It's easy to imagine that social media will be around forever; Facebook and its 500 million users are hard to ignore. On the other hand, everyone's also watched sites like Friendster and MySpace fade over time. So at PubCon, a keynote panel addressed the question of whether social media is relevant or just a passing fad.
Chris Brogan, the president of New Marketing Labs, began by suggesting that social media is a mechanism through which people can try to build a business. Indeed, he feels the best way to "sell" social media is by using traditional metrics that businesspeople are comfortable with.
Otherwise, Brogan recommended that social media users promote other people's good ideas more than their own companies, and noted that people generally get out of Facebook and Twitter what they put into them. In his case, Brogan's been able to use his social media prowess to sort of bypass SEO, having on occasion seen retweets his search engine ranking with amazing speed.
Sarah Evans, the owner of Sevans Strategy, spoke next. She maintained that social media represents a natural progression of Internet marketing. At the same time, one thing Evans said to watch for is pushing too hard, too fast, and she acknowledged that time management can also become a problem. So "work for what you believe in," Evans advised.
Then Scott Stratten, the president of Un-Marketing, took control of the conversation. He argued that social media is nothing new, and doesn't fix anything on its own. It's just talk, according to Stratten, and simply amplifies. And social media might even already be breaking down as it becomes more and more work (the issue of time management came up again here).
Still, on a more optimistic note(s), Stratten said that he joined Twitter because he wanted to be above SEO, and also said one of the great things about being an entrepreneur is that it never stops.
Brian Clark, the founder of Copyblogger, then finished off the session. He contended that most marketing is about making people familiar with a product or service, so it's silly to talk about the ROI of social media. But there are important connections: some of the sharpest people in social media are SEOs. Google has to factor in Twitter. Google wants to rank good content. So SEO and social media are one continuum.
Also, Clark feels that the entire Internet acts as a direct marketing platform, and that content is marketing. So to create meaningful connections with people using social media, he said, "Put the audience first always."