Just as with technology my thoughts seem to be moving away from just social media for the sake of it and instead trying to focus on what it allows us to achieve.
In my time away from the blog it seems that very little has changed with the same conversations still doing the rounds. It's almost like I've not been away (or rather than the past few weeks didn't happen) - almost like those in the social media space have been caught a time loop. Perhaps this is the danger of being an early adopter stuck in the echo chamber - caught in perpetual echoes. Occasionally a new stone gets thrown in the pond but the ripples bounce back off the sides and cause interference patterns preventing us from seeing clearly and moving on.
I want to take you back to the conversation started by Alexander van Elsas regarding TV as a social media channel. This was an example of social media at its best but, even then, things can only so far when the conversation is contained within a few early adopters.
It did illustrate how different people from different walks of life all around the world can get together to consider a particular issue. It's not because they are experts in the field or engineers but because they share an interest and passion for improving the way they communicate with others.
If we use this as an example we can see how social media can translate to a business environment.
There are two potential target areas for social media in a business environment: the internal network purely for employees; and the external - be it for connecting to partners or vendors, or to your customers. A social network established in both of these areas could be used for good effect.
Interest in any given subject extends beyond our normal work hours, duties or opening times and the uptake in social media shows that people like to communicate and discuss issues even on their down-time. We may have great ideas but if they are not written down they are soon forgotten so is it not best to provide a forum where they can be stored?
Many a true word
Imagine if the above conversation was being held on an internal social network by engineers and developers working for a cable company (maybe it already has been). The old maxim says "many a true word said in jest" and often great ideas arise from just chewing the fat and jokingly suggesting 'fantastic' propositions. We throw mud at the wall and see how much sticks then, before you know it, you have a viable product idea created by a 'free' think tank.
Why limit this process to your staff? As part of your customer outreach why not allow your customers to provide a 'wish list' and demonstrate that you are listening and taking valid requests under consideration?
As people, we benefit from having a sense of ownership and inclusion and are more likely to remain loyal both as employess and customers if we feel we are valued especially if contributions are incentivised. Social networks provide an ideal way to facilitate this.
It has been interesting to see that, despite me having absolutely no presence on any social media service or the blog, that there have been quite a high number of posts by other bloggers over the past few weeks referencing me or my content - obviously out of sight isn't out of mind. This is quite refreshing and helps to confirm that quality content can exist on its own without being permanently shoved down peoples throats. But published content is only one side of the conversation.
Sal nailed it in her recent post about social media and mums: do they need it? No! But used in the right way and at the right time it can be incredibly beneficial.
The weekend of father's day (15th June here in the UK) saw me have a great time with the family and it is times like this that make you realise it's people that are important and this extends to social media. It's not the tool, it's not how many 'friends' you can gather but it's the people behind the avatars - what they think, what they've got to say and how we can connect to affect change.
It is great speaking to a number of like minded individuals who view social media in a similar way but everything we discuss as early adopters is just speculation until we start getting some real world examples to show that social media can penetrate the world outside our little bubble. It needs this validation or all our positing and gestures are effectively empty.
Chris Brogan asked on Twitter what the early adopters will do once the rest of the world "get's it". Instead, I would ask what will we do when we realise the rest of the world doesn't care?