There aren’t many things that surprise me. But this week, sitting across from an intelligent and successful marketer, I did a double take when he asked me the following question, “So shoot straight with me – do you think social media actually will stick around?”
Here’s why: he runs multiple aggressive social media campaigns for his company, sometimes spending half his day updating different social feeds and responding to followers / friends / fans. He’s banking on the fact that social media makes a difference and that it’ll stay that way.
And yet he still wonders social media’s relevancy. Being honest, you probably do too.
My hunch is that anyone over the age of 20 years old asks that of himself from time-to-time too. No matter the platform you choose – Facebook or Vine or LinkedIn – you’ll never get the duplication of real human interaction. Countless short videos (the unlimited you have a right to if you believe Sprint’s recent ad campaign), pokes, or tweets fall short of recreating the feeling you get with close friends sitting on a patio talking about whatever comes to mind.
Polling all of humanity whether social media replaces connecting with people in person, overwhelmingly the answer would be no. I’m not writing anything new – countless studies show that real interactivity cannot be duplicated by any number of soi-sophisticated technical devices.
But what happens when social media becomes the supplement to human interaction? Take for example, a high school girl who knows that nothing beats being with her circle of friends on the weekend, but for the majority of the week she’s engaged in texting, Facebook messaging, and tweeting her friends to stay in touch for that one get-together. What happens when all of these social platforms are all you’ve ever known?
That was the recent topic in Wired magazine’s 20th anniversary of the Internet edition. In “1993. Meet The First Digital Generation. Now Get Ready to Play by Their Rules” writer Jerry Adler touches on a generation that hasn’t known a world without the Internet. And for most of their adolescence, they’ve been completely absorbed by social media platforms. Their social life is created and then re-visioned and re-created online. And, as Adler puts it succinctly, they “make no distinction between the real and the virtual.”
As is often the case, we marketers must look beyond right now, or even the end of the quarter or the end of the year, and think long-term. So to answer my fellow marketer’s question of “Do you think social media will stick around?” my answer is resoundingly yes. We better meet the digital generation where they are and answer the questions they have. Even if your company doesn’t cater to the whims of 20 year-olds, think of their 30 and 40 year-old counterparts as a dry run to reaching them. Because the future is digital, the future is in social media, no matter how unwieldy it may seem.
And the future will be here before we know it.