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April 30, 2009


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I was talking about exactly this yesterday with a fellow media contemporary. My analogy was that Myspace and Facebook are kind of like recess in the schoolyard, while Twitter is more like a hotel lobby post-conference. Sure, cocktails can be involved, but the point is that Twitter a professional environment. That's why adolescents aren't really catching on to it. Just wanted to add this ingredient to the mix.


Good article, and great analogy. Reminds me how everything in the virtual world is a replication of real-life interaction.

Come find me for your drink tickets!



David, you should also tell them that advertisers using social media are often like Amway salesmen that show up at that cocktail party. No one wants them there...it's the wrong context in which to sell. :)

Jeremy Kossen

The most important point here for anyhow using social media to market themselves or their products is "give and you shall receive". Nobody wants to hear someone shouting, "Buy my product!" We should provide quality information that helps people, serve as a viable resource, and people will naturally seek you out.

Jim Tobin at Ignite Social Media

Thanks for the update David. Much appreciated. Nice of John to mention it to you.

Yes, we've built out the analogy in some detail in the book, specifically for marketers who are trying to get up to speed on this.

I also did a speech on this at NC State about a month ago that is online here if anyone is interested: http://shortn.it/JcHd

But I'm pretty sure I didn't create this analogy. Like you, I just helped explain it. The more who hear it, the better.



Learning about that book with the same title should tell you that your idea is a good one! I am sure the authors are proud that another thought leader agrees with them.

At my office we are actually planning a Social Media Cocktail party where we will talk about precisely these same concepts...playing off the "Facebook in Real Life" idea a little by having a conversation about Social Media, something that happens everyday in the virtual world, but face to face instead.

If you haven't seen this Facebook video yet, check it out: http://tinyurl.com/cv6xck

David Meerman Scott

Jim - thanks for jumping in. I look forward to reading your book.

Gina Cuclis

I enjoyed your presentation at the InBound Marketing Summit in San Francisco, so decided to check out your blog. Interesting analogy. In Sonoma, we don't have cocktail parties, we have wine tasting events. -:)


Even if social media is a cocktail party, the big difference is the drinks are missing and thus the effect of the alcohol.

People stay rational when writing on social media, whereas a the same people on a cocktail party will start expressing themselves differently after a few drinks.

There is no body language on social media. A large part of our communication is expressed by our body and gestures.

Chris Plamann

Think the idea of body language as a component of communication that is left out of the mix in social media is an interesting one.

In many ways, the fact that physical appearance plays little if any role in online communication, social media or otherwise, is a real positive. This allows for an utterly fair playing field with regard to the exchange of ideas and the ability to contribute the most relevant and useful content.

In other ways I believe there is a form of body language which comes across through online communication. Tone, tenor and overall writing skill in expressing ideas shape my conceptions about the bloggers I follow regularly. While not exactly body language, there is typically a subtext to most bloggers content that seems to be consistent throughout their writings.

In my opinion, a form of body language created by a new form of communication - social media.

Bob Williams

One thing is missing from the analogy. In the real city, most people want to go the cocktail party and they see value in the relationships they build from it. Right now, there are still alot of corporate types trying to figure out what social media is and how it could possibly help them. Somebody give them a drink!

Amelia Vargo

I like the analogy - And it does help a lot to think of twitter et al as cocktail parties - I just wish they could provide real cocktails!!!

David Meerman Scott

@Chris - Interesting on the body language part. Hmm...

Dragging this out, what the analogy has in common is dress. Just like clothes, our social media profiles, choice of user name, type of photo, color scheme, and other aspects of our pages says a lot about who we are. Just like clothing.

If someone's Twitter name is "pookie" and the photo is of a cat I draw a different conclusion about them than if they use their real name and a head and shoulders photo.


This is a good example of the bigger web world and what it all means. I remember those futurists from the 60's who designed these buildings where everything we needed to live would be included. Funny thing was they never anticipated the Internet.

Satoshi Niikura

I really like this analogy. I have the exact same thought as I always think the Web as a "Service at shops, restaurants, or hotel in a city." My analogy to see the service or operation at those places has been changed since I started to work on the Web.

Chris Plamann

David - I like the extension on the body language discussion.

And I think profile pictures and details are a deceptively important component of online interaction. They definitely affect the way contributors are perceived. I think there are a lot of people out there (myself included) that don't spend enough time on them.

Liked your post on Twitter page design about the same subject.

Vijay Rayapati

Excellent piece , I always advocate social media is just like a cocktail party unless you have good conversations with participants it is hard to see any value out of attending cocktail party. Same goes true with Social Media - which is a channel to create,engage and share conversations.

Brandon Chesnutt

Great stuff, David.

If companies can take your advice to heart, hopefully they can avoid "sticking their head in the punchbowl."

Nelson Carvalho

Interesting piece, it reminded me of Anand Giridharadas' article, Behind FaceBook's Success: It takes a village. For me, I'm understanding Twitter as akin to sending an email with your text in the subject line and NFM (no further message).

Sandy Jones-Kaminski

Love the elaboration on this analogy David!

I'm also finding that people attending events these days are often reverting to blurting out things while others are talking similar to a "tweet" or Facebook Comment. If it weren't so rude to the person talking, it'd be down right funny.

And, since I'm a biz dev pro, and do a lot of networking both online as well as offline, I was prodded by colleagues to write a white paper on networking in which I say, "it’s always best that you don’t do or say anything on-line that you wouldn’t in person." Who knew we'd soon have to explain the reverse?!
Sandy Jones-Kaminski, author of "12 Rules of Networking for 2009"

Dorian Parker

I enjoyed the article. I am planning a ficticious event for a class that involves a Russell Simmons book signing party and to promote my university's new Hip Hop institution. Since my event is a party, this article helped me and gave me ideas on how to make my event successful.

SEO Companies

I also observed this 'social media' on a gathering cannot be missed!

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