Monday, December 8, 2008

The Downside of Social Media, Tribes and Blogs

I've been thinking about the possible downside of the new media and the related focus on communities of consumers, fans, or like-minded individuals. There is a road that many marketers often go down when they attempt to shift their focus from the occasional scream to a steady conversation that connects them to their consumer. We have all seen and heard about this. We can clearly see that these companies/individuals just don’t get it. It’s easy to critique them but it is even easier to fall into the same traps. We can pick out a marketing mistake a mile away, but when it is close to us we fight to defend it. There are a few factors that influence this:

1. In an effort to diversify, we often narrow our focus. We start to look at what appeals to us or our company. We subscribe to blogs and newsletters, we go to conferences and unconferences. We entrench ourselves in the subject of our focus.

2. During our efforts to focus, we are attracted to groups of like-minded individuals, or those of similar interests. We start to use the social tools that allow us to communicate with them and exchange ideas.

3. With all the information that we can have pushed to us through Google, blogs, Digg, etc. we are encouraged to often continue our focus on the things we are comfortable with.

We end up surrounded by influences that reinforce our existing beliefs and affirm our attitudes. We strive to be an expert by following other experts. We strive to build a great lumber business, by following other great lumber businesses. You can see where I’m going with this. We start to conform to the standard. It may not have been the standard when you started out, but it has become the standard as the community has fused together and narrowed its focus. Conformity in industry creates a stagnant environment, which is perfect for breading competitive business.