The Mindblasting Explosion that is Social Media


The last 6-12 months have been quite interesting. The credit crisis hit harder than most people expected and we now find ourselves in an unapologetic downturn. On the upside, social media (or social web) has exploded everywhere and it is now officially mindblasting.


From Facebook co-founders working for former presidential nominees, to Twitter love on Today, Colbert ReportOprah, Super News! and Ellen, social media and anything and everything related to it has become quite the serious matter.


Celebrities have become bigger celebrities (Shaq, the real one, is now appreciated much more for his tweets than for his free throws). Congress is getting super duper good at least at something. Universities are offering social media degrees. Companies and brands are now rushing to create profiles, viral videos and YouTube apologies, blogs, forums (Verizon's Community Forums), podcasts, plugins, iPhone apps, browser toolbars, RSS feeds, creative forms of crowdsourcing, wikis, Second life empty islands, volunteer networks (V2V + Starbucks), Adobe Air applications, entire web sites (skittles anyone?),  and ad campaigns (Burger King Whopper Sacrifice)...


The list goes on and on. And ALL of this around the idea that social media / web / interweb is the secret to generating meaningful and desperately needed cost-effective buzz.


Some companies have gone above and beyond by developing their own social features (Hulu Friends, Boxee) and integrating popular services in new ways (CBS Sports' March Madness, PepsiCo's SXSW twitter visualizer , Yahoo!'s tweetdeck-ish Sideline). Don't even get me started about how excited I am about the future of televesion, but Verizon FiOS' Widget Bazaar is an indication of great things to come.


Sure, it is very cool that all kinds of companies are getting deep into social media, but the real story is the way in which people have rallied behind the idea and the ideal of social media. Regular people have not only learned to use it but have also been the driving force behind the way we use technology to communicate, think, and act online (and offline too). Legitimate, transparent, engaging, and often mobile thoughts, ideas, and opinions have resulted in decentralized and worthwhile conversations.


One problem with the mindblastingness of it all is that way too many think they can become overnight consultants and marketers and social web know-it-alls. It seems like now absolutely everyone who participates in any kind of social media-ish activity can call himself a social media expert. Many others have talked about this, including a self-professed "Social Networking Coach" from Organic (an interactive ad agency) who compares such experts to snake oil peddlers. Organic even April-fooled a bunch of people (just a few thousand) by posting "Senior Re-tweeter" job positions. Appicants were not only dismayed by the economic environment, but also extra disappointed by finding out that the postings were not for real. I'm sure there are many regular non-senior "Re-tweeters" out there, but I am yet to hear about one that works for an interactive agency.


But maybe the jobs of the future will include the social web in ways we can't even imagine. There is indeed much excitement about what people and businesses will be able to do with it. The fact that Google is already using Twitter to aggregate and syndicate tweets (err.. sell ads) and could eventually ballmer / acquire Twitter shows that the explosion has only just begun.


As serious as social media is though, it should not be taken too seriously.


So calm yourself down already. Learn from it, have fun with it, leverage it, don't overrate it, fail at it, definitely ignore it at times (don't be so social that you become anti-social), and remember -- regardless of whether you have 800 ideas, 800 clients, 800 followers, 800 blog entries or 800 customer support numbers -- everyone is involved, but if everyone's an expert, no one is.

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Copyright © Esteban Contreras. All rights reserved.