Social Media Reality Check

I’ve become more and more enamored with the concept of “social” media and the natural extension of it…social marketing. As I speak to groups, approach the subject with potential clients, or discuss it with colleagues in the social media world, I have to keep reminding myself to be aware of who actually uses this relatively new medium. Please note that the “media” of social media is the new part. The “social” has been around a whole lot longer!

To give myself a social media reality check, and to give me some fuel for a presentation and discussion at a recent UnSummit, I decided to ask my community about their use, or even awareness of social media. In this case, “my community” is made up of the people in my neighborhood, my social circles, and those I see regularly through my kid’s activities; the soccer and baseball parents I see…often.

Being the research geek that I can be at times I decided to put together an online survey of 10 questions, which I then sent out to about 50 people. I received some 30 odd responses to serve as the basis for my reality check. Okay, this is far from scientific. It’s a brief overview with very little screening involved. Anybody who got the e-mail could respond regardless of age, social standing, or tech savvy. You can download a one sheet of the results here if you’d like but remember, these tables are a basis for discussion. Let’s take a look…

First and foremost, the group is predominantly 35 years old and over…ahhh, my peeps, but also a good representation of your average Joe Six-pack.

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A Social Media Coming of Age

Now. I know allot of social media types. They include participants, fanatics, junkies, evangelists and, of course, consultants. Today I spent time with a true social media parent.

Greg is a social media pro and PR guru working with one of the big PR firms here in the Twin Cities. I love sipping a cup of joe with Greg whenever possible, and today we talked about our kids. Mine are older than his and it’s clear they will grow up with social media and an online involvement in completely different way that will Greg’s. While my kids have shown a mild interest in being online, my son’s biggest use of a “high tech” communication tool is his growing need to text every little thing to his friends, Greg’s two-year-old son already has his own Gmail account, Facebook page, and uploads his on videos on YouTube!

Okay, to be honest, his parents do it for him. In fact, before he was born, his parents had already reserved the Gmail accounts in a boy’s and girl’s name just to be safe. According to Greg, “We were staking out our offspring’s digital property before birth.” In reality, the establishment of these accounts is more about sharing with family than actually building a social presence in the cloud. Greg goes on to explain, “Social media tools allow my parents in Florida to see my son’s first
tooth. Facebook allows his aunts and uncles to “friend” him and instantly be notified of his status updates in a social medium they prefer over e-mail for information. Web cams allow us to video chat
with anyone with an Internet connection. And when I travel for work, I’m able to check in and see his smile firsthand. And yes, we’ve had a discussion about the line between private and public. We don’t include last names, locations or personal information.”

The most intriguing facet of this “online at birth” adventure is the plan to hand over the “keys” to these accounts to the lad when he’s ready to take over the task of being social. Says Greg, “We assume that by age 8 or so we’ll turn over the username and password to his e-mail and social network accounts, just like my parents gave me my very own house key at that age.” What we have here is a social media coming of age or, what could be termed,  a “social mitzvah”.

The term Mitzvah is used to describe the coming of age of a Jewish boy or girl where, according to Jewish law, they become responsible for their actions, and “become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Of course, it is not my intention to offend anyone and clearly this passing of these social media trappings has zero to do with the customs of one’s faith and religion, in this case I find it fascinating the young person is being given and is assuming responsibility for their actions as they pertain to social media. Not to mention how he might feel about the job he thinks his parents have done establishing his online life.

No matter what it’s called, it is a result of new technology and what it means to where, what and with whom we choose to share parts of our lives. It’s also a clear generational distinction. Heck, my neighbors get freaked about Google photographing their house for Street View. This would clearly not sit well with them. But they are another generation. Online and social media is not woven into the fabric of their lives as it is with kids being born and raised today.

I’m curious to see how widespread this is. Who knows, this could be the beginning of a whole new Hallmark card occasion.