What the Bar Scene Can Teach Us About Social Media

A couple years ago I tried to explain why a client needed to understand that each social channel has its own communication style. All the client wanted to do was shoot out a message that said, "Go back to our website and buy shit!" Because, of course, social media would then become a river of gold.

We all know that's the dumbest thing ever, right? Or do we?

I consistently see very large brands make a huge mistake when they have customers engaged in a social channel. They ask those fans to leave the comfort and familiarity of the channel to go see some gimmick that will hopefully hypnotize them into clicking the “add to cart” button. That’s exactly what my client wanted to do.

However they finally understood my point of view when I compared social media to the bar scene. Then their inner party animal emerged. I’m pretty sure they were just fanaticizing about leaving the meeting so they could get inebriated and bitch about how much they paid to listen to me. Regardless, I pushed on with my analogy. But first I drenched myself in Paco Rabanne to create the proper club ambience.

What got the client’s attention was this question: Would you go to a bar, start talking to friends about your job, demand they all get in a car and drive to your office so you can show them what you do, and then return to the bar and talk about it more?

Of course not. If you have the attention of someone in their social comfort zone, then stay there and talk. I PROMISE if you they like what you're saying they'll go look at your website on their own. Sure, you can tell them you're having a sale this weekend. But don't force them into a CAPTCHA war zone so they can print a coupon. 

If you want a great social media effort, hire great social people to manage it. Companies you trust make you feel important because you are important to them. Put that in the stew and set to "simmer" folks.

Every social channel has its own communication style. Let’s walk through the most popular channels and compare each one to a different social scene:

Your Blog: Remember the house from Stephen King's 1987 novel "Misery"? Don't touch Mr. Penguin.

Facebook: Frat Party, keg stands and wet T-shirt contests.

Linkedin: A frantic job fair that feels really important until you discover that no employers showed up to take your resume or hear about what a highly motivated, results-oriented self-starter you are.  

Google+: Think of that moment in the ‘80s when you went down to the basement and your brother was playing D&D with six friends who had clearly not slept or seen the sun all weekend.

Pinterest: Scrapbooking for suicide girls – Google it.

Twitter: Speed dating at a convention mixer.

Reddit: Same basement with your brother and his friends. But they're all hooked up with laptops, not speaking, and playing the MMORG expansion pack of the week.

Flickr: Japanese Karaoke bar.

Instagram: Recently established Japanese Karaoke bar by hipsters.

YouTube: This is the parking lot at a Game Stop, where you will debate comics and cheat codes while looking at a double rainbow.

Quora: Wine-tasting at a doctoral summit in the Hamptons. Um … what do you MEAN you don’t have a summer place there? 

Foursquare: The GPS in a VW Touareg, with ample and prevalent use of medical marijuana.

Delicious: Beer pong.

Tumblr: The convenience store where you to grab a six-pack on the way to the BYOB delicious.com beer-pong gig.

Spotify, Last.FM, etc. etc. etc: Local dive awaiting promise of first-time college sensation "Century Gothica" – see prevalent use of medical marijuana above.

Posterous: The über hipsters that were straightedge but now drink PBR on their porch and bitch that tumblr sold out.

Gowalla: This a local sports bar with favorite teams you don't root for.

StumbledUpon: The girls from your office who tag along to your bar, don't drink and then judge everyone.

Skype, AIM and KIK (all @ JUSTICEMITCHELL): This is an all-ages show where you don't know the band and no one is talking because they're too busy texting and giggling.

Slideshare: This is a pharmaceutical convention where everyone acts as if they want to hear what you have to say – until you take a breath. Then they dive in and dominate the conversation.

Vemeo: Art house theater / coffee shop / gadget review pub. They still smoke cloves here.

Deviant Art: This is a Goth party you were unaware of for a long time. Now you’re invited. The group may seem scary at first. But the longer you hang out with them, the more you discover a love for LARPing and “Dr. Who. 

Squidoo: This is the side room at Denny's that holds 20 people for a bridge-club meeting. In there they have nothing but a series of inside jokes and scenarios where all other social locations are inferior.

Meetup: This is the bar everyone avoids. You show up only if you're invited and know for certain a close friend will join you. 

Myspace: A bonfire party in the woods. Only true believers find their way here. They sing songs, trade stories about yesteryear and tell you they just discovered iTunes and insist it will "change everything.”

Friendster: The house party where you find out the host is a hoarder of cats and magazines about the doily industry.

Ortuk: A great bar with lots of seemingly wonderful people. But at some point during the night, you realize you have nothing in common with any of them.

Personally, I’m a social butterfly and former bar-hopper. But you’ll find me making the rounds to a lot of these places regardless. And when a new joint opens, I’ll always drop in for a few just to check it out. But forget about the Paco Rabanne. My pheromones and natural manly, musky scent serve me well when I’m out in the wild.

Posted on February 10, 2012 and filed under LOL, People, Research, Social Media.