ‘big thing’ around 1998 when dial up was the new craze. Everyone of my generation will remember than squealing modem. It was 1999 when I was introduced to IRC or Internet Relay Chat. In my opinion, the birth of social media. The forefront of using the internet to communicate with a captive audience. I firmly believe this early addiction is the reason social media today plays such a large role in my personal and professional life. We had servers in South Africa which welcomed international traffic, but within a few years, due to the ever lurking trawlers, the servers were reverted to South African traffic only, with a handful of long standing chatters being allowed through the magic veil.

Over the next 7 years I built lifelong friendships and spent a great deal of my youth wasting away hours on the computer. I look at the youth today and their game playing habits and smile, cause our chatting habits were very similar. Starting after dinner and often being chased to bed by parents, and later roommates, at around four in the morning. It truly was an addiction. It was like being at a party, but you were cozy in your pajamas with your music jamming in your ears, coffee freshly brewed to keep you away and occasionally a drink to enhance the conversation. The advantage to this versus a pub crawl, when you were done, you logged off the internet, turned your chair around and crawled into bed and went to sleep. I may be an adult and parent now, but there will always be a part of me that misses those crazy days.

Then in mid to late two thousands, the reality of the internet reached me in my professional life, when I was asked to assist in developing a website for the company I worked for. It was a very basic 4 page excel based website, but it was the bees’ knees at the time. Just having a website up and running for people to find was amazing. This for a company that had only one machine on the internet to download emails. I am almost convinced that sentence needs to be followed by a longing sigh of nostalgia. “How simple life really was.”

to be continued ….