I recently attended a confab of senior-level executives who oversee online and digital activities at a variety of leading corporations. While what happened at the conference was enlightening, I think I may have been more enlightened by what I didn't see happening: social media activity.
I have to admit, that confused me. My first clue was when I asked around and nobody new the conference hashtag. In fact, many people didn't even know what a hashtag was. Despite that, I was surprised at how little Twitter activity was happening in and around the conference, and even more surprised at how few of the participants had Twitter profiles at all. So I checked Facebook. Participation there was a bit more common, although most attendees had inaccessible profiles or used them for personal reasons only. LinkedIn showed a bit more representation, but it was apparent that most attendee profiles had not been actively managed. And forget about applications beyond the Big Three. Foursquare? What's that?
As I milled around the conference I began asking these online elite about their dearth of social media activity. The feedback I generally received was (in so many words), "been there, done that, not interested." I was stunned. It's one thing for a random person stopped on the street (or even other members of corporate management) to not get it, but these were the digital glitterati. It just didn't make sense.
Upon reflection, however, it does. The Great Curiosity about social media is coming to an end. By now everyone who's anyone in the digital world has attended the breakout sessions, read the you-ought-to-be-doing-this blogs and given social media a shot. Perhaps not surprisingly, many have found it wanting on their personal relevance meter. Some just didn't give it the time or attention to really understand how it works.
Does that make it irrelevant for their companies? Of course not, as case study after case study demonstrates. As with other forms of media, however, people naturally tend to gravitate towards those which are most personally relevant to them. If these busy professionals "don't get" or "don't like" or "don't have time for" social media, then no one does, goes the thinking (at least among some).
I have no problem with the Great Curiousity heading towards its nadir. It had to happen sooner or later, and it allows us to more fully enter the Age of Strategy, where the best marketers in every medium dwell. Those who care to find ways to leverage social media will do so, content to let their less strategic counterparts say "it doesn't work", just as they do other forms of communication. And the results will show.
My company, and our clients, are reaping positive returns from our social media strategies. We've fully incorporated social media into our integrated marketing planning model, and we're seeing great things happen. Perhaps most exciting is that we know we've only just scratched the surface of what's possible.
Let the Age of Strategy begin.
Steve McKee is president of McKee Wallwork + Company, and author of When Growth Stalls and Power Branding. A marketing strategist for nearly three decades, Steve has been published or quoted in many top news outlets and industry publications, and writes a monthly marketing column for Businessweek.com.