Why my grandfather gets social media

On a recent trip to Norman, Oklahoma to see my grandparents, my grandfather and I got into a conversation about where I work and “what I actually do.” I would highly recommend to anyone who works on the web to go through the exercise of explaining his or her job to the oldest person in his or her family. It’s a challenge that makes you strip what you do down to the bare essentials and explain things in plain language. This is something I wish more people did more of the time, particularly in the buzzwordy world of marketing.

Oddly enough, I found it was easier to explain social media and how you use it to market to people to him than it is with others.

Granddad, in the time when you grew up how did you decide who did business with? You listened to your friends, found trustworthy people who did great work, and you forged personal relationships with them over time, right? Well, once radio and then TV came on the scene, marketers found that it stopped being about who did the best job or who was the most trustworthy, and it became about who could spend the most money buying the most advertising. The people being advertised to lost all control. But now, people are using the Internet to communicate with each other, recommend things to each other, build relationships. People are taking back control. What I do is I help big companies who have spent 50 years living in the world of mass media understand how to function in that new world, which is really just a much bigger version of the old world.

My grandfather is nodding. He is over 80 and has been an independent oilman all his life. When he talks about the banker who backed him through his successes and failures he talks about a guy he knew personally, not an ATM. When he talks about anyone he ever handed money to, he talks about them by name and has at least one meaningful story about them – good or bad. He remembers the dawn of mass media, and watched as technology separated us from each other slowly over time. Now, in many ways, it’s bringing us back together. And while he still has an assistant who prints out emails so he can read them, he gets that.

The reason why I love working in social media is because I’m a part of that change. In some cases driving it, in other cases riding it, but always a part of the wave.

Have you ever had to explain what you do to someone much older than you and found yourself explaining it in better ways than you ever had before? Interested in hearing about it in the comments, if you are inclined.