Social media – its like a trade show

Telling people that social media is about spaces rather than places draws a blank look from 90 per cent of people.  I have therefore been searching for the good old analogy that helps people understand this concept.  This search has also been prompted by a current project where a client “wants to be on Twitter” but wants to achieve this is a viral, one Tweet will make me famous, sort of a way and it is important to help them understand why this is unlikely to work.

The analogy I have come up with is that of trade show or exhibition.  Suppose your business or organisation was to have a presence at the leading exhibition within your sector and you were presented with two choices as to what this presence would be.  Choice one is to have a physical space where you could create your stand, display what you do,  talk to people and develop sales leads which you could follow-up aftwerwards.  Choice two is to have an announcement about your company read-out over the PA twice a day.

Assume that the price for each option is roughly the same – what would you choose?    You would choose the physical space every time.

Why?  If I was trying to sell you the announcement alternative, I could mount a pursuasive argument.  I could say that here is a way of reaching all the people interested in your secor all at once.  One simple, powerfull message reaches all of them.  How more cost effective could you get?  To which the response would be – people haven’t come here to listen to ads.  They are here to talk, to find out detailed information, see the products and meet the people behind them.  I.e. exactly the same requirements of people in the social media space.

Clearly – it would be much simpler to broadcast a message at all these people – because creating your space involves some time and effort.  You have to create specific material, you have to think about how you host visitors.  Crucially you need representatives on your stand the whole time who are sufficiently qualified to talk about your organisation.  But you know that not to do this would be to waste the opportunity.

This is exactly the same with social media.  The difference is that in social media, the shows don’t last for a few days, they never end.  And also – the space costs you nothing.  The only investment required is in creating and managing your presence – and clearly, keeping this real-time, active and refreshed will yield results, rather than building a stand, sticking some brochures on a table (or posting some tweets / building a micro-site / creating a banner ad) and walking away.


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