As someone who works in social media, our biggest driver for success is organic sharing of information and content. The chart below from Silicon Alley Insider shows what many of us already know on an intuitive level. Facebook is the epicenter of all things social:
I’m fascinated that sharing on Facebook is higher than email, although I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. The sharing function on Facebook is so easily integrated into the experience, it’s a natural evolution that it should become a center for sharing, seeing as how everyone, even my grandma, seems to have embraced it. But what are people sharing, really? I think it’s safe to say (in a broad-stroke kind of way) that people are sharing some type of content with one another. Whether it’s a video, an interactive application, a photo or an article- it all comes down to content being shared, and becoming more (or less) valuable as a result of that sharing. Which brings me to another point: as social networks become the drivers for content consumption and sharing, communication will change forever.
In the past, content consumption and advertising communication was a one-to-one communications strategy. Advertisers structured their creative, built out the assets needed for the media channel and disseminated that message to the masses. After the message was distributed, ads had done their job. Marketers would have to wait to see the results of their communications efforts, because people would digest the message, maybe discuss the content at the water cooler, and make a purchasing decision somewhere in the chain. This meant that commercials were designed to speak to the individual. For example, if you wanted to sell beer through television, you needed to create content that would speak to a large number of individuals. Bud Light is talking to me, hoping I didn’t change the channel or go to the bathroom, and measuring their success based on whether or not I buy their beer later on.
With community consumption, the rules are entirely different. Now the messaging is one-to-many, or one-to-community, and we’re all able to consume content together and discuss it in a very public way. The success of your content can now be determined almost immediately, and purchasing decisions will most likely be made not based on the content, but on the public response to the content. This is a totally different scenario– game changing. Think about how you behave as an individual, then think about how you behave in a group. I think Tommy Lee Jones pretty much nails in this scene from Men In Black. This also gave me an excuse to put a movie clip in my blog post:
How can we continue to create the same type of experiences that worked in television, and try to apply them to a socially networked society? The short answer is that we can’t. We need to be creative about the experiences we’re creating, because people are undoubtedly going to talk about it together.