Jay Baer (Twitter) just posted a new article predicting the emergence of social media losers. The idea that social media right now is like pee wee soccer where everyone gets a trophy just for showing up and trying to kick the ball. However, as the space and the audiences mature some of the companies engaging and investing in social media will emerge as winners and some will emerge as losers.
In general he makes a good point, but I think that something is missed. Baer says:
The day is coming when we’ll judge companies not on whether they have a social media program, but on whether that program is relevant, interesting, and financially successful.
However, you don’t have to be relevant and interesting to be financially successful. Don’t get me wrong – I certainly wish all social media efforts could achieve this, but they simply won’t. And if you take advertising as an example you clearly see that the space is loaded with 2nd, 3rd, and lower tiered agencies/producers who do not stay relevant to us (the social media punditry), and yet continue to reap financial rewards. Not everyone can be WK – some companies are going to end up with the Mentos commercials of social media, and we’ll all groan and say how horrible and derivative and uninspired and annoying their efforts are… and then they’ll get a bajillion sign-ups for something.
The point is that most people reading Jay Baer’s blog are ahead of the curve. They probably know who Brian Solis is and have quoted Seth Godin to their friends. But many brands aren’t marketing to these people – they’re marketing to target demographics that are decidedly in the majority – by definition not early adopters or social media elites. And the question is where do *these* people see the lines between cool and uncool, relevant and irrelevant, interesting and uninteresting.
You may think that social media provides more feedback and metrics on success than traditional advertising, but that misses the point. The point is not that there is a coolness singularity that everyone is trying to achieve – in fact there are many brands that would be damaged, at least in the short term, by attaching themselves to campaigns that are on the cutting edge of anything. They will lumber through stagnant pools of recycled concepts, but they will still deliver metrics that achieve their goals financially and in terms of social metrics.
Turn on the TV and count the number of inspiring or astounding commercials over the course of the next 30 minutes, and then consider that interesting and relevant can mean many things to many people, and that success in this space will not necessarily be so closely attached to cool.