Do you want to succeed at social media or social media marketing? There is a difference—a huge difference. It’s the difference between using social media tools and adopting social media philosophy; the difference between sparking posts about your marketing and posts about your product or service; and the difference between marketers who focus externally on how the brand is broadcast versus internally on how the brand is realized.
So do you want to succeed at social media or social media marketing? The answer is the former, but many marketers focus on the latter. I’d like to make this difference more real by sharing two examples—the first in the entertainment industry and the second my own experiences in a mall this weekend.
Snakes on a Plane (SoaP) is the entertainment industry’s greatest pre-release social media success story to date. The Guardian called it, “Perhaps the most internet-hyped film of all time.” Fans produced their own T-shirts, posters, trailers, novelty songs, and parodies. Producers organized a contest to select a fan's music for use in the movie. The filmmakers added shooting days in order to implement changes suggested by fans on the Internet (including Samuel Jackson’s famous and unprintable-on-this-blog line about “m&f%*#f+!@ing snakes”).
Today Facebook revealed its long-anticipated geolocation offering called “Places.” In many respects, Facebook’s offering doesn’t expand on the functionality you can find in current location-based services such as foursquare — you can check in at a place, share your location with friends, see who is nearby, and add a place. In fact, the most important contribution Facebook is making to the geolocation social space is not in form but scale. While foursquare counts around 2.5 million users in its base, Facebook has 500 million. This means that Facebook is positioned to introduce the benefits of location sharing to a new and much wider audience.
Of course, providing users with a new feature is one thing, but getting them to adopt a new sort of social behavior is another. Facebook has done much to ease the adoption process for users, starting with some smart decisions about privacy. It is evident that Facebook has learned from past privacy missteps. By default, when users check into a place, this information will only be shared with friends and not the whole world. This reflects a different and more user-centric approach than Facebook has taken in the past.
Of course, it's nearly impossible to launch any new social feature without some level of privacy concern, and it remains to be seen whether users will like or dislike the fact that they can be checked in by their friends. Facebook says this is intended as an advantage — since not every person has an advanced smartphone, not every Facebook user can check himself or herself into a location for the time being; by allowing people to check in their friends, more Facebook users can participate. People can turn off the ability for friends to check them in, but by default this is permitted.
If you're interested in Facebook's announcement this evening, you can watch the proceedings live here on the Forrester blog at 5 pm PDT.
The social media world is abuzz. Take one hot trend (geolocation) and add one blazing hot social network with a history of privacy missteps (Facebook), and you have the making for an interesting news story.
That's not the only reason curiosity is high about tonight's event--there's also a lot of money involved. While consumer adoption of geolocation check-in via services like foursquare and Gowalla is still nascent, there is little doubt that consumers will increasingly share their location via social networks. They share their profiles (who), their activities (what) and their hopes and wishes (why), so why not the "where"? And this data becomes yet another piece of the puzzle for advertisers wishing to build promotions, loyalty programs and more personalized and targeted advertising.
Then, of course, there's the foursquare vs. Facebook angle, which I expect will disappoint those looking for a battle royale between the heavyweight champ (Facebook with 500 million users) and the young upstart (foursquare with 2.5 million users). Facebook seems less likely to launch a "foursquare killer" and more likely to create a geolocation platform upon which others might build. Think of it this way: Facebook doesn't create social games, but instead creates the platform on which third-party social games thrive. Despite the Facebook vs. foursquare hype, the two are likely to end up more complementary than competitive.
A week ago, my friend Michael Rubin alerted me to a CNNMoney.com/Fortune article that rubbed him the wrong way. I and many others who cover social media had the same reaction to “Building your brand (and keeping your job).” Not only did the article seem unfair to Scott Monty, a marketing leader who has been widely recognized for the good work he’s done at Ford Motor Co., but the author focuses a great deal of criticism on the actions of employees whose social media activities ran afoul of their employers rather than considering how those employers might have benefited from a different approach and attitude.
At the core of the article is an accurate and interesting conflict, which Jerry Wilson of Coca-Cola describes well: "The personal branding process can create stress within a corporation. People will see if you are merely trying to advance your own career, as opposed to contributing to the success of the organization." This conflict is one that will evolve in the years to come as social media continues to change the way we communicate, form relationships, foster corporate culture and manage our careers. But rather than explore this conflict in any interesting way, the article dumps on social media-savvy employees.