Social Media Is Not A Business Opportunity; It Is A Human Opportunity.

by Dan Blank on September 3, 2010

I’ve been thinking about 57 things this week. Specifically, the 57 comments left on my Facebook status update of a week ago, announcing the birth of my son.

57 expressions of congratulations. The number itself isn’t really all that important. In fact, there were dozens of other comments on Twitter, my blog, via email, Facebook photos, etc. It is WHO said it, or rather, the context in which I know them, that matters.

It included some of my closest friends and relatives; some folks I sat next to in fourth grade, and barely spoke to then or since; people I worked with awhile ago, that I never actually met in person; to quote from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: “Geeks, sportos, motorheads, dweebs, dorks…” and the like.

And every single one of them mattered to me. Not just because they said something nice to me, but because we were still connected.

I am considering a world my son will grow up in. One where he doesn’t lose connections. Where connections are easier to maintain. When there is less social pressure to send holiday cards each year, and that regardless, you can still congratulate an old acquaintance on the birth of their son, 20 years later.

So I’ve been trying to figure out what this all means. Social media is no longer a big story, we all know it’s important on some level, and reshaping our world on some level. Recently, we hear a lot about businesses are trying to “leverage” social media to move the needle in business metrics somehow. Maybe it’s not direct revenue, but reducing customer acquisition cost, extending marketing dollars, enabling deeper research and the customer data that could not be captured in another manner.

And, you know, that’s fine.

But I can’t help but feel that there is still a human opportunity that is entirely untapped. We have these powerful tools of connection, yet we still live our lives largely the same. We suffer through disease, through disaster, through hardship, and social networks are on the periphery of dealing with those experiences. We have important needs, for financial security, for emotional security, and social media is on the periphery of that. We celebrate, we learn, we dance, and social media is on the periphery of that too.

I love Facebook, yet I am always disappointed in how it prevents me from connecting. Twitter, the same thing. Their search functionality is almost non-existent. I can’t find people I already know on Facebook unless I know exactly which High School they graduated from, and which year. It’s difficult to find like-minded people on Twitter because their personality is broken down into 140 characters, and never put back together again.

We need to put the dots together.

The web is filled with so much useful information and connections. But they are spread among languishing forum threads, nine month old Tweets, blog comments, photos that aren’t tagged, and YouTube videos that aren’t connected to any of the rest of it.

I have been spending a great deal of time understanding how we learn, and how we grow. This is the direction I am moving into – for my personal life, and my business. Inherent in this is to envision not how we shove social media back into old business models, roles, and quantitative financial metrics. But rather, how we rethink the arbitrary financial metrics that our lives are run by, and use social media to consider how we strip away the layers that hold us back. The layers that keep us from connecting. The layers that keep us from learning. The layers that keep us from growing. In our personal lives and our business lives. Both individually, and as a culture. A world culture. A human culture.

  • http://blog.tippingpointlabs.com/blog tpldrew

    Dan,
    You're so right! It is a human opportunity! I agree completely!
    I just wrote a piece about telling stories and the fact that we have to find the human element. Let me know what you think!
    http://www.tippingpointlabs.com/fireworks
    Great post!
    Thanks for sharing,
    Drew

  • http://www.danblank.com DanBlank

    GREAT PIECE! Thanks Drew.

  • http://www.ForConstructionPros.com Larry Stewart

    Dan,
    I agree wholeheartedly in your assessment of the value that social media is bringing to our lives, but I don't think there's any urgency to tapping its latent human potential. Virtually all of the learning and growing to this point in human history has been done face to face. It's a good way. And as long as you still have people like me in your social network — and by that I mean people whose babies are in high school or older — there's still going to be a lot of face-to-face going on.

    We will, nevertheless, delight in digital connections that include us in the rejoicing when remote friends, acquaintances, connections, followers/followees have a new baby or get a new job or wife or end a battle with cancer. We'll be grateful for the opportunity to encourage each other with words, pictures, video and sound when its necessary.

    If we aren't connected with every face or name we can vaguely remember from the kindergarten composite photo, that's OK. What we have today is WAY better than what we had way back in 2008, or 0208.

    And tomorrow somebody will figure out how to hook you up with those faces from that kindergarten composite. For free. For a while. And once you've grown accustomed to the limitless value of that, you'll be glad to pay $9.95 per year, or month, or week, or day to be a member of that tribe.

