This Isn’t Your Father’s Social Media

This Isn’t Your Father’s Social Media
Communication Has Dramatically Changed

The days of being excited and celebrating “social media” has run it course.  Over the past decade plus, social media came into it’s own as the leading way to communicate for sales, customers service, transactional, spam, and for personal connection.

Over the past three years, social media has become less and less effective as a communication tool.  Using digital tools today has become much more complicated than ever before.  Just having a Facebook page, a profile on LinkedIn, or sending out a few tweets no longer cuts it.

The problem is content overload.  Everyone is talking and nobody is listening.  I blame the problem in part on Google and the remainder on the human condition, narcissism.

On February 3rd, 2011, Google launched it’s first and most dramatic changes in the way search engines (all), search the Internet.  Then on April 24, 2012, Google released Penguin and again on September 26, 2013, Google released Hummingbird, which put the final nails in our web search coffin.

Each of these changes required we, businesses and business people to flood the internet with our content.  The more (high quality) content we have associated with our companies, the higher we were pushed up on the search engines.  Higher rankings translates to higher revenue.  It became a content frenzy.

The second problem became the decade of the narcissist, the “selfie”.  Today’s technology is designed to promote the individual, whether it’s “I’m having a smoothie for breakfast.” tweet or post, or a “hey look at me!” Instagram photo, or a Be sure to watch me live on Facebook”, live video.  Everyone is obsessed with creating personal and business content being poured onto the Internet.

Today’s Consumer

Today’s consumer is more of a “pro-sumer” than a “con-sumer”.  They are hyper-educated about their favorite brands and products.  They know where to purchase their “selfie-sticks” at the lowest price and shortest delivery time.  We marketers and customer service people could only talk about 20 years ago, was building brand loyalty and building a relationship with our customers.  Customers no longer care about web sites and relationships, they know what they want and how to find it at the fastest and cheapest price.

Before social media (digital communication), marketing and CRM was simply managing a bank of 800 numbers and opening some U.S. Mail.  Today we are expected to manage dozens of platforms from Facebook to Instagram, Twitter to Snapchat, YouTube to email, telephone to snail mail, all in real time with immediate responses.

Now most customers don’t want a “relationship”.  They care about maintaining their own personal relationships.  They don’t want to talk on the phone, go to a web site to search around, or they certainly aren’t mailing a letter any more.  They want answers and they want them now.  They also expect to use the technology they are most comfortable with.


There has been a substantial segmentation in our customer base and the way they communicate. Our once easy to categorized customer is now split up between  different technology platforms, time zones, county preferences, and age groups.

We must understand that, we have moved past generically praising social media as it has stopped working and has become ineffective as a communication tool.  Our responsibility now, is to understanding every age group, every tool, everywhere and measure each form of communication to determine what’s working and what isn’t for us.  I created a video to explain this:

Communication Through The Ages

Here’s a personal example:  My son is 45, daughter 42, and youngest daughter is 32.  My wife and son have never opened Snapchat or Facebook.  They have no interest whatsoever.  They talk on the phone. She calls, leaves a message, he calls back.  Like the good old days.

My wife calls the 42 year old daughter and always gets her voicemail.  She never returns my wife’s calls.  This infuriates my wife.  My wife keeps calling until she finally gets her on the phone and asks (loudly), why don’t you return my messages!  She answers: “If you want me to call you back, you have to text me to tell me you called me and left a voicemail.”  That’s when my wife looses it.  My youngest daughter just let her voicemail and email fill up until they both shut off.  She will only respond to text messages.

This may sound like a funny family anecdote, but this is the way people are choosing different platforms to communication on.

The Generational Gaps

Studying the behavioral patterns of different generational categories can sometimes be as accurate as trying to develop a communication plan based on the twelve astrological signs.  There are many generalizations that can be assumed.  Here’s a test of how well you know the different categories.

Can you define: The Silent Generation, Traditionalists, The Moral Authority, Radio Babies, The Swing Generation, The Forgotten Generation?

Do you know how to communicate with the: The Me Generation, Boomers, and Baby Boomers?

What’s the best way to communicate with the: Gen X, Xers, The Doers, Post Boomers, Slackers, Baby Busters, The 13th Generation?

What platforms do the: Gen Y, Generation Next, Echo Boomers, Chief Friendship Officers, Nexters, and 24/7’s prefer?

Are the: Generation Z, Globals, Post-Millennials, Generation D, Digital Natives, Generation Like, the Selfie Generation, The Rainbow Generation, Homelanders, and The 9/11 Generation on Facebook?

Would the: TwoKays, 2K’s, Y2Ks, The Conflict Generation, Generation i, iGeners, iGens, The N-Gen, @generation, Screeners, The Swipe Generation, Tweennials, and Tweens, read a tweet?

Have you even heard of the DINKS, The Sandwich Generation, The Club-Sandwich Generation, The Jigsaw Family, Boomerang Kids, Middle Age (Midlife), Middle Youth, Adultescent, Downager, Quarterlife Crisis, Waithood, and Grey Nomads?

Every one of these groups communicate using different tools, at different times, and in different languages.  And…  The millennials are a whole other story!  They are making a larger and larger impact every day.  OMG!  That’s a whole other presentation.  I have a more detailed explanation of these generational categories on my blog at:

Geographical Differences

If you market, sell, or support outside of the United States you need to be aware of the subtle differences in preferences in communication technology.  As an example, in Asia and India (I know they are considered both Asia, but the cultures and communication preferences are significantly different), WhatsApp is HUGE!  Not so much here in the U.S.  But why the difference.

