I heard once that the myth of the unicorn came about because people saw an Oryx – a species of antelope – from the side and mistook its two horns for 1 singular horn. This evolved into the myth of the unicorn which is now imbued with mystical and magical powers including the power to render poisoned water potable and to heal sickness.
In some ways, social media is the Oryx of the new communications era we find ourselves in today. It is a communications channel that we have come to believe has the ability to effect change unlike anything we have ever seen before. It seems unusual and different. We don’t understand it so we put it in the “mysterious” box. We love it and think that it is the only way we will ever market a product/program/brand ever again. And we expect extraordinary results from any encounter with it.
But is it, in fact, a unicorn, or just an Oryx?
Well, let’s look at the evidence:
- Social media is unlike any kind of communication channel we have ever seen before. Carpenter Group says that social media is different from other communications channels in three fundamental ways – Volume (the amount of content available online versus off), Viewpoint (the shift from information about a product to information about a person’s perspective on a product) and Value (the ability for that content to be shared in a timely, targeted and real way).
- Social media is sparking change across a variety of sectors. Socialnomics author, Eric Qualman, calls it a “revolution” , and Mashable.com says that social media is revolutionizing how we recruit and retain talent in our organizations.
- Social media is not opt-in & is impacting you/your brand whether or not you are participating, says Carpenter Group. People can co-opt messaging, state their own opinions and share information about your brand widely and quickly – and you as the brand do not ever have to open a platform like Facebook or Twitter for that happen. Others are doing that for you.
- Finally, the amount of social media data out there warrants the need for a social media “conductor”, says Forbes Magazine. That is to say, that the wealth of data available through social media is unlike any other communications channel out there, it is overwhelming and needs a senior curator in order to make sense of it all.
Ultimately, the evidence is strong for the argument that social media in not just an Oryx in a unicorn’s clothing.
Instead, maybe – just maybe – it is a real unicorn.