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Social Media is the New Tattoo

Social Media is the New Tattoo

While on Twitter I read a post (or a “tweet”) that someone “Just realized social media is the new tattoo. What seems cool to tweet at 20 will be a jobkiller when you’re 30. Get tattoo, easier to undo.” This insight, as so often does, led to an interesting conversation.

The problem is that there is no way to stop the train, unring the bell, get the horse back in the barn or write a good metaphor. As a global online population, we are connecting with more people quicker than ever before.

Social media is based on conversations. Just like in “real life,” the conversations you have when you are in high school or college may not be the type you want to be reminded of ten years later. When the conversation also includes video and audio, the tattoo scenario becomes very real.

The source of that gem of a quote was Michelle Tripp, Creative Director and Strategy Officer at Idea Worldwide and founder of the new marketing and branding agency, Identity New York. She has worked with clients such as HCA Healthcare, Orchid BioSciences and Time Warner Cable. “Being able to engage in conversation and connect with so many minds, ideas and cultures is fascinating. It expands your world.”

It’s true. Once you invest a few weeks in building a Twitter network of people who add value to your day, you are exposed to more news and ideas than at any time in your life. The key is adding people who provide content that is relevant to you. Your ability to grow by using social media is unparalleled.

Tripp is spot-on with her body-art assessment. More than half of hiring departments already check your LinkedIn profile before calling you for an interview, and many more Google you. They want to see how you’ve grown (or not) in your career and in your personal life – something previously unavailable to them.

What you enter in any social network, or the web for that matter, is likely being stored, cross-indexed, and will eventually be used to sell to you.

Where is advertising going? Tripp says “the advertising of the future will be anti-advertising. Advertisers of the future will have to be part of a conversation, as opposed to ‘broadcasting’. Twitter is just the tip of the iceberg.”

Tripp is cautious of predicting even five or 10 years into the future. “The way technology is moving at warp speed there will be so many developments that will change the face of advertising.”

Twitter is known for its concise conversations of less than 140 characters. It can be punctuated with links to video, audio or web pages.

The company’s co-founder Biz Stone recently told Ad Age that they see lucrative opportunities in a new type of search than not even Google can provide. “There are companies and brands depending on it more and more and finding the insights valuable in how they make decisions. What further can we do to help them?”

Part of the answer is real-time polling of people (prospects) anywhere or everywhere in the world. Learning the real-time attitudes, interests and opinions – and the changing dynamics of those elements – provides a new way to reach customers. The end result is to meet your needs with the right message for you. To clarify, this is not (at least to my knowledge) yet implemented.

Even small businesses with a good number of followers can learn a lot about what their customers want, and without any real money being spent.

The emerging marketing practice of psychographic segmentation allows the breakdown by online behaviors and attitudes as well as other existing elements to better target customers. The “male, 18-24 years old with 2 cars and making above $50,000” is a demographic that is about to be extinct.

Facebook has announced that their top initiatives are enhancing the fast-growing mobile platforms, and developing one of the world’s largest marketing databases.

I’ve been calling mobile devices the next chewing gum for a while now. Maybe not for you (yet), but more people each day are getting smart with smart phones. Very quietly, top cell phone companies, including Nokia are now also making notebook computers. The convergence of the two devices is not an “if”, but a “when.”

“Mobile will be used to make purchases on site, receive in-store sales notices and coupons using RF frequencies. It’s not happening yet but it will,” predicts Tripp. “You’ll be driving down a street and based on your preferences you’ll get messages promoting the stores you’re passing”.

Companies like the startup already sends coupons to phones via SMS text messages, and may obviously be poised for future steps. Programs at M.I.T, Yahoo! and many other companies are all pointing down this “mobile road.” In fact, it is now reasonable to believe that the one laptop per child program may evolve into one smart mobile device per child by 2020.

How do you prepare for the mobile ‘n social world?

First, hope Human Resources people get more tolerant of postings and photos. Assume that there is always a camera and someone stupid enough to post the worst possible photos. The sooner we can teach our children and our friends about the far-reaching consequences of this, the better.

If you want to leverage this for your business, look at it this way: you have messages to tell your customers and ways of reinforcing your true core values by speaking to them one-on-one. If you think that this is too time consuming or expensive, the cost of not doing it may be akin to passing on the Internet in the 90s.

“Companies must ramp up their new media presence and do it now. They need to start cultivating digital employees. You’d think kids coming out of college would be experts at social media but in a lot of ways the older generations are more advanced. Younger employees grew up with technology and it doesn’t excite and thrill them the way it does people over 30, and I’m seeing lot of them take it for granted.”

Don’t just put out “buy, buy, buy!” messages. That is not a conversation and is just darn annoying. You wouldn’t go to a dinner party and yell “buy, buy, buy,” or at least I hope you wouldn’t. This is exactly the same thing, only totally different.

You are sculpting your brand, and affecting what you want others to say about you. It is “word of mouth” advertising enhanced with the speed of the Internet. The rules of conversations apply, listening is greater than speaking.

Before you really start sharing, follow individuals and companies to learn what works – and what does not. Small companies now have an equalizer, and larger companies must showcase why people should stick with them.

Where is this going? E-mail solutions are emerging that allow text, photos, images and video. Hosting the data elsewhere allows it to be optimized to be fast in a desktop or cell phone browser. Conversations will smoothly integrate these elements as well.

So get started now. You likely won’t regret this move in ten years.

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