Specifically in India, nearly 90% of all transactactifon are done with cash.  There are no credit cards to speak of, no one has a car loan or a home mortgage, it’s cash.  So goes the cellphone, cash.  The Indians pay for their SimCards by the month.  They don’t have contracts they pay each month or do they don’t have cellphone plans.  No plans, no data plans.  They have to pay for each separate text message.

In walks “WhatsApp” with free text messaging, and it becomes an instant success.  With our data plans here in the U.S., sending text is inconsequential, so we don’t need the app.

In China the gloves are off!  There is no Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube..  I don’t mean it isn’t popular.  Every western social media platform is blocked.  It’s blocked!  They do have WeChat (微信; Wēixìn), RenRen (人人; rén rén), Weibo (微博; Wēibó), Youku Tudou (优酷土豆; Yōukù tǔdòu), DianPing (大众点评; dà zhòng diǎn píng), and DouBan (豆瓣; dòu bàn).

When I was teaching in Shanghai, I paused in front of the class, pondered, and said “2,000 years ago you guys built the Great Wall of China.  Today, you built the Great Firewall of China!”  I thought for sure the Chinese military would burst into the classroom and cart me off to places unknown, but they just laughed.

Now, this example might be a bit extreme, but were you aware of these?  Even though you are a professional communicator?


Cyber-Surveillance is more critical than ever.  Cyber-Surveillance of brand monitoring is becoming much more difficult to effectively maintain even with the latest monitoring tools.  We are now expected to communicate over a very wide list of technologies and platforms and we are expected to respond immediately.

Those of us in customer service are required to intensely monitor every conversation being held worldwide that involve our products and our brands.  The additional problem we face is that often within the corporate flowchart.  This type of monitoring often falls into the Marketing silo.  Participating in that conversation, using every available technology, measuring results and activity, identify the best tools for communicating to your specific customers becomes even more difficult.

Technology Is Changing The Human Condition

In May of 2015, Time Magazine published an article about a study performed by Microsoft about the new, human attention span.  For the very first time ever, the human attention span tested lower (shorter) than that of a goldfish.  Yes, a goldfish has a longer attention span than do we.

The study showed in the year 2000, the gold fish tested with an attentions span of 9 seconds, while humans tested out at 12.  The test was then performed again in 2013 and while the goldfish maintained their 9 second span, we humans dropped to 8 seconds falling below that of the goldfish.  This has a significant affect on how we communicate, market, support.

We no longer can find the time to read a book, or do we have time for a shorter eBook.  A white paper is now too time consuming.  Even a 10 minute video is closed out of by the third minute.

I recently authored an eBook with a colleague, Dr. Gary Witt, Ph.D.  We studied 132 blogs written by the best selling author Dave Kerpen (Likeable Social Media) posted on LinkedIn.  While the majority of blog reads were 50,000 to 250,000 reads, several of his blogs reads were more than 1m, with one at 2.5 million reads.

7.5 Secrets To A Successful Blog:

What we found was a fundamental shift from readers willing to read to understand the subject matter, to reading looking only for shortcuts.  Kerpen’s blogs with titles such as “The 5 Things You Need To Know…” or “Three Mistakes That People Make…”, or “The 7.5 Secrets Secrets To A Successful Blog” had statistically higher reads by far.

I interviewed people about their reading preferences, what I discovered was consistently, their responses were “I don’t have time to read a book or a blog, but I do have time to skim 5 things I need to know.”

How Do We Effectively Communicate

So, what does this all mean to us as professional communicators?  Communication isn’t what it was.  We can no longer try to communicate the way our parents did or how we did just 10 years ago.  We cannot assume that everyone is communicating the same way using the same technology. 

If you feel that social media isn’t working for you, it’s not just you.  Going to more conference or watching more webinars about how to use Facebook Ads won’t be the answer.  We are all experiencing the same problem.

Our assumptions will fail.  Today, we have to employ measurement.  By measuring everything, is the only way can effectively manage our communication and relationships with our customers.  We need to know who is communicating with us and where.

Be aware, there isn’t a single answer to this question.  You will find small percentages of your demographics distributed across every network.  You need to determine where those percentages are and focus on the platforms with the largest numbers to accumulate the highest critical mass of customers.  The truth is, there is no formula, secret sauce, treasure map someone or some brand stubbled upon that by sharing their story, will give you your answers.

Remember, customers no longer want a “relationship”.  They want the product cheap and fast and they want answers to their questions, instantaneously.  CRM isn’t about talking on the phone anymore.  It’s about getting answers, quickly, where they want them.  BestBuy successfully proved that with their customers, and customer tech support where it turned out it was their customer’s who chose Twitter as their platform of choice to communicate.  No one saw that coming.

Here’s a graph that might help.

Fusion  Marketing

Fusion is a marketing system I invented and now a best selling book published through McGraw Hill:

The concept of intensely integrating (which inadequately describes the Fusion concept), describes how, once you have identified all of the traditional, social, and digital tools that are effective for communicating with your customers, you “Fuse” those tools together into a comprehensive communication strategy. 

In short, are you using Facebook to drive your customers to Twitter?  On Twitter are you tweeting that “If you like my 140 characters, you’ll love our emails!”  On LinkedIn, do you have your FAQ’s?  On your “on-hold” message, are you driving people to your web site?  On your business cards, to you have a QR Barcode that links to a video encouraging people to connect with you and your brand?  To learn more about the Fusion process, you can read a comprehensive outline here:

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Did you find this helpful?  What experience do you have with any of these groups? Have you experienced any other “traits” not mentioned here?  What would you add to this?  Please email me your thoughts though the Comment page above!

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Lon Safko is an acclaimed international keynote speaker, trainer, and bestselling author of The Social Media Bible, and The Fusion Marketing Bible.

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