What Inliers Think About Social Media
What Inliers Think About Social Media
What Inliers Think About Social Media

If an outlier, by Malcolm Gladwell’s definition, is someone that exists and acts outside the normal experience, then an inlier would be one who exists and acts as part of it. I propose we refer to an inlier as someone in a mainstream user base … the majority … someone who is, statistically at least, like most other users.

By this definition, social media adopters to date are not inliers. They are not the rule, but exceptions to it. This has been my argument and purpose for building a learning community and question-answer site around social media and digital marketing. The rest of the country, not Silicon Valley, New York, Boston or Austin, doesn’t Tweet, blog, check-in or post.

You can throw all the use statistics at me you want, but when I speak to small business associations, retailers, government officials and other folks with regular jobs and lives throughout the U.S., they sing a similar chorus.

Crowded street scene prior to the Bristol Four...
Image via Wikipedia

Case in point: I presented a workshop last week to a group of community travel professionals in Central and Eastern Kentucky. The room was full of successful business professionals, directors of marketing, travel and tourism pros who have marketed their communities, museums, attractions and destinations for years. The request was for me to help them get more familiar with social media in general, with an emphasis on Facebook, so they could better understand how to leverage these platforms to promote their businesses.

I started off by asking the room why they were there. One by one each person indicated varying degrees of aptitude for social media. But what struck me is that 3-4 folks (out of room of 45 people) said something like, “I hate Facebook. I can’t fathom why anyone would ever use it. But I know lots of people are there and I have to use it for business, so I’m here to learn.”

Can you guess what they said about Twitter?

Not a single person in the room ran a company blog. Only one had a personal one. About one-third of them had originally set up their business’s Facebook presence as an individual profile, not a business page. When I explained how they could measure sales and conversions on their sites, several people looked at me like I’d just hand-delivered the Shroud of Turin.

Real people … inliers … don’t yet grasp this world we work in, talk about and explore. If we don’t make a concerted effort to reach not just people who want to understand social media, but those who don’t know they want to yet, we’re setting ourselves up for another massive fail.

That crowd was the exact one I built Exploring Social Media for. You come, you ask questions. The only question that’s a dumb question is the one you don’t ask. Tamar Weinberg, DJ Waldow, Nick Huhn and me are there to answer, to help, to guide. You, fair reader, may get a lot out of Exploring Social Media because we answer hard questions, too. But we know you know someone who has questions and frustrations and fears like those I spoke to last week. Send them to us. We can help.

And we want to!

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About the Author

Jason Falls
Jason Falls is the founder of Social Media Explorer and one of the most notable and outspoken voices in the social media marketing industry. He is a noted marketing keynote speaker, author of two books and unapologetic bourbon aficionado. He can also be found at JasonFalls.com.
  • Hi Jason. Thanks for reminding us that even if the Fourth Revolution has ignited, still many people have not been touched by it or do not want to see it.
    Still a minimum of computer literacy is a must in the new world. It must be done for children (how to behave with Facebook…) but should also be mandatory for adults. We need a driving license on the physical roads. Why not a driving license for the web, and the training that goes with it? Let’s face it: today if you are not aware of what is happening on social media you might just miss where the real value creation is!

  • Hi Jason, couldn’t agree more with your observations on “inliers” – I see exactly the same amongst the majority of business people in the UK.
    However, the question of how to reach “those who don’t know they want to {understand social media} yet” is one we wrestle with frequently. Is a web based business really the answer? If they don’t know thye want to understand it, what are the chances of them coming to the site and / or even Googling for anything related?
    We’ve totally not solved that problem, but do treat our online marketing / blog etc as “preaching to the converted”. Getting to those other inliers only seem to happen with great difficulty, through running free taster seminars or incentivising other businesses who deal with those people to promote what we do…

    • Thanks, Kate. I agree there is a challenge with reaching the needy audience
      in the first place … then convincing them they are needy indeed. But I do
      think a fair number of them are lurking, searching and trying without
      knowing what they’re doing. So the initial audience is there for the taking
      (or helping if you want to look at it through a different lens). The rest,
      we can work on as we help the initial wave. Fair?

      • Yup, fair! Then the lurkers often have to go through the “there’s nothing to it” phase before realising that in fact there is, and seeking outside support – but as you say, you’re there for them once they do.

  • Social media marketing cannot crate results over night and waiting for results is really painful and we have to do what we feel is good for our business and one day we can get the good results.

  • I used social media for marketing purposes but there were times that I really don’t know what will I do next. Blog, Facebook page updates, and tweet links are some of my things to do. But as I observe that there should be more to do and to know for me to catch good market and sales. And with those beginners in using social media, I think it is difficult for them to catch everything in an overnight but with the eagerness and step by step execution, they will learn and gain profit from their social media marketing.

