Social media is about to "cross the chasm" from early adopters to the early majority according to the classic model of the diffusion of innovations. With it comes a mass of thinking and ideas for marketers and media owners to get their heads around, ideas like "engagement marketing", "co-creation", "tapping into communities", etc.
This is dangerous stuff. When you see a crowd of marketers running to a-leap on the back of a passing buzzword bandwagon, you just know that a few of them aren’t going to make, and some may even fall beneath its wheels. Then you’ll hear a backlash, alright, just you wait.
I tell you, as well as telling all who’ll listen about the need to take note of the coming of the age of the network, we need to keep an eye out for over-keen, impulsive colleagues and clients, all too willing to jump into concepts badly sketched out in environments they have no real understanding of.
Heather Green at BusinessWeek’s blog has some good thoughts on this, following a conversation she had with Edward Cotton of Influx:
The problem with that is that if the attempt to get people to participate doesn’t fit with the brand, or doesn’t take the time to reach out specifically to fans, or doesn’t seem to have any reason for being other than being something to do, people will become cynical all over again about the company’s intentions.
He predicts that this will lead to a backlash. "It’s really hard for organizations that have been based on an industrial mindset of them and us to embrace a transparent environment."
A classic example is the Chevy Tahoe, when the automaker solicited promotional videos for the SUV and ended up getting floodedwith negative ones criticizing SUVs and their environmental impact. Ok, it was great that they rode through it.
But Cotton says that Chevy would have been smarter to think a little beforehand about adapting themselves more to the new participation culture. Instead of expecting people to repeat back the top-down message you have been telling them, you need to expect them to have their own interpretations. And maybe a way to do that in Chevy’s case would have been to simply ask people "What direction should we go in, what should Chevy be?" "There has to be more thought and sophistication," Cotton says.