This Social-Media Kegger Not All It's Cracked Up to Be

Have Fun, Make Connections, but Some Moderation Is Called for

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Doug DeGroodDoug deGrood
I remember my first beer.

Remember your first beer? Remember how dangerously cool it was? With zero inhibitions, it was like a whole new world opened up to you. But then you woke up and realized -- as you did your penance at the porcelain altar -- that this new world, while fun at the time, wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

I was reminded of this the other day as I logged onto my Facebook page. In some ways, I think we've all been a little over-served on the social-media hootch.

Don't worry -- this isn't going to turn into some prudish rant about the inherent evil of social networking. (Although, as a small-business owner, I am concerned about the number of people social "not-working.") Or that social media doesn't have value.

So what's my point? OK, I'll just come out and say it: I, Doug deGrood, 44-year-old advertising copywriter, husband, father of three kids (aged 13, 11 and 9) -- who doesn't totally embarrass them with his middle-aged un-hip-ness -- believe that social media, while fun, isn't the marketing end-all that some people are making it out to be.

Phew. There, I said it. Sober even.

WAIT! Let me finish. That's not to say I don't believe Twitter presents a potentially valuable marketing opportunity at this very moment in time. It does. Or at least it has for some. (That's also not to say I don't believe there's hay to be made with web-based, mobile and e-mail marketing. There most decidedly is. But those are different from pure social-media plays.)

I'm no economist, but my understanding is, in order for a medium to have commercial value, it needs to be, well, commercial. Hey, this is America, baby, that's how the game is played.

Who knows, maybe some really smart person will figure out how to open the revenue floodgates for Facebook, et al. Currently, the only thing they're generating is more users, which requires more bandwidth, which requires more capital, which, at some point (soon?) will require a boatload of ad revenue to satisfy the VC folks who ponied up the money for this worldwide digital kegger in the first place.

In the current social-media groundswell, there are an awful lot of babies being thrown out with the analog bathwater. I can't be the only person in ad land who cringes every time I hear phrases like:

  • "Television is dead." (Funny, I could have sworn my kids were watching "American Idol" last night on some appliance that vaguely resembled a TV.)
  • "Marketing is no longer a one-way conversation; it's a dialogue."
  • "Brands don't belong to companies; they belong to consumers."
(Note to Google: Award a Caribbean cruise to the 1 millionth person to use any of these phrases.)

I get it, really I do. And I acknowledge the truth behind these statements. But still, a little moderation is in order here. This is not on par with the 15th-century intelligentsia proclaiming the world is no longer flat.

For the record, consumers have always had "relationships" with brands. And we've always had means to communicate with them, and share our passion or disdain for them with others. It's just a lot easier now. And faster. But on the other hand -- THIS JUST IN -- not every member of the human race wants to have a relationship with the company that manufactures his or her toothpaste. Freaky, I know, but true.

In the end, doesn't it still come down to an idea? I'll answer my own rhetorical question: Yes, it does. And ideas don't go out of fashion. Only the delivery vehicles do.

And so 'round and 'round and 'round she goes, where it stops, nobody knows. ("From alcohol analogies, to gambling, this deGrood really has it in for the vices.") The fact is, it doesn't stop. There's always something new and different just around the corner.

And hopefully better. And if it isn't, well, at least there's still plenty of beer left in the world to help us cope with the uncertainty of it all.

~ ~ ~
Doug deGrood is creative director of Gabriel deGrood Bendt, Minneapolis.

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