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09/07/2010 In the land of the blind, a one-eyed man is king

I heard an old Tom Waits tune this weekend and when that line popped up, guess what I thought of? Social Media.

Perhaps I’m a little impatient, but for all of our excitement about the possibilities, our talking about the future of communications and our expectations of the transformative and chaotic power of social marketing, we don’t have a lot to show for it.

Or, we only have a few really transformative examples of how its changing life both inside and outside of companies.

We can talk about Zappos, of course. They certainly have taken their customer service focus and used the social channels to expand and reinforce that focus. We can talk about Starbucks who have used social channels effectively for everything from location-based promotions to HR hiring.

The larger question, to me at least, is whether social has succeeded in transforming any older brands or whether its simply another marketing channel brands now pay a little attention to. And I mean a little; while growing, when you compare social media budgets to the marketing budgets brands still put toward traditional media outlets, social is still teeny-weeny. While Pepsi might have won some props by not running Super Bowl ads, they still spend a boatload (an aircraft carrier’s worth) of money on traditional media compared with the little (a dinghy’s worth) they spend on social media.

The inner transformation within companies across silos and in service to customers is an incredibly slow, expensive slog. Let’s not forget that inner transformation costs resources. Which companies have really put down the cash to make that happen?

I wonder if the recession has helped promote the idea that things are changing more rapidly than they are. Spending on traditional media is down, but it would be anyway in our economy, social or no social. Transformation is easier to talk about when you’re facing a cliff economically.

It’s easy to promote the early social brands as winners today, but I wonder if they’re truly winners or just a little bit better than all of today’s mediocre social brands.

In the land of the blind, a one-eyed man is king.




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