I recently had the chance to chair a phenomenal panel in New York city where I was able to talk with a wide variety of entrepreneurs, business professionals, and social media experts about where we are today with mobile and social media and what’s coming in the future. While this event wasn’t televised, I was able to get some great quotes and invaluable content from the panelists to share with you today.
How a Backstreet Boy uses social media to connect with his fans
The most interesting panelist had to be Backstreet Boy AJ McLean, who has a major social presence on Twitter, Socialcam and Instagram. Using social media, AJ has created Internet memes like #booomb videos on Socialcam, and has cultivated a huge online audience almost 20 years after the band he was originally known for rose to fame.
While the Backstreet Boys are still recording and selling millions of albums, AJ has created a strong brand for himself as Mr. Skulleeroz (pronounced “Skull-e-rose”) on social media channels. What’s his secret? According to AJ:
“Someone like myself who’s in the music industry, we’re not always that accessible to our fans and to the media except when we do [things like] a press event. [With social media you] get a direct contact and get an immediate response. That’s something that I’ve never seen before… It just brings my fans, my personal fans and the Backstreet Boys fans, closer to us as people. Bringing them into our homes, our everyday life. Not just backstage or onstage, but like ‘come take a ride with me down the street to the 7-11.”
You don’t have to be a Backstreet Boy to see the value in what AJ is saying. No matter what your business or brand, social media and video allow you to connect with people when you can’t be there in person. If you can get even a few hundred views on an online video, the time you take to make it is immediately more valuable than trying to meet with those same hundred people in person. If you can get a few thousand views, you’re suddenly an online content producer capable of monetizing your content because your online audience is now suddenly as valuable as your real-world audience.
The ramifications of having video camera in your pocket
Socialcam CEO Michael Seibel notes that we’ve moved from “a culture where your dad had a video camera in the back closet… to a culture where the video camera is literally in your pocket 24/7.” His app seeks to fill in the gap between having the technology to make those videos and being able to publish and share them via social media instantly.
With the rise of online video, having a video camera on you all the time means it’s easier than ever. I asked Michael if he saw his app as a competitor to other social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, but his answer was telling:
“Video is a very hard problem, and the only way to solve it is by focusing very, very narrowly on how we make video relevant in your life. Facebook has been amazingly helpful, but I wouldn’t say that we’ve been competitors.”
What I took away from Michael’s remarks are two important things. One, find a niche and exploit it by focusing your business like a laser on solving exactly one problem in the marketplace. Two, you can leverage social media without having to compete with it. Socialcam may be developing a social network of its own, but that doesn’t mean they have to build an entirely new Facebook to do it. By building their app to work on top of Facebook, Socialcam has been able to draw in users who want to share their content easily but don’t want to manage a whole new network of contacts and friends.
How Facebook focuses on mobile
Kevin Knight, who handles Marketing and Creative Strategy at Facebook, talked about how “mobile is hugely important” and how Facebook today has a huge emphasis on their apps. With smartphones replacing so much of the time that we used to spend in front of our computers, it’s increasingly obvious that a mobile strategy needs to be a part of any online content strategy.
What is less obvious is exactly how to target users on mobile. Here, Kevin had some great insight into how Facebook does things:
“There’s so much information, and it’s incumbent on the people who are delivering that information, like Facebook, to make sure that relevant information gets in front of people at the relevant time.”
Online attention spans are short—you only have a brief window in which to successfully turn around relevant content based on current events or trending topics. Whether you’re producing content online, making videos, or just sharing content relevant to your industry on social media or a newsletter, the speed at which information flows today is faster than ever. You can’t sit around and wait for your competition to talk to your audience before you do.
An expert from Mashable’s take
Andrea Smith, Mashable’s digital lifestyle editor, had some amazing insight into how businesses in the 21st Century need to look, use social, and incorporate it into the fiber of their product and business:
“I think it’s about connectivity because people want to be social and connected everywhere they are. If we’re not connected, if they don’t have the ability to connect, that’s not gonna happen.”
Andrea’s comments raise an excellent question: Does your business have social strategy that allows your clients or customers to easily network and interact? If not, what can your business or brand do to help ensure that people can connect through your product? Can they interact with your businesses or brand on Twitter, Facebook, or Socialcam? If not, it’s time to figure out what you can do to ensure that your audience has a rich and engaging way to connect with you on these platforms.
Final words & thoughts
Michael Seibel made an amazing observation at the close of the panel: “I think sometimes the challenge [with social media] is having too many friends, where it’s hard to distinguish the signal from the noise.”
It’s worth keeping in mind that while social media can help you grow your brand tremendously, it can also be a place that sucks in too much of your time trying to connect and expand your network at every turn. Just like sometimes we need a break from email to really focus and get things done, not everything that’s happening on social is beneficial to our business. Sometimes we need to filter down on just what’s important. Hopefully, some of the insight I’ve shared here today will help you do just that.
What are your thoughts on the future of social and mobile? Does your business or brand already have a strategy in place, or are you struggling to make a splash in an increasingly connected world? Share your comments and concerns below., and I’ll see what I can do to help you grow your online presence!
Mario Armstrong, Digital Lifestyle Expert, is an Emmy Award winning, tech commentator for the TODAY show and CNN, and the host of a tech talk radio show on SiriusXM. An entrepreneur by nature, Mario made his passion his career by quitting his day job and founding Mario Armstrong Media. Follow Mario at @MarioArmstrong. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.