Social Media Lessons From the Offline Real World

An interesting report released from Pew Internet Research about the use of location-based services among adults found that only 28% of American adult cell phone owners use services such as maps or recommendations based on their location. In addition, 4% of all American adults use check-in apps such as Foursquare and Gowalla.

Conversely, in the social media community, checking-in is a frequent behavior, and legions of blog posts are written about location-based services.

Is this disproportionate enthusiasm among the cognoscenti? Are we so entrenched in this bubble that we’re forgetting what the “norm” really is?

I have recently become fascinated by the way that people who don’t work in social media use social. Previously, I spent a great deal of time trying to meet everyone in the world’s of social media and PR. I’ve discovered that world and the real world don’t always intersect.

Here are three ways I’ve started listening to and learning from those outside the social media bubble:

Facebook Stalking

Facebook is primarily a network of your friends, and in most cases not all of your friends have jobs in social media. Our friends come from different industries, locations, and have different interests. If you go look at your Twitter stream, the majority of the people you follow are most likely talking about the same types of issues. Facebook on the other hand offers more demographic and topical variety.

By studying and listening to what your friends post, you are able to look into the pulse of the public’s use of social media. What apps are they sharing to Facebook? What stories compel them to share with their networks? What Facebook campaigns are they responding to? What pages do they post on?

Find Some Storytellers

I don’t mean read your RSS feed or scour your Twitter stream. I mean reading blogs that individual people set up to tell their stories. This is a great way to see how people outside the professional social media world communicate, and why they take the time to blog. Reading non-industry blogs has broadened my understanding of why people use the Internet, what speaks to them, and what content they actually care about.

Want a great example of story telling from someone who has never been into the social media game? Check out my best friend’s blog about his cross-country bike tour this summer.

Listen Offline

I think this is something we always have in mind, but don’t necessarily remember to do. I’m always curious why a particular business is actually using social media. Why are they using their budget and resources on social media? Does it have a return? Has anyone scanned that QR code? Are people actually checking-in?

These are all interesting questions that we don’t ask enough in three dimensions. The best way to find out these answers is to ask real people. Ask the owner of your favorite bar how their social media specials are going. Ask your dentist if their Facebook page is worth the effort. Ask your dog groomer if they look at their Yelp reviews.

Sometimes in social media we become so enamored with the speed and power of online relationships and information that we may be forgetting that all of this ultimately has to have an offline impact too if it’s to be truly successful.

Are you keeping an eye on social media outside the realm of social media?

Guest post by Harrison Kratz, the Community Manager for MBA@UNC, an MBA degree online program from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He sticks to his entrepreneurial roots as the founder of the global social good campaign, Tweet Drive. Feel free to connect with him on Twitter, @KratzPR

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