  • Sometimes I forget how far ahead of the curve many of us are. I am single-handedly responsible for my company’s entire social media measurement efforts. I have built a framework that allows us to easily measure the success of our efforts and quantify the amount of traffic we are driving to our sites, and the number of leads we’re acquiring as a result of our social marketing. It floors me that when you boil it down to the basics and provide simple charts, so many people still can’t get it. Is it really that difficult for other marketers to understand?

    • I’ve asked that question, too Scott. I really think that we in the tech
      savvy world (and there are varying degrees of that … I can’t code, for
      instance) think computers are second nature and intuitive and easy. But the
      majority of people don’t know IE from Windows from Gmail. Technology
      confuses a lot of people. And conceptually, they don’t connect a folder icon
      on a desktop as a place where files are kept, just like you keep files in a
      folder in the real world. Navigating computers is hard for people. Then
      throw this little portal that opens the possibilities to pages and “stuff”
      that’s not on the computer but on the Internet … whatever that is .. and
      you’re above most people’s heads.

      It’s easy for us, but really … most people … even many marketers … are
      at least clumsy and awkward with technology. We need to bridge that gap or I
      fear we’ll be setting ourselves up for another bubble, at least in relation
      to social media.

  • Al Pittampalli

    Still, the social media revolution is young. Adoption can take time. Heck, there are still some laggards that are still using VCR’s. People still need help with the tactics, and understanding the value, and I’m glad you’re providing it.

  • Wow…. so true.  The myth is that youth are savvy in social media.  I mean they are on it all the time!  No?  I teach an integrated media post grad class.  Most students are in the their 20s.  Most of them had facebook pages.  None were on twitter.  None were on LinkedIn.  When I asked what made a website great, the only answer I got was..  good pics.  I have ended up teaching a 101 class.  So… lesson learned: Don’t assume.

    • Great point, Laurinda. We all know what assuming does! Heh.

  • So true… thank you for this post. I was just at TEDxSanta Cruz, live tweeting away. When we came back in after the first break, the emcee said there had been a ‘suggestion’ (complaint) regarding smartphone use in the audience. She handled it graciously IMO – still wanting those of us to tweet etc. but wanting to address the concern as well. I was shocked. But it revealed my own assumptions and experience level. Haa – I do not normally think of myself as an early adopter. But my experience at this event, and your insights here, sure indicate otherwise!

    • Wow. I’m surprised you’d get that at a TED event, but I guess it’s proof that there’s something to this. Thanks Trisha.

  • Nice to know your here <|;-)

  • Jason – I totally agree with you that most people don’t grasp “this world we live in.” While on a panel about social media for a technology networking group the question came up – who knows the difference between a Facebook page and a Facebook profile? Out of 100 or so people only a handful raised their hands. These were “tech” people looking to expand their use of social media and yet most would probably have signed their business up with a personal Facebook profile rather than a Facebook page. Most of us who work with social media on a daily basis need to keep in mind that the average user out there doesn’t have anywhere near the experience or knowledge we do. 

    • Thanks for the additional verification Bryan. Good to know my
      experiences are more common. Now let’s bridge the gap!

  • “Real people … inliers … don’t yet grasp this world we work in, talk about and explore.” Excellent point, Jason. Just because 700+ million folks are on Facebook and several million (don’t recall #) are on Twitter does not mean that they understand how to leverage those tools to grow their business. I’m certainly biased, but I love what you are doing with ESM.

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  • Rclark

    Great points. I believe it’s important we “inliers” (that’s
    not like calling one self an expert is it? ;) need to share our SM successes.
    Specifically, leads, orders, contracts, donors, contributors etc. While
    presenting to small social media business groups, and contributing to a Chamber
    networking committee I’ve overcome the, “I don’t have time, it’s not for
    us, blah-blah-blah objections by sharing bottom line new business successes. If
    you have ammunition we can all use to show the value of SM, share it! What are
    your successes?


    • Precisely why I seldom write about launches. I want to share
      learnings. I’m with you … Share what you’ve learned. If you share it
      with me, I’ll share it on SME for all to see!

  • I asked the “Why?” question very often with people that contact me for a social media program and most of them tell me the very same thing, “Everyone told me I have to have social media.”  They really have no idea why.  So we usually begin there.

    As for your group and the Q&A you provide, I completely endorse this group.  As a beta tester Jason gave me a free subscription, but I love the group.  I learn something all the time there.  I have been labeled a guru, and expert, and a master of social media.  I am long from those titles in my opinion, as I continue to learn quite a bit, but I know that the people in this group that Jason mentions are seasoned veterans and can answer most questions,  I tend to ask more advanced questions, and if they don;t know the answers they find someone who does.  Join it no matter your level of experience.  If you don’t learn something, I’ll give you your money back.  The other benefit is lending your own expertise and experience.  They welcome input from the user which is better than some groups I have belonged to and that grows the entire community as a whole.  It goes to exactly what Jason says above.

    • You’re a peach, Jim. Thanks for the endorsement, buddy. Glad you’re a
      part of it!

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  • Danfarrellydf

    Social media is the way to go.



    Thank you


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