Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Take it Off...Take it ALL Off (line)!

I participate in (too) many online discussions among social media types that focus on developing standards, best practices and ethics in the new social media world. These are all fascinating discussions among really smart, articulate people. Yet I often find myself shaking my head and thinking that we're missing something fundamental.

The social media tools that are now available to us--whether they be blogs, Facebook, Twitter, online communities, heck, even email is a social media tool--really only exist for one purpose, and one purpose only.

To take it offline.

That's right--we go online in order to promote OFFLINE behavior and any social media site or guru that doesn't recognize this is missing the boat. And opportunity.

During the last presidential campaign, MyBarackobama.com was hailed as innovative and the new standard bearer in how campaigns should be run in a new media world. The site had all of the trappings of a typical social networking site like friending, groups, blogs, discussion boards etc. But every aspect of the site was directed to one *specific* objective--to drive offline behavior.

Whether that behavior was to call people to get out the vote, or to hold fundraisers, or connect with other Obama supporters in your local area, every feature of the site was designed to get the member to DO something in the real world.

Online activity is really only useful if it is promoting an offline behavior. We use Facebook to keep in touch with friends that we know in the real world to add value to our next meeting. We don't have to spend as much time on "what have you been up to?" and can get to the meatier "that one experience you posted on FB sounded really awesome--tell me more about that!" We generally don't meet new people on FB tho, and if we do, it's because we want to meet offline or are participating in a common cause that has an offline component.

We join branded communities because we either purchase or are thinking about purchasing a company's products. We put our band up on MySpace in hopes that people listen and buy music, or maybe see a concert.

The best websites recognize this and make the connection to the desired offline behavior for the visitor and provide an easy UI flow that encourages the online activity and makes it easy to do the offline activity as well. If the site is only focused on the online activity UI, they are wasting money on their website.

Even the Twitterati recognize the need for offline behavior. While Twitter is an interesting way to keep updated on a wide variety of topics (depending on who is twittering), it suffers as a connecting tool if you don't really know who you are receiving twitters from.

And so, tweetups emerged, where folks could meet the person on the other end of the tweet.

As an information source, Twitter works well because you can receive information that will somehow be meaningful in your offline world--maybe give you resources that will help you be better at your job, let you know where the latest party is happening or heck, I know of one case where someone was seeking marrow donors via twitter.

My last blog post is a classic example of how social networking encourages offline behavior. This isn't to pat myself on the back or anything--just an example of 'what is this social networking stuff really good for?' I saw a need (Melody) and knew that I had resources to help available online--I could reach far more people more quickly with a blog post than I could by phoning all of my friends and asking for donations. Many people donated money, either by reaching into their wallet, or mailing me a check or sending money to a PayPal account. I used social media to raise some money to promote an offline action.

So as we discuss social media and it's best practices, let's all remember the most basic rule of all: the point of online activity is to motivate offline behavior. Social media is just a tool used to build something bigger--something that happens offline.

And now, I'd like to motivate all of you to go offline and go to the movies. Here are some very short movie reviews for your reading pleasure:

Slumdog Millionaire: A MUST SEE for anyone who likes action, romance, suspense, comedy, drama, good music and a heart-warming story all in one film. Deserves Oscar consideration.

Milk: A beautifully made biopic with outstanding performances all around, led by Sean Penn, and by the way, Josh Brolin is quietly one of the finest actors in the business today. A story of humanity, perseverance and hope, with a slight dash of politics. Somebody made a SERIOUS error in not releasing this film before the elections--Prop 8 (banning gay marriage) would not have passed in California if this movie had been in the theaters 2 weeks prior to the elections.

Quantum of Solace: An excellent entry in the genre, feels like one of the classic 60's Bond movies. Not as good as the Bourne series, but a very good Bond film.

Four Christmases: Surpisingly funny for the first half of the movie, degenerates in saccaharine, predictable Hollywood fare. Nothing special.

The Day the Earth Stood Still: Keanu Reeves displays an acting range from A to B in this remake of the sci-fi classic. It's almost worth the price of admission to look at Jennifer Connoley for 2 hours (good god, she's beautiful), but really, skip it and read the story instead. Completely misses the mark as a film.

I still have to go see Australia, Bolt, Twilight and Cadillac Records before the next wave of good movies comes out on Christmas.

Enjoy, and as always, please tell me what you're thinking!

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