In a recent episode of The Simpsons, teacher Edna Krabappel confiscated her students’ iphones to stop them from texting. Shakespeare be damned, because the new teacher gave the kids back their iphones and assigned them 20 minutes of Tweets on Twitter for homework. Such is this social networking world – an animated TV show imitating life.
The world seems to be one big social network. It isn’t just Edna’s class who are tweeting – perhaps even your grandmother has an account. Stephen Hawkings and Demi Moore are tweeting. Over on facebook, everyone from Barack Obama to Aerosmith, to Bill Gates, Hugh Hefner and Jackie Chan are all there.
And there is more to social media than facebook and twitter. There are photosharing social sites such as Flikr and Photobucket; videosharing social sites such as Youtube, Blip.tv and Joost; professional networking sites such as linkedin; trend sites such as Digg; more social networking sites like Myspace… and now Google Wave. Even Disney has an advertising… oops, sorry… I mean a social networking site.
Obviously big budgets will get you your own social networking site, or at least allow you to maximize advertising on such sites, but how can us ordinary mortals make sense of all these sites and use them to market our businesses? Anyone can have a Facebook site or a Twitter account, but how does that help market your business? I decided I needed to look deeper into this – into the psychology of social media.
Mikolaj Jan Piskorski is an associate professor at Harvard Business School. He has a very straightforward perspective on social media:
“To be successful, you need to shift your mindset from social media to social strategy.” He offers a useful analogy: imagine you’re having dinner with a few good friends and a stranger sits down and tries to sell you something. Piskorski suggests that is how many companies approach marketing on social media sites.
Instead, marketing has to consider why “friends” are drawn to the site in the first place – what social need the site serves and how users interact while there.
Coming next time: What’s your social media profile?