Anti-social Media, part 1

A spectrum of social media tools (click to enlarge)

The above graphic offers you a chance, if you can read the tiny logos in the expanded version, to see just how many tools are currently in existence that revolve around the explosions in social media technology.

I have been reading articles regarding social media for the last week and I have become very disturbed by the variety of points of view on the subject. The articles on Klout and Peer Index and other tools used to measure social influence left me wondering about the attempts of the industry to monitize, gamify or in some fashion quantify the value of social media. I am certain I am in violation of a number or rules regarding social media, the primary one being that the meaning is the message, and that it is important to use social media to advertise your product or brand. I spent an entire hour listening to brand mavens pointing out the importance of branding in the future of advertising.

But there were things said that did not sit well for me. Just a couple to show you want I mean.

I am not a detergent. I am not a cow. I do not need nor require a brand to identify myself. The very nature of branding reduces not enhances the human experience, in my opinion. Why has society tried to force branding off on to the computer-using human populace as if it was something that was to be desired? What is this issue with trying to determine Trust Metrics? As if trust were something you could get off the shelf at the market. And since when did Integrity become something that could be detected over the Internet?

All that follows is my opinion. Mouth-breathers who want to rant and rave over what I say next, I say to thee, get thee to a nunnery or to wherever you need to go to get yourself together. I will likely speak heresy and perhaps it is best that someone say it.

Social media has no meaning beyond what we give it. There is this need to expound on social media as if it were the best thing that has ever happened to anyone anywhere. Get over it. Much of what is being sold today as social media has existed for over twenty years in various and better developed forms.

They are only important now because they have suddenly become mainstream and now relatively normal folks are suddenly able to post things to the internet with a minimum of muss and fuss. All that was old is new again. The chat potential that is currently Twitter used to be know as IRC and for anyone who still uses IRC, they laugh at Twitter as a less intelligent but better dressed cousin. Blogging used to have a slightly different configurations called Forums which allowed you to post information sequentially in discrete chunks blocked off by time. Millions of people and services still use forums today. Email, well that has just stayed email. It has slightly more advanced capabilities but if you were sending email twenty years ago, you could send it today with less than five minutes of explanation.

All of the fuss that is made over social media, regarding its marketing potential, whether trust was important and if so, how important, how does social media penetrate our lives, etc. Yes, I know Twitter has software that allows its feeds to be used in other programs, allowing for visualization of twitter information in wild and wonderful ways. But most of those visualizations are not beneficial to the people using Twitter. They are beneficial to corporations who want to monitize Twitter with advertising models. All of that is nonsense, if the basic premise is still untrue. If you are a dastardly person, who does not honor your contracts, who lacks human decency and cannot string a comprehensive paragraph together, social media will not help you get new clients, it will not help your business, it will not help you keep friends, (though it may allow you to expose yourself and your dastardly ways to more people), it will not make you a better person and it certainly won’t help you be a better writer.

Bad people are found out. It may take a moment, if they are suave or clever (or in some cases, sociopathic) and can put on an act to make others believe they are genuine and trustworthy. But they did not need social media for that. They could have (and have almost always) duped their prey in person. Now social media gives them one more forum to ply their trade.

Social media is not new. It is a new way of doing old things. The first and best of those old things is called communication. Talking to people, being friendly, being a person of repute, having manners, displaying class and grace. These things are the social part. If you lack these, technology will not help you.

Stop ranting over social media currency or the ROI (return on investment) of your social media time and how it will augment your business marketing making you even richer than you are now. You become rich by having something worthwhile to say. You become rich by doing things that are meaningful. You become rich by creating content people are able to put to work in their lives and in doing so perhaps also become rich. Do that right enough times and everyone you are social with will benefit.

Content is King.  The ability to say the right thing, at the right time, to the right people over the right communication standard is what matters. If you don’t mean what you say, say what you mean, do what you say and accomplish it in a timely fashion, you will not succeed in business, you will not succeed in life and you certainly won’t succeed in social media, which is a distillation of all of the things, skills, behaviors, ideas and efforts you put forward in life. Social media will not make you rich if you are a slackard. It will not enrich those who cannot be bothered to actually have anything useful to say. It is the USE of your content that makes it worthy.

