Monday, October 31, 2011

Disclaimer: I am a social media junkie.

It’s true. You name it, I'm on it.
I get choked up when I think of geographically dispersed families staying connected by posting baby pictures to Facebook and graduation videos to YouTube. 
I’m also a supporter of its practicality within B2C, where social media provides consumers a central place to share brand experiences. It’s a cost-effective platform for companies looking to share multi-media product interactions – video and live Q&As. It’s a practical method to instantly gauge product feedback, astronomically reducing the product life cycle. 
In the B2B space, my outlook on the adoption of social media becomes more suspect.
I just can’t shake the notion that sometimes we’re doing it to simply fill a void; to pass the vast space of time left vacant by efficiency gained from new corporate technologies.
Let me explain:
I consider how I spent last week at the office: As a Marketing Professional, I was developing copy and gathering revisions.  I was providing creative direction on new collateral and PPT design, graphic design and event logistics for an upcoming tradeshow.  We went through multiple rounds of edits – some major, some minor – all within a few hours.  If not for Adobe Illustrator, PDFs and the simple convenience of email, the timeline to accomplish the same objectives would have easily increased 10-fold.
Now consider how you spent the last week at work: Could you have achieved all that you did absent the help of the often marginalized conveniences of teleconferencing, online collaboration and email? How much longer would it have taken you to accomplish the same tasks 20 years ago?
Technology has cleared our calendars.
What could be done by Dolly and Co. working ‘9 to 5’ in 1980 can be accomplished before lunch today. In many industries, the speed of business now outpaces the speed of consuming said business.  We have more time on our hands than there is work to be done. 
So, how do we go about filling the void? How do we pass the time we sit idle waiting on the pace of business to catch up?
We tweet and we blog.
(Or at least that’s what we marketers and tech-savvy industry-gurus feel compelled to do)
Yes, we pontificate within the confines of our own professional acumen.  The least inspired of us don’t even do that.  We just re-tweet (RT).  We scour the routine set of websites looking for any and all native content we feel might be repurposed to reinforce the legitimacy we’ve built around our own brand. 
I’d be willing to bet the majority of offenders don’t even read before they RT.  I mean, REALLY read it. Sure, you digest the headline, maybe skim the article looking for a word or two that either confirm or deny the article’s relevance with your intended audience. I mean, heaven forbid you RT a glowing review of a competitor - veiled in the disguise of a brand-agnostic/objective op-ed piece (guilty as charge).
Am I wrong?
It’s quite deflating when you think about B2B micro-blogging in that way. The hours pass and your feed fills with nothing more than a virtual volley of loose ideas.  You craft a thought (140 characters or less) and jettison it out into the abyss, hoping that some other social media manager will glance, copy, paste and recast it from their own virtual handle?  What’s the point? What’s a RT or new follower even worth in the B2B space?
Am I just being too hard on social media for the enterprise?
I guess for now, ...
...until I see real, sustainable ROI from social media, I can’t shake the notion it’s all just an exercise in futility.  That social media’s rate of adoption in B2B is more attributable to combatting boredom than capitalizing on valuable interactions.

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