Most business people approach social media like Fred the Baker (the “time to make the donuts” guy of old) approached donut making — it’s a place you have to trudge off to each day to stick some marketing messages, so you can check “stick some marketing messages” off your to do list.
And that’s a pretty limited philosophy for such a limitless medium.
I’ve been catching up on back seasons of the show, Fringe,* recently, which got me to thinking that social media is much more like a science lab where you conduct experiments, than a donut shop where you serve up orders.
It is a realm for scientists — people who are passionately curious, adventurous enough to tip something upside down to look at it in a new way, unafraid to try something…fail…and then try something different.
Like the cases scientist Walter Bishop tackles on Fringe, if you look for the ordinary in social media, you will always find it. But, if you are adventurous enough to look for the original, or even the impossible, you may find something that could change your whole world.**
So, put on your lab coats, ladies and gentlemen, and grab some licorice.*** It’s time to start thinking like a scientist and experimenting with how you use social media.
For instance, beyond marketing, have you used it to…
- Learn more about the skills you need to do your job better (e.g. human resources) or, more specifically, your job in your field (e.g. human resources in healthcare)?
- Research your competitors and the people who do what you do for your competitors?
- Develop contacts with media who cover topics related to your industry?
- Gather quotes or stories to help inspire you during the rough patches in your life?
- Crowdsource new products, programs or service offerings?
- Observe your competitors while they crowdsource new products, programs or service offerings?
- Test different communication mediums for your messaging? (Does it attract more traffic and/or interaction when presented as a video or as blog post?)
- Research government policy being developed in Washington as it relates to your industry?
- Identify and build relationships with mentors to help you get to the next level in your career?
- Research discussion forums where people are posing questions related to your industry?
- Identify top bloggers in your industry and develop relationships with them that could lead to guest blogging opportunities?
- Secure business partnerships with other companies or professionals within your career or industry?
- Create closed forums or groups to prototype and discuss new ideas with other industry thought leaders or departments within your company?
The list goes on, and on. It’s a veritable Petri dish of possibilities.
The point is to let go of this notion that social media is a place you go to only when you want to market your company. That’s as ridiculous as saying that Target is the place you go to only when you want to buy socks.
Social media is an entity – a portal into humanity – that is what you create it to be. It has the potential to educate, connect, advance, entertain and inform that is limited only by your imagination.
So, image you are a scientist the next time you log on and see where your social science experiments can take you.
*I think shows like Fringe are best watched all in one long continuous chunk — a process which Wired magazine calls, Binge TV consumption. I highly recommend giving it a try for shows with intricate plot lines and mythologies.
**No, you will not likely find a parallel universe in social media. But then again, I haven’t been looking for one. So, really, what do I know?
***Holy moley, do they eat a lot of licorice on Fringe.