The biggest barrier to maximizing the potential of social technology — in sales, PR, marketing or even internal collaboration — is the persistent notion that it is mysterious, complex and utterly impractical.
Millions of people that your organization is trying to reach are still staying away from social networks because they don’t feel like they “get” what they’re for. Your boss doesn’t want you using social networks for work because they look like toys. Maybe you’re even still stumbling a little as you build your social presence, still treating these platforms like mystical alien artifacts that will explode if not handled with the utmost care.
We need a Rosetta Stone to get us all on the same page, establishing once and for all that social media is neither quantum physics, nor voodoo, nor frivolity. For a long time, I thought that something would be a new, more evolved social network — something so intuitive that anyone could look at it for a minute and understand what it was for. But I was wrong. The key isn’t some magical new network. It’s e-mail.
Everyone who uses the Internet understands e-mail — even if they don’t necessarily use it that often. It is the closest thing the Web has to common ground. That is why things like Google Buzz and Microsoft’s new Outlook Social Connector are so important. In a few years, social media won’t be some crazy waste of time that only young people understand — it’ll just be another part of e-mail.
OK, that’s over simplifying it a little bit — there will still be profiles and apps and all sorts of other higher functions. But the building blocks of social media — connections and updates — will become universal. I think that once those elements are in place, they become a gateway drug of sorts. Once you get the benefit of simply connecting with people and sharing information, you start to see the benefit in all those other tools, as well.
The good news for those of use who are already using the technology is that as networks gain participation, they have the potential to become more useful to everyone. You may also see the distinction between networks matter less, even as more niche networks gain popularity — because we’ll be connecting to it all through e-mail. I also think it will bring a change in focus away from understanding tools and on applied business functions — worrying about the marketing part of social-media marketing instead of stressing about the latest tools.
What other changes will e-mail integration bring? Any potential problems on the horizon? Anyone not convinced that e-mail will change the way nonusers look at social networks?
Image credit, AndyL, via iStock