Search Engine MarketingOne question I’ve been asked a lot recently is “what’s going to be the next Twitter?” The quick answer is, it doesn’t matter. I know that sounds flip but hear me out before you think I’m just another social media basher (you’ll know this is not the case if you read my blog). I say “it doesn’t matter,” not because I don’t love Twitter and all the other social networks but because it assumes that the concept of “social” can be limited to a single tool.

To that end, comparing the phenomenon of “social” to a tool is somewhat akin to thinking that a good website is strictly about a great logo or a slick header graphic. Obviously those things help but they aren’t the end all to be all. It’s the concept of great usability and design coming together meeting the needs of a stated business objective that makes a site great. Oh yeah, the site damn well better meet the needs of the customer too. Otherwise, you’re dead in the water.

Getting back to my rant about Twitter and why limiting “social” to the category of a “tool” is such a pet peeve of mine… Well, it’s not dissimilar to thinking that the discipline of marketing could be confined to just e-mail or advertising. While some companies might concentrate their efforts on a particular tactic, most good businesses also leverage other tactics to help accomplish their goals. They also realize that at the end of the day, “marketing” isn’t limited to one tool because it’s a more about a philosophy and a thought process than it is a bunch of tools.

The difference between good marketing or even site design is that while “social” can be important to helping a company get in touch with its customers, it can also be a transformative power within an organization helping companies:

  • Share ideas — both internally and externally
  • Co-create with its customers
  • Energize its customer base by creating a launch pad for word of mouth marketing
  • Deepen loyalty and increase referrals by giving customers something of value

I guess the next time someone asks me what the next “Twitter” is, I’m going to tell them that it’s the wheel, or the printing press. Or a turbine engine. Or the Internet. Maybe then they’ll start to think about this brave new world of “social” as something more than just a tool.

So how does your company describe “social?” Let us know in the comments — just do me a favor and don’t use the “T” word.