The question may already be irrelevant. Lancaster is using social media. Even on Twitter, which is still just catching on, there are around 200 Lancastrians, the majority of them active. (EthanD does a good job keeping tabs on in-county Twitterfolk, and there is also the Lancaster Twitter Users List on this Lancaster PA blog.) There are easily twice as many on LinkedIn—all of them professionals. Facebook and MySpace? We’re talking thousands—and not just high-schoolers posting pictures of their friends holding Bud Lights.
Established organizations are preparing to follow the lead of these individuals. The United Way, the Lancaster County Community Foundation, and a number of churches are testing the waters and preparing social media strategies. Even county commissioner Craig Lehman is on LinkedIn. Businesses are diving in, too—NxtBook Media is a powerhouse in this area. Most downtown cafes have Facebook pages, and this trend is spreading outward across the county (see the blog of Becky Garvey, whose Pushing the Envelope stationery boutique is in Neffsville). Kae Wagner (at NorthStar Marketing) and myself (at The Chamber) have had no shortage of business people asking us for specific advice, in addition to “what’s this all about?” questions.
OK, so it’s being used. But is it being used in ways that matter?
Yes, it is. Established leaders (individuals and organizations) in Lancaster continue to be slow to catch on, but social networking is becoming a power onto itself that will soon be impossible to ignore. Plus, its popularity is making it a great tool for learning and for keeping an ear to the ground. As I write this, Dave Conklin (ProspectMX) is live-tweeting highlights of a Jim Collins speech from the Inc 500 Conference in D.C. Just now Samphis asked, “Why is .pdf the standard for documents? The files are huge, clunky and difficult to use for things like books.” Within seconds, fellow twitterers pointed out that if the files are huge, there is a problem (such as OCR—optical character recognition—being turned on), and also explained the value of the pdf standard.
And that’s just Twitter. MySpace continues to be a major force in the local music scene. I estimate that an average of ten local events each week are promoted and organized on Facebook. (An accurate estimation?)
What’s next, then?
What’s next is for social networking to move beyond its current local core constituencies. We will see the average age of local Facebook users continue to climb. The number of professionals on LinkedIn will continue to grow exponentially, since its value increases with every additional local user. The microblogging of Twitter will attract more people who want to maintain contact with a broad network but do not have the time to write full blog entries.
As the demographics of social network participants shifts to resemble the real world more closely, more real decisions and consensus-building will happen via social media. I believe that is inevitable. Do you agree? Or do you think the future importance (and current relevance) of social media in Lancaster is much more precarious (or far less serious) than I make it out to be?
9 thoughts on “Should Lancaster Use Social Media?”
I think you are right on. I’ve been using social media for years for a variety of tasks and purposes. I now use it heavily, particularly Facebook, as a major part of my marketing efforts for WXPN here in Central PA. It’s an effective and inexpensive way of reaching targeted markets rather quickly with your message. And the viral nature of social media has allowed me to see how interconnected my world really is!
I think the only question is how rapidly social media will take hold for these purposes. As you mentioned, the average age of those using Facebook and other social media (though I personally don’t take LinkedIn very seriously) is climbing. More of us “older” folks are climbing on board, and of course the initial target market of Facebook (college students) are now graduating and moving into the workforce, and it is THESE folks that will probably be at the forefront of integrating their online social media with real world workforce applications.
It is very exciting and I look forward to seeing how this all shapes up in an ever-changing and evolutionary technological landscape.
As you know, I am brand spankin’ new to the social media world…and LOVING it…particularly for business contacts.
In our busy lives it’s important to connect any way we can…and, of course, to express ourselves a bit!
I do hope that all forms of Social Media Marketing continue to grow and thrive. We have to stay current and this is the right way to do just that…by the second…how exciting!
Interesting blog post Daniel. Social Media Marketing is the wave of the future – the sooner businesses and organizations recognize that the better. Those that don’t will surely be left behind. Max and I actually teach a class at the library for small businesses looking to dive into Online Social Networking and Media Marketing. I’m always surprised at the response. I think people are finally catching on and realizing how powerful it is!
Right on man! It’s crazy to see the growth in this space over the past few years. It definitely seems as though social media is crossing the chasm into main stream. I’m waste deep in it every day and am just starting to appreciate the fact that social media is really encouraging and expanding physical relationships. Looking forward to getting some Lancaster tweetups going! 🙂
Hey great post,
I have met some great folks in Lancaster via twitter and facebook. Last night I was at Quips and ran into a guy who I follow on twitter. Back when I began following local tweeters there were only 6 of us, now there are over 140 and more joining everyday.
Lancaster is quickly developing a tech niche and the social networks are helping link those people together.
See you around the internetz 🙂
Just checked now over 215 Local tweeters
Thank you all for the affirmative and insightful comments. Ken, I wonder if XPN’s rapid permeation of the Central PA market would have been possible–even at greater expense–without social networking.
Anne, it seems social networking is such a different animal from traditional marketing that it will either force a paradigm shift in the field, or else force “social networking” and “marketing” to break apart. Is that overstating things?
Becky, I think we all owe a debt of gratitude to the early adopters of social networking in our community, including Ethan and Kyle here. It’s great to hear that social networking is helping your business prosper–and helping customers find what you have to offer them.
Good stuff. I hear that the paradigm in marketing has shifted & that social media is the map to the future of marketing; source: Groundswell.
I appreciate your posts and came here through your post about the 1st presidential debate. Take care.
Very good local information. More and more of my local clients are asking me how they can use Social Media for their small business.
I have seen fantastic results in a short period of time. especially when their competition is lagging behind.
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