Photo: Early PR bloggers Phil Gomes and David Parmet at the NewComm Forum in 2007
Since the early days of blogging, when we were all dazzled by the ability of social media to connect us to other likeminded people, and those with fiercely opposed viewpoints could laugh at themselves with the community. Like the feud between Jeremy Pepper and Steve Rubel in the links above, people could have a long running disagreement and even make up in the end.
It was okay to stand up and take a stand that was opposite someone else’s without their huge community rising up to attack you.
However, the web was a much smaller place back then. Early adopters have the luxury of trying out new things, failing and chalking it up to experience. Once a mass of people started coming into the space, and social networks like Facebook and Twitter became the norm, the barriers to entry were flung wide open.
And now everyone is looking for ways to make money from their online “properties.”
It isn’t too much different than the rise of the website. At first no one had a website, but pretty soon it became imperative for ALL businesses and organization to have one. The businesses of designing websites became commoditized and people were looking for the lowest cost to get it done. Websites in a box, and templates are the norm today. However, some smart web design businesses realize that they can add value and are still making a profit.
The same thing is happening in social media.
The Social Media Marketplace
Now that nearly every business wants to be “in” social media, and every person who has a Facebook account thinks they can “do” social media. A number of services are popping up to offer turnkey social media solutions.
When every business becomes a content creator, there will only be more of these services springing up, because (let’s face it) not everyone actually IS a content creator, or has the TIME to create content. Those that CAN create content see this as a business opportunity, and maybe rightly so.
But those that use these services need to beware the consequences. Over 70 percent of those who are on the Internet are using social services like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. They are becoming empowered to speak up about their experiences, both good and bad (e.g. Yelp), and a cookie cutter approach could cause a lot of harm to a business if they aren’t watching the stream themselves.
Here are a few sites I have seen lately that are adopting this model of cookie cutter social media services.
More websites like this one, which is registered to a law firm in San Antonio, are are popping up to offer the McDonald’s version of a social media package. They promise to help small businesses “Create buzz without lifting a finger.” They also say that setting up a social media profile is like “having a a phone number and a business card. Every business needs social media to stay relevant and reachable,” they assert. And if you want to know who the “THEY” are, you are out of luck, they call themselves “writers, marketers and small business experts who share a passion for driving business through social media.” But they don’t provide names.
And it is popping up in verticals too, like this one for Insurance Agents. In this case the owners DO introduce themselves, and at least one of them is having some personal success in social media with over 18K Twitter followers.
Or some like this one, which is an RSS feed you can use in your blog if you are a car care company. My own local auto repair shop uses this in its blog. This is less egregious, but it does underscore how hard it is for people to come up with content on their own.
Of course, for every cookie cutter solution, there is someone out there offering advice on how to make the social media channel one in which you can really build brand loyalty, like this post telling auto repair shops how to build an authentic and interesting blog of their own.
Call me old fashioned, but a connected community means more to me than the mass following that seems so prized today. The early community was intellectually stimulating and fun. Certainly it is still possible to create such communities, but they must remain manageable in size to be effective.
How about you? Have you heard about other services like these? How do you feel about them? Do you think they will work long term? Are you a part of a small community that is really awesome? Is it sponsored by a brand?