Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Taking Stock - Can Social Media Do What It Claims?

July 5th was the five year anniversary of my blog. I started thinking about the bigger issues, and wrote this post on July 8th - and waited until I could get more information (see sidenote on bottom).

Ten-plus years ago, I started my career in public relations. One of the first campaigns I worked on was the Cure Breast Cancer stamp - working with a friend that was on the campaign, to get it launched and to get people to buy it.

That's a nice high for PR: doing some good work that changes people's lives.

I look at what I have done in social media, and it is not the same. And, while people are glomming onto social media, there seems to be very little being done in the circular nature of the social media consultants.

You don't hear/read about campaigns that are helping change the world. You don't hear/read about campaigns that are being done with the large agencies or consultants that are trying to help make the world a better place.

You read social media people talking about social media ... and that seems to be it. It's the self-fulfilling prophecy of Valleywag's 250. And, I have written about this before, and nothing much changes.

There are groups of social media people that fall outside this realm. There are networks that are more community than others.

I have spoken at and asked for help and advice from various social media fundraisers, such as TechSoup and NetSquared, and spoke to a few of these people at Blogworld Expo.

So, this is my challenge to the social media consultants and the power of social media. Prove to me that it works.

Here is one situation - help raise funds for Lisa Gift-Kelly at Clusterfook.

It's a deserving person, who has cancer and is trying to make sure that things stay afloat and is able to afford treatment, as well as make sure her family will be okay and not fall under the weight of health care costs.

Here's my question and request: show that social media can change the world. Right now, it's just talk.

Robert Scoble - rally your readers and community to give just $5 to one or the other. Heavy is the crown for someone in your position, but times like this call for a rallying of troops. And, it fits into your recent post that tech blogging has failed ... maybe because it's too insular?

Steve Rubel - you often talk about community, but then use the card that you did not ask for a leadership position. You started a skin cancer blog, but inexplicably let it die. Here's an opportunity to do something for someone with cancer, and to show leadership in social media and PR.

Social Media Club
- you now have 44 board members of social media experts and consultants. Have them get the word out, have them work with the larger community of readership and help make the world a better place one person at a time.

Chris Brogan
- you are one of the nicer people I know, and always do the good thing. Get your massive network to help out. It's not about blog tips, but it's about affecting change.

Jason Calacanis - while you might have retired your blog, you still have your Calacanis army on Twitter and your new newsletter. Rally your readers and followers. Plus, well, you are a mensch.

Now, there are tons of other people that I can think of to add to this list, but just using these four (plus SMC) as an example, and because of their position in social media. There are a ton of other people that write about social media non-stop, who have written books (Rohit Bhargava, Joel Postman, Geoff Livingston, Shel Israel, Brian Solis, Chris Heuer, amongst others) and would be good candidates to help spread the word and raise money.

Is that all that social media is? Is it to just sell stuff? Is it just a self-fulfilling circle that links to itself over and over? Or is there a higher value to social media, where we can make people's life better and really rally people to help others.

And, while there are organizations, groups and people that are doing good online, the vast majority of social media / blog noise comes from the consultants. Prove me right - that social media can do more than just be about social media talking about itself, but help change people's lives and change one part of the world. Social media consultants have a vested interest to do this, to show the world an example of social media doing good.

Go donate on the side through the SmartyPig Widget, or send people to Lisa's donation page.

When I wrote the post, my hope was to see if social media can do for Lisa what it claims the buzz can do for people.

As a sidenote: On a recent post, Lisa questioned if I was still helping her out, among other things. I have and had been researching alternative funding beyond Paypal, and doing traditional offline PR with face-to-face conversations with a myriad of people. As for the outreach that I am doing in my off-hours, in public relations you need to be ready and prepared for all and every question. I should have kept her up-to-date, and am now emailing her weekly. I apologize that I was not as proactive as she would have liked in the ten days between our correspondence and posts (which she has since taken down).