This quote, by Ralph Waldo Emerson, captures why many businesses are missing the marketing potential of social media. Similar to the early days of Internet marketing in the mid-90’s, these businesses are focused on the technology and software (the “needles”), and not on the underlying reasons the needles move.  A focus on technology and software applications leads many business people to see social media as just another channel of mass media, through which their mass marketing messages can travel. This is what causes businesses to claim “We’re on Facebook!” when their social media marketing is just seen as another way to “get the word out.”  (See this earlier post I wrote on, along with the rich comments from the community.)

Emerson’s quotation is actually a perfect metaphor for social media, since the “magnetism” that we should focus on is found in the social connections and relationships that you can nurture and facilitate with social media.

It’s easier to believe in magnetism, and not in needles, if you focus on a few key points that differentiate social media from mass marketing:

•    Mass marketing is one-to-many.  Social media is about facilitating community.
•    Mass marketing is about “getting the word out.”  Social media is about nurturing conversations.
•    Mass marketing is about creating a transaction.  Social media is about strengthening connections.

Community, conversation and connections.  This is the magnetism.


  • Mike
    Sep 04, 2009 - 09:06 am

    Steve – what a wonderfully perfect analogy! You’re so right that people always get caught up with, and spin wheels, on the “HOW” instead of focusing on the “WHY”. Always love your insights; keep ’em coming!

  • David Rendall
    Sep 04, 2009 - 09:56 am

    Great stuff! I think many people believe that technology changes everything. However, it doesn’t change human nature and the desire for strong, trusting, mutual relationships.

    I’m glad that the final bullets were less than 140 characters. You made it very easy for me to tweet them.


    • Amanda Cullen
      Sep 04, 2009 - 10:41 am

      I agree 100%, David. Technology may be different, but human nature remains the same.

      Steve – I love the Emerson quote and how you made it so relevant to social media and technology in general.

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