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Writing a blog about learning social media is like writing a blog about learning to talk.

Learning to talk starts with the sense of hearing and the ability to actively listen. By listening to the stream of sounds coming from our environment we start to understand and say words. Over time, we learn to put these words together into complete thoughts that we call sentences. Before too long, we string the sentences together and begin to tell the story of what is happening around us and how we experience it. We meet others and share our stories. This storytelling give-and-take is a lifelong reiterative conversation that forms our identity and self definition. Our ability to engage in this conversation deeply influences our path in the world.

Your business learns social media much like a baby learns to talk. First, you listen online to understand what your name, or brand, means to your customers. The sounds you hear might be pleasant — or not. Either way, what’s certain is your customers are conveying important information. It’s your choice whether or not to understand the sounds and fully engage in this reiterative conversation.

Nobody can decide for you. It’s a straight-forward challenge that smacks at the culture of  your organization and the ongoing story that is the interplay of you, your products and your customers.  It’s a challenge that asks you to understand how deeply you value customer service — really.  The repercussions of your choice will be felt all along your value chain of competitors, collaborators, and suppliers.

To get started in this conversation, you need to understand the tools, tactics and strategies of the evolving social media toolbox so you can choose those that work best for you. But as important as learning the tools, is learning how to talk in the world of social media.

By taking on the 435Digital blog beat, I’ve accepted the challenge of  helping us better understand tools like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and the nature of the conversation that accompanies them. As important, I’ll be discussing the cultural change and relational juice that is creating a new online economy based on trust and transparency. It’s exciting to peer around the edges of what “is” to see what is possible.

As to my philosophy, I agree with Gary Vaynerchuk, who says in his book  “The Thank You Economy:”

For the record, I dislike the term social media. It is a misnomer that has caused a boatload of confusion. It has led managers, marketers, CEOs and CMOS to think that they can use social networking sites to spread their message the same way they use traditional media platforms like print, radio, television. or outdoor and expect similar results and returns. But what we call social media is not media, nor is it even a platform. It is a massive cultural shift that has profoundly affected the way society uses the greatest platform ever invented: the internet. Unfortunately, when the business world is thinking about marketing via social networking sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Daily Booth, it’s thinking about using social media, so that’s the term I’ll use.

This massive cultural shift is to the Knowledge Age from the Industrial Age. And I think Gary is right,  there’s no such thing as a “media buy” in social media. Your online success is determined by the culture of your business and the timbre of conversations and relationships that emerge organically from who you are and what you say and do.

The same is true for me and my work on the 435 Digital blog. As we learn together, let me know how I am doing.


p.s. I love my little Twitter bird. I keep him with me always @SaDuros.