I was on a Social Media Club panel in San Francisco when I ad libbed a forecast that “2011 will be the year in which the word ‘social’ is inserted in front of all other words.” It became my most retweeted comment of the night.
While some still complain that the term “social media” is inaccurate, it seems to me that it has become fruitful and multiplied. Off the top of my head I can name:
- Social analytics
- Social CRM
- Social business
- Social learning
- Social intelligence
- Social graphs
- Social shopping
- Social network
- Social commerce
- Social customer care
“Social is the new black,” quipped Jennifer Bohmbach [l] on Twitter when I pointed out what was going on. Is she right? Is “social” a word that is becoming always appropriate and always in style?
Or is it just another case of spiraling buzzwords, a tendency in marketing to make whatever old garbage your shoveling seem current and at the center of what’s happening.
As Kai MacMahon told me on Twitter, inserting the word social in front of whatever it is you do or sellgenerates publicity.
But the end result may be more confusing than helpful. Janie Graziani [r] said “I often feel I’m in the middle of ‘social mania.’”
So do we all, or so it seems. I had something to do with the popularization of the term “social media.” It is an imperfect term at best. But a key point was that the web was allowing people to have conversations with peers as they did in real life. It was different than broadcast media, which is one-directional and involves talking at people rather than with them.
I’ve always thought that the social part of the term would fall away and it would just be called media, because the social would become so obvious.
Now, we have a social here, social there, social, social everywhere. On the list of ten terms above, some actually mean something. Some are relevant to ideas that are new and different and some seem inane to me.
SocialCRM is hard to define but it means something that is new and different from traditional CRM. The same can be said for social analytics.
But some terms, like, “social commerce,” seem to me to be little more than fresh lipstick on an ancient chicken. It refers to retailers harvesting Facebook fans by offering discounts and coupons. This is not social to me. It is traditional marketing and merchandising in a new venue.
There’s nothing wrong with it, but it just isn’t about conversations. To me social commerce is when you and get to know each other in social venues and we start recommending restaurants, cars and places to travel to each other. We buy from people like us rather than marketers like them.
Perhaps it is because I’m a writer, but I think most people feel like this: Words matter. They matter a great deal. We make war and love because of words. The word “social” is starting to get over used. The original meaning is starting to erode. There is very little you and I can do about that, nor should there be.
But I kind of think it is a shame.