Content, conversation, community – Social media is about people, not brands

Social media is about being genuine.  The buzz of “social media” has created a pool of people calling themselves social media gurus, experts, mavens, you name it. This frenzy and popularity, still largely in the IT bubble (and where it spills over) creates a layered conversation of buzz words that ultimately alienates people. Since social media is all about relationship and human connectivity, you need to be genuine so that people have something to connect with. Otherwise, you won’t attract many new clients or retain old ones.

Vibrant discussion in the tech4Africa session crowdsourced the following best practices for companies wanting to be in the social media space (with thanks to Andy Hadfield on stage):

1)      Listen first

2)      Don’t have shit products

3)      Focus on – Content. Collaboration. Community

4)      You can’t win every battle. Shake off the failures and learn from them.

5)      Understand content, conversations, campaigns

6)      Understand your customers. Some want to buy. Some want to complain. Some want to engage.

People have, rather obviously, been communicating since the beginning of time. We have given it a new name because we’ve gotten excited about how technology crosses old boundaries and allows us to talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime (provided they’re in the same online community that is). The only new thing about communication is the technology involved.

Social media is about relationship, about people, about community. Online communities using social media to engage are just doing what humans have been doing for years – forming bonds with one another. The technology itself is almost irrelevant. It’s about how we talk to each other. “Social media just allows people to do what they would have done in the stone age if they had the internet” @afairweather).

For brands trying to work in this space they need to constantly remind themselves that social media is about people and about building relationship. That means portraying themselves as a human, not as a marketing brand.

Tips for how to behave online that came from the discussions:

  • Be who you are
  • You don’t need to invent conversations – make a good product, put it out there and the buzz will happen if people like it
  • Live your brand
  • Don’t make the mistake of using marketing concepts to think about issues that are actually about people

Rather than feeling forced onto platforms like twitter and facebook because “we should be there”, brands should be focusing on good quality content that creates conversation, and that results in a shared sense of community.


The social web is here to stay, and it’s enormous. A panel of leading thinkers and practitioners takes you through what this means for business and consumers, and what to do about it.

Panel: Walter Pike (Pike), Mike Stopforth (Cerebra), Andy Hadfield (, Alistair Fairweather (Mail & Guardian Online), Jannie Vermeulen (FNB Online) and when they realised the panel had no gals (!) they asked Sam Wilson to be an impromptu speaker.