Why A Social Media Community Is Like New York City

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New York City. The Big Apple. The city that never sleeps. 8 million stories…Many things can be said about New York City but unlike any other city, if you are doing business in New York, New York wants you to live here. New Yorkers are famously outspoken against outsiders and when they refer to New York, they mean New York City. Long Island and Upstate may as well be another country. This may seem counter-intuitive because New York has, and always will be, a melting pot. But that pot only melds actual residents with addresses in the City. Whether it’s technology or real estate, if you are making money in New York, you need to be part of New York – for better or for worse. And for all the good, there is a whole lot of bad as well. The brutal winters, the stifling summers, packed subways, tiny apartments, overpriced everything, there is a familial thread that ties all New Yorkers together. You see this especially in times of crisis. No city has ever rebounded faster or stronger from a tragedy than New York after 9/11. But even during unexceptional times, if you meet a New Yorker on the other side of the world, you connect with them instantaneously. Even if it’s just for a moment, contained in a single look, it’s palpable. New Yorkers are probably the most ethnocentric breed but that’s because New York makes you feel like you are part of something bigger. You are either in or you’re out. New Jersey, Long Island and Westchester, all think they are in but really they are on the outside looking in. To quote Sinatra, “if I can make it there I’ll make it anywhere” and it’s true. But you need to be here. We want you here!

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For this reason, a social community is exactly like New York City. If you’re a brand trying to make money off of social, you need to be here. You need to be neck deep in social communities, forums, blogs and platforms. Companies like Coca-Cola, Red Bull and Starbucks all understand this and sure, they are billion dollar consumer brands with limitless budgets, but E.L. James built a billion dollar reputation through book forums long before 50 Shades of Grey, while Zappos relies on ratings and reviews for their outstanding service because they can’t compete on price. One vertical still hasn’t come to this conclusion however and unsurprisingly, it’s Health that’s late to the party. Health organizations would rather play ostrich with their heads in the sand than listen to, or engage in, the social community – petrified by perceived risk and calcified through process and regulatory. What’s more, the third most prevalent internet behavior behind general search and email, is looking for health information. The first step Health organizations need to take is social listening and many have done just that. But this isn’t nearly enough. It’s not a physical address. It doesn’t get you real estate. In order for Health to take advantage of this channel and monetize it, they need to live here, otherwise they’ll never get it. Like Long Island they are on the outside looking in and things will never change unless they decide to “make it here.”

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A good social agency is like a real estate agent. The first step towards residency is going through a broker. But you’d better select a broker who understands the market. The nuances of a patient population are just like the nuances of SoHo, Murray Hill or TriBeCa. An Uptown broker isn’t going to know all the quintessential intricacies of The Village just like a CPG agency isn’t going to understand all the unique idiosyncrasies of a patient population like MS. So when you do decide to finally make your move, please do two things – make sure you find yourself a good health agency and make sure they specialize in social.

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SXSW Health Review

photo Having just returned from the Interactive portion of SXSW in Austin, I was struck by the emphasis now being placed on Health. Of course that’s why I attended in the first place, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a separate venue in the Hilton, entirely devoted to Health. From technology and startups, to new theories, ideas, trends, personalities and panels, the Health portion of the show, at least from a presentation standpoint, didn’t disappoint. Unfortunately the tradeshow floor, across the street in the convention center had no health related exhibitors to speak of. I suppose this is because the idea was to keep Health contained to the Hilton but my question would be, as large as Health was this year, I wonder how much longer before it warrants a separate segment entirely at SXSW, like Interactive or Film?

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Just gauging from the SXSW mobile app, and then actually spending the better part of four days at the Hilton, there appeared to be thousands of Health focused attendees present this year, which was wonderful, but not necessarily for the reason you might expect. Yes, it’s great to get a bunch of like-minded health folks together in one place, but the end result is usually something like Digital Pharma – a legitimate show in its own right, but one that can at times, feel a bit stale. Like you’ve read about it and seen it and maybe even come up with some funny acronyms, but the conference itself only serves to add validation to what you’ve already been thinking and reading about for awhile – networking aside.

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This is where SXSW differs considerably. Forget cool industry personalities and new technology launches, they have it, we know it, but let’s consider what’s really going on. This is digital, social and mobile pioneering…the fringe…a petri dish of ideas contaminating the minds of thousands of attendees willing to bear the outrageous prices and swarming crowds. But, like with any germ, some people try to prevent the spread and remembrance through excessive use of alcohol…I’m not talking about Purell. And that’s fine. But for the rest of us who are down to witness and participate in pioneering, this is the place to be because there is a legitimate newness to what is being presented and discussed. Granted, some ideas are so fringe (see boxer shorts with air bags) that they literally evoke laughs upon presentation.  But I am much more willing to sit through a few of those ideas to find true innovation, than to sit through semi-fresh ideas that have been under a heat lamp for days before being packaged and served as hot.