Social Media is a Cocktail Party (and you’re all invited)

Social Media is a Cocktail Party

By Jim Tolbin Feat. Lisa Braziel

Ok, so the title’s a little cheesy. Overall, however, the running metaphor of a cocktail party serves as a good illustration of the shift in power on the web. No longer are we willing to attend a party where our pompous, rich friends (the big brands) brag about their own achievements to no end, all the while stuffing own their agendas down our throats. Social media allows every Internet user to have an equal voice at the party, and, as such, you must follow proper party etiquette as to not offend your hosts. Some of the most useful party tips include:

1. The party goes on with or without you: Whether your brand is making social media efforts or not, you can be assured you are being discussed and critiqued. So would you rather have some tipsy party guests gossiping about you behind your back, or join the party and enter the conversation?

2. When you first arrive, listen before you speak – Nobody likes the loudmouth guest that interrupts. Listen to the conversations being had, and only offer an opinion if you have something constructive to say.

3.  Go with the flow – This isn’t you’re a party; you are a guest. Don’t make it all about you, or nobody will want to mingle in your circle. Continue with conversation threads naturally.

4. Consider the venue – a cocktail party at your friend’s house is not the same as one at the Ritz. Dress code and conversation will vary greatly between the two. Consider the party you are attending so you know how to act and speak.

5. It’s not your party – Once again, people don’t want to hear about how great you are. Instead, they’d rather have a meaningful two-way conversation.

6. Don’t be fake – Everyone has that friend that smiles a little too wide and laughs a little too hard at a not-so-funny joke. People can smell a fake a mile away, be genuine in your conversations.

7. Share even when it doesn’t benefit you – Have meaningful two-way conversations. If you help someone out, it would only be polite of them to reciprocate.

8.Don’t drink too much – Don’t be loud and obnoxious, or you will find yourself an early exit to the party. Just as in online discussions, people will have a pretty short leash for an obnoxious party guest.

Tobin comes back to this analogy persistently throughout the book (that’s only chapter one), but establishing this metaphor is important for his driving point, which is the world of brand management is changing drastically. No longer can big brands bark orders at their customers, but they must treat them with respect. This change represents an entire industry shift, and Tobin contends that no firm really gets it: PR firms are too traditional, social media firms have a hard time measuring results, and optimization firms are more about playing the game than having a conversation. Tobin insists that the next successful brand managers will combine all three of these skills.

Another very unique feature of this book is that after every chapter is a related blog posting by Tobin or Braziel, both of Ignite media. In this way, Tobin makes good on the interactivity that he preaches so highly, as he encourages his readers to read and comment on the online versions of these sentiments. Check out Tobin’s blog here.

All in all, the most valuable lesson to be gleaned from this book that is not offered in such readings like Clay Shirkey’s Here Comes Everybody or Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff’s Groundswell is the valuable metaphor that social media is in fact an ongoing conversation, and it is therefore crucial that you mind your manners. Apart from that, if you’ve digested similar readings (Shirkey and Li & Bernoff), I’d say you should probably pass on this one, especially because hearing the same case studies on repeat (you know the ones: Dell Idea Storm, Honda brand mismanagement, the “Will it blend?” viral videos) becomes a bit tiring. If you’re not familiar with such works, you got some catching up to do, and it couldn’t hurt to start here!

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