Google’s Ultimate Word Search Defines the Problem With Social Media

Google recently made its database of 500 billion words (and short phrases) scanned from 5.2 million books (in six languages) for the last 200 years available to the general public. It offers an amazing glimpse into the evolution of culture and the conversations that reflect it.

The best part is that this new information has been made easily accessible to the general public, so you don’t have to be a research wonk to investigate the database. Their simple tool, called Books Ngram Viewer, allows you to type in words and the span of years you want to investigate. It immediately graphs the results.

I discovered this amazing tool when one of my favorite researchers on “authenticity,” Joe Pine, blogged about it and referenced Patricia Cohen’s article in The New York Times.

Fair warning: this little tool is addicting, and the insights are fascinating.

Of course, I had to type in social media…and the spike was incredible (no surprise), but the disappointment was when I typed in “social media strategy.” The graph flat-lined. The death of strategy is a real pet peeve of mine.  Since the rapid adoption of social media, many practitioners have been attracted to the shiny new tool, but haven’t been as diligent about coupling it with solid strategy.

This graph can be a reminder to all of us that, as practitioners, we must always think first of our strategy, and social media as a tool to support it.

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