What people love about social media is the accelerated distribution of knowledge. What marketers love about social media is the accelerated distribution of media…that is why business leaders think of social as a new media channel.
Rob Tarkoff writes: Social Media — It’s Not Just Another Channel. Social media collects and distributes knowledge faster and more widely than anything we’ve seen. It’s a testament to our deeply collaborative nature and shows us the enormous value that collaboration brings. Social media works the way it does because people are quick to contribute; we jump at opportunities to cultivate our talent and love sharing our knowledge and experiences. The Internet makes it easy to publish — social technologies make it easy to share. The resulting explosion of user-generated-content (UGC) — real, authentic voices of shared experience — has indelibly changed our economy.
Yet most companies today struggle with social media — 67 percent say they don’t have the time or resources to invest, 50 percent say they can’t measure success and 42 percent say they simply don’t have the competency. Many companies that have jumped in so far mostly just fold social into existing business processes as a new channel — an important and influential new channel perhaps, but a channel nonetheless. They get a Twitter account and a Facebook page and start tracking channel successes like fans and followers. They cheer as the channel successes pile up, but eventually someone starts looking for the business success. Sadly, because they’ve adopted a channel-centric view of social media, very often no one can point to a single dollar saved or earned.
Knowledge Is Intangible
“Tangible assets have finite applications; intangible assets have infinite applications.” Hubert Saint-Onge.
Looking at social media as a knowledge channel furthers an organizations creation of value. Social media leverages intangible assets by using relationships where “the creation, exchange and harvesting of knowledge” builds the individual and organizational capabilities required to provide superior value to customers. This growth in the understanding of knowledge as an intangible asset that can be used to create tangible results is what attracts people, consciously and subconsciously, to this thing called social media. Notice the empahsis on “attracts people“.
What attracts business to social media is not the pursuit of intangible things like knowledge rather tangible things they can measure i.e. likes, traffic, mentions etc. The irony is none of those tangible things actually produce any kind of new knowledge which is an intangible that creates more value than the tangible things.
The difference between viewing social meda as a channel for gaining tangilbe vs. intangible results is the difference between success and failure in the Social Era.