    From Mrs. Campbell's 1968 kindergarten class (it's a clip-on)
    http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/photo.php?pid=1429559&id=698771886&ref=fbx_album

    Larry

  • http://www.danblank.com DanBlank

    Larry,
    Great photo! And thanks for your thoughts on this. It's interesting, I've been doing a lot of research into education, and understanding how we learn in schools vs alternative ways of learning that include some online components. Face to face is indeed important, but in some instances, it doesn't really work. EG: the 300 person lecture hall at a university. Somehow, that qualifies as face to face, when really it isn't. Then there are the complex issues about how this affects the education of a student, and the roles of teachers and classmates. Interesting stuff.

    Anyhow – have a great weekend!
    -Dan

  • Rich2

    Yeppers, still doesn't replace meeting people in person…but it does help us connect multi-mile-separations and such. I understand what you're saying, Dan.

  • http://twitter.com/RalfLippold Ralf Lippold

    Yep, there are ways to interconnect (besides having the physical meetings – in a reduced and different manner) and create the bigger picture.

    Working on one, that was inspired by working a crisis camp (using my Palm) in 2002 and then engaged with building a new car plant for BMW.

    How to make with least amount of effort the tacit and actual knowledge available within your team and across the organization?

    Potential that results into reall money – gold is just ahead of us before our eyes!

  • http://www.danblank.com DanBlank

    Ralf, Thanks. Crisis Camps are a REALLY interesting example.
    -Dan

  • http://www.danblank.com DanBlank

    Thanks.
    -Dan

  • HylaMolander

    The power to share the human experience via social media is incredibly profound. Seven years ago, when I was suddenly widowed, there was no online support. Now, though, I have over 1000 widowed friends on Facebook, all of whom share their fears, joys, hopes, guilt, and desire to love again–regardless of their religious or political differences. Often people feel more comfortable expressing themselves when they are not face to face. This connection does, indeed, encourage authenticity in all.

  • http://www.danblank.com DanBlank

    Thank you so much for sharing that. A great example!
    Have a nice day.
    -Dan

  • http://www.facebook.com/ishanbose31 Ishan Bose

    I still didn’t really get ur point from the blog..i mean isn’t the social media we are using already tapping a vast number of human connections? n there are existing options for connecting the different sources of information via social media as well…as far as linkage of the like-minded people is concerned,,i don’t think the people are lame enough not to make out their interest groups..there are many successful groups and links on facebook n twitter which are used by millions of ppl effectively to stay connected n to share their interests…n this is only going to improve further,,,

  • http://www.facebook.com/ishanbose31 Ishan Bose

    I still didn’t really get ur point from the blog..i mean isn’t the social media we are using already tapping a vast number of human connections? n there are existing options for connecting the different sources of information via social media as well…as far as linkage of the like-minded people is concerned,,i don’t think the people are lame enough not to make out their interest groups..there are many successful groups and links on facebook n twitter which are used by millions of ppl effectively to stay connected n to share their interests…n this is only going to improve further,,,

  • http://www.wegrowmedia.com Dan Blank

    Hi Ishan,nThanks for the comment. You are right, social media is tapping into a vast number of human connection, and there are more and more amazing tools to for everyone to connect. nnI suppose this can be a longer discussion about many things. But for the example above – if an old high school friend decides Facebook is no longer for them, they drop off my radar 100%. nnFor as much as something like Facebook has been embedded in the lives of people I know, I still wonder how we can get to another level beyond status updates to connecting us in deeper ways, even beyond interest groups. nnAgain – deeper discussion. Also: it’s 6:30 am on Friday!nnThanks again, I appreciate your sharing here.n-Dan

  • Darien

    Having worked with businesses trying to incorporate social media into their outreach strategy, it’s interesting seeing how the effort of incorporating this element actually has an overall affect on how they understand their customers. nnAt first they just view it as another channel that they can “leverage” as you say, but over time I’ve actually seen businesses start to perceive of the people they’re speaking with in a more complete way, and not just as a number in a series of metrics, but also as a responsive group of individuals that have ideas, needs, and passions. That’s not to say that metrics don’t still play a profound role in the planning and evaluation of business marketing strategies.nnI don’t think we can separate business and people. They are just two different concepts of identity, but both have responded and begun to adapt to social media, and it has shaped group consciousness both at an individual and organizational level. To what degree, is up for debate, of course.nn

  • http://www.wegrowmedia.com Dan Blank

    Darien – thanks – GREAT points! Nice to see how social media can humanize the business process.n-Dan

  • Toni Aull

    Congratulations on your new arrival. You have communicated well with me in twitter that I see no problem you connecting with your baby- after all loving your wife produce a beautiful son!nNows that’s Communication

  • http://www.CAfranchiseopportunities.com/best-franchise-opportunities/ best franchise opportunities

    Yes, this is very much true as we all know that social media is one of the best and the effective way for the marketing of the business. Social media lead to expand business all over the world through marketing.

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