When I think social media, I think five course meal. I think candles. I think cloth napkins. I think extensive wine list and sommelier. I think silverware. I think china. I think digestif. I think gourmet.
I don’t think fast food. I don’t think disposable flatware. I don’t think throw-away containers. I don’t think drive-through. I don’t think pepto-bismol chasers.
We’re living in interesting times. Those of us who were ahead of the wave are now watching it crash down on the beach, and the sound is exhilarating. Companies are convinced and coming to us asking for social media strategies. How do we counsel them?
It seems easy to offer up the fast food solution. Terms like ‘viral’ are bandied around, and the number of Facebook fans or Twitter followers seem to be the golden ring everyone is reaching for. But what about community? Social media is at its best when building community ties is the ultimate goal. This requires patience, investment and commitment … not really qualities we’re known for, as a society, here in North America. Or at least not qualities we’ve been known for since our economy was turned upside down in the post-war period. Since we entered into the consumer society era.
Social media is like a gourmet meal. It’s at its best when time is taken in its preparation. When benchmarking studies and influencer audits are done. When listening takes a front seat. Then you choose your wine. You take the time to choose between Bordeaux and Merlot. Blog or Facebook. You decide on vintage. Twitter or podcasting. The first course comes and you savour it. You enjoy sitting at a table with your other dinner guests, discussing common interests and learning about one another. By the time the third course is served, you’ve started to warm up to one another. You build trust. You feel you can lean over and ask for a favour or for advice. By the fourth course, you’re not surprised when the person sitting across from you at the table offers up an apology or a solution to a problem you’re experiencing. By the time dessert has been served and the last digestif enjoyed, and you stand up to leave the table, you’re promising one another that you’ll have to do it again next week. And offering to bring an interesting guest to the next dinner party.
Social media done right takes us back to a time when we relished in long conversation, and trust was earned and then sealed with a handshake. It is life at a slower pace, at a time when our business culture has us moving at breakneck speed.
It is a gourmet meal in fast-food times.