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The Slow Decline of Social Media and the Rise of Common Sense

More than three years ago I had the gall of writing a post that suggested that blogs were simply a medium and that the important part would always be the content, which is the way it has always been. My point, which I had to make several more times after being attacked and called an idiot by one of the people mentioned in the original post, was that social media was nothing more than a transport. Granted it is a faster and more dynamic form of transportation and allows us to communicate in a much more interactive manner, but people should continue to focus on creating good content and less about pontificating about how social media has revolutionized our lives. The conclusion was that over time social media would lose the fad element and fold itself into other practices.

Spending the past week at MarketingProfs B2B Forum it was evident that the transformation is already happening, albeit slowly. This show focused on marketing best practices with a sprinkling of social media and left behind the short-lived legacy of social media focused shows. The latter had promoted personality and ego, which is not sustainable. The former is all about substance and education, which brings people back for more. During MarketingProfs I sat in six sessions and in all but one of them social media was an after thought or simply a part of a larger process. Even during the Boston Social Media Breakfast there was much more focus on practical communication and marketing methods than talk of “using Twitter for lead generation”.

This shift makes obvious sense and it will take a few more years for social media to exit the hype cycle, but doesn't is seem like we've been here before? Remember eMarketing? Email marketing? Direct marketing? Eventually they move from being a short-lived yet enthusiastic fad and into a function of a greater practice. In this instance, marketing.  Social media, although extraordinarily useful outside of marketing, has now rightfully started to move from fad into fade.

Thou Protest Too Much

Now don't fret, this is a really great sign for those of us who believe that social media is a good marketing technique (hand raised emphatically). During the MarketingProfs conference I listened to people give me terrific pointers on better trade show marketing, building communities online and offline, creating brand advocacy and building better content. Not once did I have to suffer through another “social media case study” or a set of slides pontificating the “confusion prism“. We have begun the move towards making social media a more respected function of business, rather than a set of caricatures trying a little too hard to defend the practice.

The people I talked with during the panels, in the hallway and at the functions had also been making the shift — or perhaps they had never bought into the fad. They provided me with amazing ideas and refreshed my thinking, but also surprised me with their titles. Hardly anyone introduced themselves as a social media consultant, expert, guru or some other nonsense. Instead I was talking with directors and vice presidents of marketing, heads of agencies and business development, small companies and large. Twice I even spoke with people who had removed social media from their titles during the past three months. They were searching for answers, not rhetoric. They were teaching, not preaching.

It's about time.

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