What Inliers Think About Social Media

by Jason Falls |

If an outlier, by Malcolm Gladwell’s definition, is someone that exists and acts outside the normal experience, then an inlier would be one who exists and acts as part of it. I propose we refer to an inlier as someone in a mainstream user base … the majority … someone who is, statistically at least, like most other users.

By this definition, social media adopters to date are not inliers. They are not the rule, but exceptions to it. This has been my argument and purpose for building a learning community and question-answer site around social media and digital marketing. The rest of the country, not Silicon Valley, New York, Boston or Austin, doesn’t Tweet, blog, check-in or post.

You can throw all the use statistics at me you want, but when I speak to small business associations, retailers, government officials and other folks with regular jobs and lives throughout the U.S., they sing a similar chorus.

Crowded street scene prior to the Bristol Four...
Image via Wikipedia

Case in point: I presented a workshop last week to a group of community travel professionals in Central and Eastern Kentucky. The room was full of successful business professionals, directors of marketing, travel and tourism pros who have marketed their communities, museums, attractions and destinations for years. The request was for me to help them get more familiar with social media in general, with an emphasis on Facebook, so they could better understand how to leverage these platforms to promote their businesses.

I started off by asking the room why they were there. One by one each person indicated varying degrees of aptitude for social media. But what struck me is that 3-4 folks (out of room of 45 people) said something like, “I hate Facebook. I can’t fathom why anyone would ever use it. But I know lots of people are there and I have to use it for business, so I’m here to learn.”

Can you guess what they said about Twitter?

Not a single person in the room ran a company blog. Only one had a personal one. About one-third of them had originally set up their business’s Facebook presence as an individual profile, not a business page. When I explained how they could measure sales and conversions on their sites, several people looked at me like I’d just hand-delivered the Shroud of Turin.

Real people … inliers … don’t yet grasp this world we work in, talk about and explore. If we don’t make a concerted effort to reach not just people who want to understand social media, but those who don’t know they want to yet, we’re setting ourselves up for another massive fail.

That crowd was the exact one I built Exploring Social Media for. You come, you ask questions. The only question that’s a dumb question is the one you don’t ask. Tamar Weinberg, DJ Waldow, Nick Huhn and me are there to answer, to help, to guide. You, fair reader, may get a lot out of Exploring Social Media because we answer hard questions, too. But we know you know someone who has questions and frustrations and fears like those I spoke to last week. Send them to us. We can help.

And we want to!

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About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).