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Missing the forest for the trees


In 2002 Jonathan Abrams and Peter Chin went live with the first "social network" website, Friendster, bringing into its fold about three million users within its first few months. In 2003 MySpace hit the scene and over the next couple of years would take the "social web" experience into hyper drive as it not so subtly snatched the reigns from its predecessor. Then in 2004 Facebook entered the fray and would soon eclipse  Myspace's shining light and become the social network of choice. And as they say the rest is history...

From 2002 to 2011 the explosion of the internet/all things digital has been colossal. From Technorati, to Youtube, to Ning, to Foursquare to...you name it, the ideas, conversations, and predictions around all of these digital experiences has been more than you can possibly imagine.

The problem for me though is that for all the talk around the change, evolution and transformation that social media has "ushered in" more times than not the dialogue around all of this is one dimensional and missing the point... which is: we are at a place where the market is shifting and becoming more dynamic. The (digital) tools that are available to us and the new experiences they are creating are providing the opportunity for us to fashion creative business ideas and models in which we are able to develop more diverse value offerings in an emerging networked economy.

Yes "new media" is impacting 'business as usual', but it's not extinguishing it. As great and awesome as some may proclaim Twitter to be...it has its limitations. It's a pretty cool communication/engagement tool but  I'd argue that the two/three year hype outstrips what it actually delivers as a 'business'.

What's missing is a glaring spotlight on new experiments/emerging  business models that look at "both and" scenarios versus ones that are "either or". Old media isn't dead (print is changing but not extinct...) Email is alive and well. As antiquated as they may seem to be, fax machines are still being used. Face to face still holds platinum status (in my opinion). And I could go on. With so much focus and discourse on the trees ("social media") we're missing the bigger picture about the forest (what the actual change IS from the old to the new and how to create new hybrid models that converge both worlds).

Judy Shapiro, chief brand strategist at CloudLinux, in her recent adage article Why I Have Begun to Hate the Term 'Social Media', does a great job addressing this in her chart below. She contrasts the "one-to-many" camp representing the marketing model of the last 25 years (e.g. one brand markets to many people), and the "many-to-many" camp, where we reframe social media as a lead performer (but not the solo performer) in a bigger, newly emerging community-centered marketing system. She goes on to say  that "it's not an either/or situation but a maturing of thinking that allows us as marketers to work both systems for optimal effect." Agreed.

Here's her analysis.

Often when focusing our attention where all the noise is, we miss the quiet spaces (where the unique and often uncontested opportunities are). By focusing solely on either the old ways or the new ones, we pass right by the action that many overlook - the intersection, where separate worlds come together and can work hand in hand.

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