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The Social Media Gold Rush by Anthony Cowan

The Social Media Gold Rush by Anthony Cowan

This header is misleading if you think I am going to write about all the money there is to make trying to merge your company into the social media fast lane. First, let me be clear, I am not saying that I think social media is going anywhere. It is here to stay, but so are DOT COMs, and I saw them crash as they evolved from their primordial state. There are those out there in the medium making money on it and from it. However, my point is, that social media is a lot like the gold rush. The only ones who are sure to get out of it what they are putting into it are the people selling the shovels.

3P- Business Consulting set off on an in-depth study of the phenomenon last year. I asked our 22 millennial interns at the time to take on the idea that nobody really knows what social media is, and to look at it like they were the ones discovering it for the first time. What they came back with was awesome. What was discovered was that while some of those talking about social media are doing a good job distinguishing what is out there and how it works, the truth is there has not been enough time for the organics of the media to have been effectively mapped, scientifically dissected, and most importantly established empirical data points to say, “Here is an industry, and here’s how to succeed in it.” I compare it to trying to say, “Here is the island of Hawaii,” when molten lava was only just poking out of the ocean.

It was discovered that a few intelligent “social media gurus” had applied comparisons of social media to established industries and said you can use social media like this, or took age old marketing strategies and said you can use social media like that. Those who distinguished that social media is the ultimate adaptation of permission marketing vs. interruptive marketing, a concept coined by Seth Godin back in the 90’s, were the most interesting. All of these interesting facts still leave us with social media in a primordial state. The ability to effectively map the industry is not here yet. If I were a mathematician I could insert a fancy algorithm to show how the tipping point in the evolution of this media will take place. I am not, so I will just say, as long as more of the populace are users-only of social media, it will be too infantile to geographically map the industry. At best, you are saying this is social media at this moment, but get ready to re-write that when you wake up. When all social media users are creating as much of the media as they digest, then you will have a mature landscape.

I see a lot of companies touting they are your link to social media success. I look at them like the guys selling shovels to the 49ers. I remember companies in the 1990’s paying a lot of money to build their websites. One in particular was a daycare for senior citizens. 100% of their customers came from word of mouth or drive by traffic that saw their location. They spent almost $6000 to look great on the “World Wide Web”. The only people to make money off that website were the salesmen that sold them on the idea of having it. Even in the 90’s there were a lot of companies that needed to get on the Internet. Today there are a lot of companies that need dynamic social media campaigns.

Challenge your social media conversation with this conversion question. How are you going to convert Facebook likes or Twitter followers into a profit line before you spend some of your profit line to get them? Long before you should be concerned with whether you can generate followers or likes, be sure there is going to be gold in them there hills.

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