“Help Me, Help You.” Jerry Maguire


I’m not a big fan of that movie (the female lead character seemed so weak to me – desperate to have her man and to follow him anywhere), but that line keeps resonating over and over in my head lately.  It’s something I wish I could say to companies and non-profits that I work with re: their reluctance to dive into a social media strategy.  I’m tired of hearing otherwise smart, successful businesspeople and fellow marketers say they don’t “have time for social media applications.”  Or, worst yet, that “it’s just a fad.”  

On second thought, maybe I don’t feel like Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire, maybe it’s really more Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future (now that’s a good movie). It’s like I’ve hopped in my DeLorean and gone back in time to 1995 when I heard the same thing (“I don’t have time for email.” Or “Why do I need a website? Isn’t the Internet a fad?”)  Remember that?

Wake up, folks! We are smack dab in the middle of another fundamental shift happening in how we do business.  In 2006, Time Magazine’s Person of the Year was “You.”  Get it? YOU. In other words, they recognized that online communities were fundamentally reshaping our world.  That was over three years ago and I’m still hearing people talk about how they think this social media phenomenon is a “fad” that will pass.  

Companies and non-profits must get in the game.  Your audiences are online, I promise, and they aren’t just hunting for websites anymore. Every day folks are looking for your thoughts on blogs, looking for other consumers’ thoughts about your product or service on sites like Yelp and NextStop. People of the same profession or interest are organizing themselves into valuable, content-rich online communities on Ning.  Twitter has become a mainstream word, even if many of us are still working out how best to use it as a business tool.  

I understand that it’s difficult.  It’s more than just a shift in the tools we use to communicate. We’re also experiencing a real change in what we say, how we say it and how transparent we need to be.  CEOs and CMOs generally aren’t clamoring to have less control over their message (at least by perception). So they think if they stay out of the social media world they’ll be closed off from uncontrolled criticism.  However, the reality is this: somewhere online right now it’s likely people are talking about your brand.  And if you don’t participate in those conversations (transparently, of course), you are missing a great brand building and customer service opportunity.  

Will all of these new applications be around next year?  Probably not? And those that are around probably won’t look the same as they do today. But this culture shift is real, the tools are just working themselves out -- with consumers driving the way. To ignore our new business world is tantamount to ignoring the rise of using email as a communication tool vs. faxing over 10 years ago.  There is a new way to communicate with your customers, partners and each other and if you’re not playing in that arena you are going to soon be left alone in the bleachers crying “Show me the money!” while everyone else is down on the field already playing the game.

By Kira Perdue

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