How “Social” is Social Media?

Social media: Billions and billions served every day.

But what is social media? Sure, it’s a form of media; but is it social? And if so, how social is it and has the act of socializing changed as a direct result? Do social media users have more friends (real friends, not “friends” in Facebook lingo), and are those friendships strengthened through social media?

What we commonly refer to as social media has been around for a couple decades now. It didn’t start with Facebook and Twitter. And it didn’t start with MySpace, either. Back in the 90s before those things existed, there were AOL chat rooms and Instant Messaging. There was email, there were pagers and clunky cell phones. Before that there were other mediums to socialize on, and this is nothing new. The terminology behind it just is.

Those channels and others that have evolved from them are now referred to as social networks – from Pinterest and Twitter to YouTube and Google+. I personally have been on Facebook since October 2004, making me one of the site’s first million users. Thus, I’ve seen it evolve – for better or worse – over the years. And with it, I’ve seen my social life evolve too. It has helped me stay in touch with some whom I probably would not have otherwise. It has helped me meet people I probably wouldn’t have. On the flip side, it has hampered conversations – things I might normally ask when getting to know someone – What’s your favorite movie? Musical artist? TV show? Now, I can just look at their Facebook profile.

Be it making plans with a long-lost pal or conversing about similar interests while dressed in your PJ’s with some bloke from Down Under, social networking has expanded the idea of what being social exactly means. Looking at it from that perspective, what “social” constitutes is more subjective now than ever before. As a society, what was considered social a decade ago is not social today.  And, it won’t be “social” a decade from now. Plus, social media is still finding its footing in the social hierarchy of life. Perhaps one of my former college professors said it best when he said that tools like Facebook were “excellent for communicating with people whom you don’t want to talk on the phone with.” Isn’t that what texting is for?

Social media, in my humblest of opinions, is making us more social – just in different and new ways. It’s directly rebelling against the notion of what being social traditionally means.

The truth (or just common sense, if you prefer) is that people need people, and as people, we desire and seek out human interaction – such is natural; social media is just another tool to go about doing so. Social media is yet another distraction in a modern world chock full of ‘em. How social or not it makes a person really all depends on how they use it, and how social they are to begin with.

Omnipresent in our daily lives, social media is like gum on a sidewalk: It’s everywhere and it’s not disappearing anytime soon. Whatever role it currently plays in your life, accept the fact that it is here to stay and embrace it for the social possibilities contained therein – it can be a veritable hoot-and-a-half if you let it.

Have You Created a Google+ Company Page Yet?

Google Plus

So the big question is:
Why do I need a Fan Page on Facebook and a Google+ page for my company?

There are several reasons to jump on the Google+ bandwagon. Yes, this means one more social media channel to keep up with, but it will become a very important tool for your placement on the web in the near future. Google has become the largest and most successful search engine to date.

Most of us refer to Google as a verb, as we did for so many years with Xerox.

“Google It.”

While Google may not be thrilled about this, it has become a way of life for so may of us. So, what does this have to do with company pages on Google +? It has everything to do with it. In my opinion, Google+ pages will become the official pages on the web under the Google search engine. This means your profile pages and company brand pages will be among the first items to show up on Google when searched. That in itself should be reason enough, but if not, here are a few more:

  1. The +1 button is deemed by many as the fastest growing recommendation widget in history, with more than 1 million websites and receiving well over 5 billion impressions a day. More importantly, it’s how Google will use this data in the near future. This will be used to connect users and serve them relevant content they seek. This button will become an vital part of web development and search engine optimization. You will also be able to obtain analytics from the button, which is important for you as a brand to know what your audience likes. The +1 button will become another measurement tool for Google to rate rank and place your content.
  2. The Hangout feature can be used to host focus groups. This is just one of may ways you can use this feature. This will create activity and conversation for your page. The social media blog Mashable did this a few weeks ago and had great success. The topic was, “What do you want to see on the Mashable page?” I wasn’t able to participate in the Hangout, but I did monitor the participant feed on the topic, along with 50 others, and I have to say it was a great experience.
  3. Using Hashtags can be another great feature for your brand page. As of right now, Facebook has not jumped on this bandwagon, but I’m sure it wont be long. Hashtags are very important when it comes to social media. They allow a user to quickly filter information based on that hashtag. If you click on a hashtag in Google+ it’s as if you searched whatever term is attached to the tag. Twitter does this better than anyone right now.

While it’s still early and only time will tell how much impact Google+ will have, you can only assume it will be a big player in the social media arena. I have a feeling the next item Google will be integrating into Google+ will be the Place Pages. If you think about it, what could be better for your Place Page than adding a social component to it. It would definitely make your Google Place Page more relevant, with hashtag reviews, holding hangout sessions, and allowing people to +1 it and share it.

Yeah, that’s right, the new verb is going to be +1 (if not, something like it). I’m excited to see what Google does in the next few months.

As I was writing this post I came across HubSpot Blog post on Google+ Business Pages. They are offering up some good advise on tactics to Jumpstart your page. 

What are your thoughts on Google+ company pages?

“The chair is not my son.”

I was in a meeting the other day, discussing the merits of “optimizing”  copy for a client’s website, when I was reminded of an old David Lettermen bit.

Dave was trying to decipher the lyrics to Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.”

He wondered: Did Jackson sing the lyrics, “The kid is not my son” or “The CHAIR is not my son”? Letterman played the song for the audience, but had stagehand Al Frisch say the word “CHAIR” in a thick New York accent over Jackson singing the word “kid.”

It was quite funny…and quite obvious that “kid” was the correct word in the song.

Reading branded web copy that has been optimized can have the same forced feeling of Al Frisch’s interpretation of the ”Billy Jean” lyrics. Your hidden agenda (ranking) becomes not-so-hidden and you risk eroding your brand’s personality.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is important, but there has to be a balance between creating a brand voice and shoe-horning key words (CHAIR) for the sake of a Google rank.

What’s the right balance?

Depends on you, your agency and your client philosophies, but I prefer creative content that resonates with humans first, then SEO spiders.

Are You Riding the Google+ Wave?

As many of you know, Google released Google+ a few months ago to a select group of people. Each person was given 150 invitations to invite friends and family to join their circles. With over 25 million visitors thus far, making it the fastest growing social network site to date you can’t ignore it.

This past weekend I was asked the question, “Why do I need Google Plus?” My quick answer was, why do you need Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other social media for that matter?

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After that sarcastic response, I responded with the following:

Because Google+:

  • Has Circles
  • Integrates with other Google products I use
  • Better privacy control 
  • Longer post options
  • Hangouts, which allows you to group video chat (Good-bye, Skype!)
  • Better photo system
  • Less clutter 
  • Sparks

Of course I had to explain what each one was, and after talking about Circles, I think they were hooked. The fact that you can create these “Groups” or Circles and control what content you share with them is very powerful. Best of all, it’s quick and simple to do. Although only open to a select group of companies, this feature and Hangouts will be a big player for corporate growth on Google Plus. 

I would love to hear your thoughts on Google Plus.

What pros and cons have you experienced on Google Plus?