This time of year is packed with activities — between Christmas and New Years (and for me, I have a birthday in between the 2 holidays).
Here are some of the changes social media brought to my holidays this year. Feel free to add some of your own.
- I didn’t get a single holiday card this year — well, I did get a few ecards, but nothing delivered to my mailbox. In fact, if it weren’t for catalogs, bills, and junk mail (sorry, direct mail) I’d have NOTHING in my mailbox but cobwebs. My holiday greetings this year came from Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter — mainly generic greetings to all friends, followers, etc.
- Everyone still had their hand out for a holiday donation for their favorite charity, but most of these came through my Facebook profile page. I got lots of invitation to LIKE a charity and make a donation on their fan page. Some of these came from the charities themselves, but lots of them came from page requests from my Facebook friends.
- I got a number of shopping suggestions from my Facebook friends.
- Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday wrought the most changes. I got advance notice of some of the best sales (and even pre-Black Friday sales) through Facebook. Its kinda nice, but it spoiled the excitement of pouring over the sales brochures on Thanksgiving day — a ritual in my family. It also gave us time to consider whether that “doorbuster” was really necessary. As a result, we didn’t even go out on Black Friday until after noon, rather than at the crack of dawn.
- Tonight, we’ll bring in the new year with family and friends, but I’m sure others will be watching the ball drop online and exchanging greetings with their social networks.
Robert Putnam talked about this in his book, Bowling Alone, when he lamented the decline of true engagement wrought by technology. Although he wrote in a time that proceeds social networks, his words ring true today. Even though we might be communicating more and talking to more diverse people than ever before, our conversations tend to be relatively shallow; failing to provide deep connections that enrich our lives and promote civic engagement.
According to a review of Bowling Alone,
Putnam warns that our stock of social capital – the very fabric of our connections with each other, has plummeted, impoverishing our lives and communities.
Putnam draws on evidence including nearly 500,000 interviews over the last quarter century to show that we sign fewer petitions, belong to fewer organizations that meet, know our neighbors less, meet with friends less frequently, and even socialize with our families less often. We’re even bowling alone. More Americans are bowling than ever before, but they are not bowling in leagues. Putnam shows how changes in work, family structure, age, suburban life, television, computers, women’s roles and other factors have contributed to this decline.
If anything, social media has sped this decline, rather than reversing it. According to Nielsen, the average person spent nearly 6 hours on social media sites last year, and that number has increased by 84% this year.
For some social media users, this has increased their engagement in family, friends, and the community. However, for the vast majority of social network users, social media has further distanced them and reduced the amount of time they spend communicating and engaging in real relationships.
As marketers, I think we’re responsible for some of the shallowness of relationships in social networks. Too many companies operate their social media marketing efforts the same way they did in traditional media — as one way conversations that pushed the company’s agenda. In the short run, this represents an opportunity costs of what the company might have gained had they used social media more strategically to build engagement with their target market. In the long run, this misunderstanding of the power of social media will likely drive consumers away from social networks — fragmenting them across too many networks with too little engagement.
You already see this to an extent with increasing offers of “robots” to automate your social network. Many misguided companies are using these tools to build large numbers of fans and followers, not understanding that these disenfranchised fans/followers are useless.
So, let’s make a New Year’s resolution to STOP misusing social media — to make it a two way conversation where consumers are valued and rewarded for their engagement with our brands. Lets build relationships with our consumers that are rewarding for both of us.
I wish you a Happy and Fruitful New Year — and lets keep our resolution.
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