Thursday, September 8, 2011

Is Social Media Ready for the Pragmatists?

I am using a model from the book Inside the Tornado that I describe in the post just before this one. If you are unfamiliar with this model please check it out here.

There is a principle that has stuck with me since I was a teenager:

The truly rich don't talk about their wealth
Real winners should act like a win was no surprise
If you still have to talk about how mature you are, you aren't mature yet
The same applies to return missionaries and how "normal" they are (BYU reference)

I'm not the most eloquent person in the world, and I'm sure there is a quotable way to say this, but I think the point is made. Really, the concept is, why would they have to promote ____ if it is just a part of life. If you aren't at that point yet you feel compelled to tell everyone around you how much you have actually met that standard. Only a team that expects to lose has any excuse to rush the field. (There is nothing wrong with celebrating a win, I loved it when BYU beat Oklahoma last year...)

This applies to the visionaries from the tornado model in my mind. They are the promoters of an innovation. They are in the early stages of adoption. They are the 18 year old girl desperately trying to tell their 25 year old crush "how mature" they are. And we want to believe them. A new idea, a true innovation, could be a huge benefit to our world. But the pragmatist sees right through it, only accepting when it sees the situation as authentically reaching a mature state, a "whole product" as the book calls it.

Why are there so many people trying to tell me that social media is the new world order. Why am I struggling to believe them. How many articles, posts, classes, teachers, friends, etc. have told me that social media has been accepted, using valid statistics as proof, yet many of the generation older than myself struggle to find a purpose to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Foursquare or whatever other tool they use, and big businesses are just now struggling to find its position within their company.

I am a pragmatist. I still don't have a smart phone (shocking!) and I don't plan to get one. It's not that I don't think social media is a great innovation, that I don't see the potential benefits of using it in a company. I plan to make it a big part of my business career. I just don't think the world knows quite what to do with it yet. It's not a whole product.

Pragmatists, having a herd mentality, have migrated to some of the social media sites. My parents have a Facebook page, and most big companies I am interested in working for at least have a LinkedIn account. I'm not saying social media does not have some whole products out there, but I think that the world that these social media promoters wish would happen is now sitting in the "Chasm" between the visionaries and the pragmatists. I think this is because much of the social media world is still at 80% and the visionaries are telling us we are crazy for not helping them with the last 20%.

Yes, there are benefits to twitter, foursquare, etc. I potentially can save time and be more efficient if I use it. But is it 100% clear how? I say no. I think the rest of the pragmatists would agree as well. It is a useful tool, but it is no "plug and play."

Currently I am in a Social Media Marketing class taught by a successful social media marketer (not a professor). The class started out mostly full with close to 30 students. After two class periods we only have 11 (update:9) students enrolled. Understandably, it is hard to have faith in a class that has never been taught before when it is being taught by someone who is not normally a teacher. I think the teacher has some very great things to share, has been successful in this field, and is teaching a much needed subject, which is why I'm still enrolled.

I think a big reason why people are leaving is the MBA program is full of pragmatists. It is full of people looking for careers in big companies. It is full of people looking for a full solution. While everyone accepts that social media will be a required tool in the marketing world, they do not see a full solution being offered yet. They do not see a "this is how you handle the social media world, works every time" solution being taught, possibly because one does not exist yet. They are looking for something solid to hold onto, not just examples and success stories. They want someone who has repeatedly and reliably been successful in social media to show them how its done.

Maybe I'm just ignorant. Maybe the solution is out there, I just haven't seen it yet. All you visionaries out there trying to defend your social media baby, don't just jump down my throat. Remember the 18 year old trying to declare her maturity. I know there are uses, purposes, techniques out there. I'm just not sure anyone has proven out a successful, scholarly, repeatable, and reliable way to handle social media yet, and until that happens the pragmatists will just have to wait.