Finding Real Value in Social Media

Social Media graphicimage courtesy

By Guy Mastrion

We look to technology to help make our lives easier, to solve problems big and small, and today we are confronted by a huge economic crisis and a pressing need to adapt our lives and our outlook to what seems to be a less vibrant future.

Social media is the latest darling of the digital age and as marketers, as usual, our big ambition seems to be to figure out how to monetize its every potential from Facebook to Twitter, Flickr, each appears as a rainbow leading to a pot of gold. But milking the last nickel out of every spreadsheet in ever more intricate and “creative ways is what led to the demise of our economy.

Monetizing social media is no big deal. Its pretty easy to make a case for it and to build schemes that will deliver measurable results. This will be important to many businesses and the economy as a whole. But it is also a very shortsighted view of the potential for social media to help us solve some of the larger issues facing our country and the world today.

Social media, if given the opportunity and vested with the needed credibility, will enable us to tap into the creativity of anyone willing to lend her mind to solving the challenges ahead.

A global think tank, a regional think tank, a community think tank, a government think tank, the possibilities are endless, if not given over to the vagaries of the market and the market alone.

If we over index on monetizing every channel, we will end up with the same marketing blather and double speak that is already running rampant and dulls the senses.

Of course, as marketers we will not even think to stop the monetization of social media, but we should not lose sight of loftier goals.

Companies and brands today should consider underwriting opportunities to bring constituents together in a safe environment, free of advertising and promotion, where consumers are engaged to solve problems and offer ideas. And they should not all be ideas directly related to the company or brand.

Lets call them social think tanks.

Social think tanks will engender community support, and would build great loyalty, and maybe even create some advocates for any company willing to give it life.

To the guys running around seeking ROI, these types of initiatives never add up in direct ways to the payment of a dividend and, as a result, are seen as less valuable in the short sightedness of short term gain. But the time has come for corporations (and our government) to start behaving like part of the entire community and not like the landed gentry set to gain from the constant amplification of market potential.

If we do this right, maybe, just maybe, we can use social media to feed both, the short and long term needs of our communities and our economy.

What do you think?

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