Influence, the power of social media matters when you are able to help others find their way to the things they are seeking in life. Things that help them fulfill what is important to them, for them, for their families and their way of living. Otherwise, you are just another person claiming to be a social media expert and not clear on the subject of what social media is really supposed to do. Yes, you can have amazing Klout numbers or Peer Index numbers and still not be doing anything that helps anyone. Social media suffers from a high ratio of noise to signal. Lots of sound, hard to distinguish what is worth listening to. This diminishes its usefulness. That was the point of the very first graphic I gave you. Look closely at it, zoom in on it (click it first for the highest resolution) you will see there are at least one hundred different ways of relaying information using social media. With so much diversity, it is hard to know where it would be best for your message to be placed for a chance at getting heard.

Social media’s real goal is to help us communicate. Meaningfully, with content that can change lives. All that other talk about the benefits of social media is just to get us to buy something we don’t need to complete a task well within our power, without ever turning on a computer in the first place.

Yes, I said it. The social media emperor has no clothes.


5 responses to “Anti-social Media, part 1

  1. You’ve ask some excellent questions in this post Thaddeus.

    You are correct that there is “frenzy” over social media and exploring every aspect, every minutia of it. And it will get more intense before it subsides. In a way I contribute to it as I’m paid to help larger companies distil what it is, should be and can be for their businesses. And it’s different for every one of them. And it’s so new that I ask as many questions as I offer solutions. (Don’t get me started on so-called social media experts)

    You are also correct that social media is really just another communication “channel” for the communication we’ve been having for centuries.

    Where our thoughts differ maybe is that I don’t see the current frenzy or over-analysis out of order. As with any new technology that impacts our lives or our businesses – few become early adopters, and the sceptical majority wait for others to pave the way.

    That’s where we are today. Businesses are finally catching on to the importance of this “new-fangled technology” to their audience and of course they must find a way to embrace it for the good (re: profit) of their businesses. And as it should be. Businesses need to make money. It’s what makes the world go round.

    Many of the same themes are repeated often. But that’s par for the course – even if it disturbs some people. There are many who are just opening a Twitter account or learning what LinkedIn is – and hundreds of thousands that have not done so yet. So to them, IT IS all technology. The current, maybe repetitive dialogue on social media is and will be required till everyone understands that it’s just plain old word of mouth, amplified by technology.

    Soon enough, the term “social media” will fade and become good old fashioned “marketing” again. (If you doubt it, when was the last time you heard someone say Web 2.0? Or “New Media”? )

    Patience Grasshopper. 🙂

    Excellent post.

    @samfiorella <- that's my plug! 😉

    • Thanks Sam, I appreciate your wisdom and I will sit and wait for the frenzy of social media to die down. Somehow I am certain people will be foaming at the mouth for some time while social media truly finds a space in the new media.

  2. Thank you for writing this! I’ve been tweeting for about six months, and am always disappointed and mildly annoyed to click on a link on “How to Tweet Better” and find the same marketing-related advice instead of something practical like list usage or retweet syntax. About a month ago I started tweeting, facebooking and blogging for a non-profit I’m involved with, and still don’t find any of the “branding” commentary helpful. Klout’s kind of fun as feedback on how well you’re connecting, and having numbers you can point to is always helpful in a report about how the media campaign’s going. My opinion on it all… if it isn’t obvious there’s a real person behind every tweet or post, you’re wasting your time.

  3. I read something similar about someone talking about how all of these Social Media metrics and “scores” are bunk.

    My opinion is they only exist for people within large organizations to show their higher-ups to keep their jobs relevant and provide some method of quantitative progress, regardless of how arbitrary it may be.

    In reality, as with anything in online marketing, all tactics and activities should be designed to do one of three things: increase traffic, increase revenue, or increase conversions. If you cannot convince someone to take action, whether to purchase, try, or read something, you have failed. Period.

    The real cross-over for business marketing and social media is the focus is the same: getting attention to something. But if it cannot enhance your business traffic, revenue, conversions, or at least provide leverage to better manage Public Relations, there is only waste.

    And as much as they want to “interact” with me, I have no personal interest in associating online as a “friend” of Tide, Kleenex, or IBM as much as I want to wear branded t-shirts and polos that seems to exist for the sole purpose of advertising said brand…. “Nike”, “Abercrombie”, “Fubu” and “Reebok”.

    Nice writup. Cheers. ~A

  4. Pingback: Is Social Media Anti-social? I’m More Convinced Than Ever (Part II) | A Matter of Scale

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