A River Called "Social"

Social media marketing : A river called social

I used to go “tubing” on a river not far from Toronto. Tubing is where you ride an old tire inner-tube down a river or creek. On this particular river, part of the fun is that there are some pretty good rapids which give you a bit of a rush. My wife and I went camping and tubing there at least once a year and I felt pretty confident that I had mastered it.

I don’t tube there any more because the last time I went, I almost drowned. I hit one of the rapids, the tube flipped over and I found out what it was like to be shoved into a washing machine and put through a full cycle. I came very close to a soggy end (even with a life jacket on) because I was overconfident and thought I knew what to expect from the river.

Social media is like that river – it’s powerful and swift and just when you think you have it mastered, it can suddenly change and suck you under. Any “riverman” will tell you that you can never assume you know all there is to know about a river – a river runs and you have to keep up with it.

We’ve seen the power  of social media bring a torrent of change to places such as Egypt and Tunisia – demonstrating the power of social to connect so many people and empower them. People realizing they are not alone, speaking up and speaking together, using social media to unite and amplify their voices. Not to be glib, but it’s been a great example of WOM.

You can call me a romantic, but I constantly find myself being inspired by the power of the individual to reach out and be heard via social media. Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and the various sharing sites present the opportunity to broadcast one’s self around the globe.

As we admire the power of this river we would all be well advised to heed this warning from futurist Alvin Toffler:

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”
–  Alvin Toffler

That sums up the immediate and future destiny of just about anyone who wants to do more regarding marketing than simply sleep through the class in college. We aren’t even at the beginning of the end or even the end of the beginning – a beginning which can only promise us rapid change. What I’m learning is that what I know today might be challenged tomorrow and I have to stay open minded.

Change will be constant, change will be dramatic and change will be quick. If you stagnate, you will be swamped by your competitors.

Whatever social metrics come along, they won’t paddle your canoe for you. I grew up on a river and it was never the same thing twice. You may know a river, but you can never really understand it and you can certainly never take it for granted. Just when you think you know it’s limits, it breaks the banks and moves mountains.

We still have a lot to learn, unlearn and relearn about the river known as social.