The tabula rasa of each New Year provides us with one more opportunity to try again, try something new, change what wasn’t working and capitalize on what was. It’s our collective recognition that a clean slate is necessary, that it’s never too late to start again.
You might ask why, when social media is still in its infancy, would social media need a clean slate? How do you start fresh with something that’s still barely out of the shoot? Good question. One thing I know from all of my years crafting something from nothing is that the best time to shape and form/reform something is often near the beginning, before it takes on too much of a life of its own and starts down an unexpected path. For social media, the best time to shape and reshape is now: while the tools used by the majority are still few (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube) and still gaining in both acceptance and functionality. I have a few ideas about how this might happen, in general and more specifically. And I have a nice role model we can use, too: Marky Mark (aka Mark Wahlberg).
Mark Wahlberg is the king of reinvention, of starting over, trying something new. If you remember his days with The Funky Bunch, then you know what I mean. Mark was once in prison and after he got out, he became Marky Mark of early white boy rapping fame. But Marky Mark wanted more. Or different. He moved on to modeling. Then acting. Then directing. And he started a family. Now, the kid who was once eating three squares behind bars directs some of the hottest shows on television: Entourage and Boardwalk Empire among them. So what can social media take from Marky Mark’s reinvention story in the new year? Here are a few:
- Risk It. What the heck does that mean? Well, when things are new and being established, that is the best time to try something new. What do you have to lose? Mark was in prison, so he had nowhere to go but up. Social media is still the wild west—the frontier as far as the virtual eye can see. So you think you have an idea for an app or a tool to connect people virtually? Build it! Test it! I have a couple of friends who have done this in the past year and are gaining some recognition. My friend Scott developed a social karaoke app…like karaoke meets foursquare called Bar Star (www.playbarstar.com). My friends Axel and Marita developed an app for having all of your social media info in one place. It’s called Xeesm. It has some powerful business functionality to it as well. www.xeesm.com. Remember also the Field of Dreams: if you build it, they will come. It isn’t always true, but don’t you wish you had thought of (and developed) Groupon??
- Niche It. Marky Mark found a niche in the 90’s as a clean and sober white rapper with a pop vibe. Now that was a niche in the grunge rock of the day, but it found broad appeal. As social media become more pervasive, different apps will find different audiences. Find your audience. Love them. Give them what they want and they will love you back. One idea of this is focused twitter feeds. Right now, it is one way to drink from the firehose that is Twitter. What about some apps that will do that in and of themselves? Radio used to be all kinds of music on one channel…but now we have specific types of channels for specific types of content. The same is true of TV. I think the same will eventually be true of twitter or other types of social media apps and communities.
- Level Up. Okay, so maybe you’ve developed a social media app – or a business built on social info or a strong social community. Now it’s time to take it to the next level. That doesn’t mean scrapping what you’ve got, but capitalizing on what’s good. Make incremental moves – like Mark in his acting career. He didn’t become an executive producer before he knew what it was to be an actor…but once he figured out what kind of film appealed to him and what he was good at, he took it to the next level. Leveling up requires persistence and hard work because you want your move to the next level to be not only sustainable, but successful. Like Mark. Ask yourself: what does the next incremental level of my social media project look like? How can I get there? Then, get to work.
- Remember Your Friends. While Mark is now a superstar, he still hangs with friends he’s had since pre-fame days. He still visits—and continues to invest—in his old neighborhood. Mark knows the value of loyalty. In the world of social media, friends are important—Facebook and Twitter can attest. As you build, niche or level up with your social media work, interact with your social media community of friends—get their input, hear their critiques and their praise, listen to what they want, how they think things could be better, or different. Your friends will be honest with you and will help you succeed—so when you do, go back and invest in them, too. There’s nothing like having (and building and investing in) a (virtual) neighborhood full of people who know you.
While Mark Wahlberg has said he will never again tour with The Funky Bunch, the long tail of his career has left us with some encouragement for our own 2011 transformation: “Now the time has come for you to get up/The rest had you fed up, but ‘yo I won’t let up…/I wanna see motivation/come on now, feel the vibration” (Good Vibration, Marky Mark and The Funky Bunch, 1991). Risk it, Niche it, Level up and Remember your friends this year in your social media pursuits and you will make it a good year…one worthy of a Wahlberg.