While tidying up my living room, I stumbled across a book that I contributed to back in 2009 … The Age of Conversation 2: Why Don’t They Get It?
It was a compilation of thoughts from 239 authors from 15 nations, edited by Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton, about social media and digital marketing during a time when online communications tools and social networking were growing and changing, yet for many were still not mainstream.
Smartphones in everyone’s purse or pocket hadn’t really hit big yet, either.
I was honored to be included, and almost 10 years later, my thoughts still ring true.
Here is what I wrote in the The Age of Conversation 2 …
My seatmate on the aircraft was curious about my Sun Studio t-shirt from Memphis, Tennessee, so we got into a conversation about travel writing. I mentioned that I write for multiple blogs.
“Blllooogs?” he asked, as though I’d said that I was a fire-eater or quantum physicist.
“What exactly IS a blllooog?”
Wow, I thought, we have some teaching to do with the rest of the planet.
Why doesn’t Joe Six-Pack or Jane Latte understand social media? Because we, the go-go Web 2.0 evangelists, forget to address some basic problems:
1. People are too busy to get it.
They are already overwhelmed with careers, commuting, kids, homes, hobbies, and caring for elderly parents. Many are in front of a monitor at work all day looking at spreadsheets, trying to keep ahead of the email deluge, and preparing PowerPoint presentations for the weekly meeting. Why should they spend any more time on a computer?
2. People are too intimidated by the technology to get it.
Most folks are not dimwits, but for some reason, many act dimwitted about technology. They hate feeling foolish, and poking at the Help button is not going to solve their issues. Geeks often advise, “Oh, just get online and play with it!” Why would they want to “play” with something that scares them?
3. People don’t want to be hammered by our enthusiasm for every social media tool.
Just when newbies are persuaded to consider looking into blogs, we shove everything else at them: Twitter! StumbleUpon! Del.icio.us! LinkedIn! Flickr! (note from 2018: interesting to see how many of these are now defunct or weakened.) Isn’t this fun? No, it is not fun; it is a headache-inducing pile of digital screeching.
What is the answer?
We need to be better teachers. We must clearly, patiently demonstrate how these tools enable amazing connections with our fellow humans across the globe; connections that give us a life rich in delightful conversations that span topic areas and time zones.
What’s the catch?
Social media, like any worthy endeavor, takes time.
We must be honest – it takes time to learn the technology’s quirks, and then time to maintain those wonderful virtual relationships. If the human connections are worthwhile, then people must rearrange their days to accommodate a more active life online. Something will have to be discarded. For me, it’s television, which I rarely watch anymore unless it’s a sports event.
Social media is a life-changer; we must guide people to the benefits by showing what’s in it for them.
I have to smile at my own joyful enthusiasm for social media back then, which was not yet darkened by many huge privacy issues and the weaponizing of social platforms for political propaganda and misinformation.
It also makes total sense that my primary work today is teaching people how to use social media for tourism marketing, and I still have to overcome resistance and fear of technology. Answering the WIIFM question is a part of almost every workshop I do, and that’s as it should be.
This seems to be the week for finding things in my archives, like this 2012 post about how Google Plus will fail, which did in fact happen.
I’m grateful to be able to look back on almost a decade of digital communications work, and reflect on what we got right, where we went off-track, and to learn from those experiences.
What do you think when you look back? Let me know in the comments.
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