I had an interesting back and forth with Adam the other day on Twitter about his perception that ‘social media gurus’ don’t openly disagree or challenge each other’s thoughts. I wanted to write a post about that, but then I realized that our discussion actually dovetailed a bit into another train of thought I’ve been having lately; Where have all the great thought leadership blogs gone?
2005 and 2006 was a magical time for me. Not only was I discovering blogging for the first time, but I was also discovering some amazing bloggers and some profoundly provocative writing on the future of marketing. Blogs like Horse Pig Cow, Gaping Void, Church of the Customer and Creating Passionate Users inspired me on a daily basis and their thoughts got my creative juices flowing and led to some/most of my best writing.
But around 2007 or 2008, the social media/marketing blogging space began to change. We went from discussions largely around ‘What If…’ to ‘What Is’ when it came to social media and its impact on marketing. At the time, this change was welcomed, I remember talk around 2007 or so that we ‘needed to stop talking theory, and start sharing real-world results if we want businesses to take social media seriously’. By 2007 and 2008, a few innovative companies were starting to produce real case studies from their early social media efforts, and almost overnight, it seems as if we all stopped talking theory, and started embracing reality.
Which is good, to a degree. It’s wonderful that we started incorporating ‘real world’ business examples into our writings. But in the process, I think we went too far away from what made our writings so incredibly compelling to begin with.
We stopped asking ‘What If…’
The discussion around ‘Social Business’ has been nagging at me for a while now. Last week, someone ( I wish I could remember where I saw it) said ‘What everyone is calling ‘Social Business’ seems to just be ‘Good Business’. Exactly. This was what was irritating me. There’s nothing revolutionary or ‘bleeding edge’ about ‘Social Business’. We just took the idea of running a ‘Good’ business and swapped in the ‘Social’ modifier, and it’s as if we slapped it in a Shiny Object wrapper.
Is it vitally important that companies facilitate collaboration between their employees? That they find ways to better connect with their customers and they with the company? That they have tighter connections and smarter conversations with their partners/vendors?
Yes, of course, and you betcha. But all of those things were just as important in 1912 as they are in 2012.
Back to Adam’s point, somewhere along the line, I think we stopped publicly challenging and disagreeing with each other as much as we should. Disagreeing with someone isn’t a bad thing (unless you are being disagreeable, there’s a BIG difference), and it encourages thought to have your ideas challenged.
I think we aren’t challenging and building on each other’s ideas like we once did. As a result, I think the entire Social Media/Marketing blogosphere/whatever has become largely stagnant. We haven’t run out of new ideas because there’s nothing new to talk about, we’ve run out of new ideas because we aren’t pushing each other to FIND those new ideas.
In 2005 and 2006 we had The Porous Membrane to explain why Corporate Blogging worked, we had Pinko Marketing to explain how customers were more empowered than ever and Influence Ripples to explain how ideas spread and bloggers become influential online.
Today we have ‘Why Your Business Should be a Social Business’, ‘How Pinterest is Killing (Insert SM site here)’, and ‘Klout Sucks’.
We need to do better. Starting today, I promise to start asking ‘What If…’ here more often. Sure, I may sometimes make a fool out of myself in the process (Because that doesn’t happen already ;)), but I think asking the occasional question is better than acting like you have all the answers.