Posted in: Technology

R.I.P. Social Media, it was a nice dream while it lasted


Let’s set the record straight right from the beginning.

Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Gowalla, Buzz or any of the other hundreds of wannabes out there fishing for VC dollars as their only viable business model are not social media. At best they are just another play on the whole social network idea and at the worst they are nothing more than marketing coal mines.

All those so-called social media gurus or experts out there who do nothing more than get companies all jacked about the idea that followers and friends are the new marketing crack are no better than snake-oil salesmen. The only problem is that in the process of lining their pockets they have polluted and torn apart something that could have been a turning point in our society.

For the longest time now I have been a firm believer that Social Media at its heart was the platform by which we as individuals could come together and through conversation, effect change like never before. Instead what we get are companies pandering to the lowest common denominator in order to create pipelines of personal information for which they can charge top dollar to companies that just want to sell us some more garbage – social change be damned.

It has only been in the last little while that I have even begun to question the idea about Social Media being about the larger conversation. I still hold out hope for that admittedly idyllic dream but the reality is that Social Media has lost to Facebook and the marketers when it comes to the small conversation. In fact I would suggest that while people like Joel Postman and Tom Foremski suggest that social media is more about publication rather than conversation, I am seeing it as nothing more than a marketing platform.

In his post Joel writes

Problems arise when we behave in so-called online conversations as if we are in real conversations. We say things without considering whether we want them permanently recorded in an online archive available to nearly 2 billion people. We tweet an offhand remark to a friend, in a simulation of a one-to-one conversation, which happens to be visible to 500 million people. Our most casual remarks are recorded for future employers, business competitors, customers, clients, potential litigants, political adversaries and others.

Well I would go one step further than and suggest that this has become the intention of all current social networks and ones that are in development. Everything is being structured in such a way to make us believe that these online conversation are indeed just like having a coffee with friends. This way we keep feeding the data pipeline being maintained by companies like Facebook and Twitter.

Tom writes

That’s what social media is about. It’s about publishing, allowing anyone to publish back. It’s feedback, it’s a response, it’s not a conversation.

He’s right but I also would suggest that the publication we are doing isn’t our own anymore, or at least a very small portion of it is. Rather we have become re-publishers for marketing spam. It is all about retweeting, sharing, rebuzzing other peoples content. It is about passing along the latest contest, the latest meme (increasingly started by some marketing firm) or a link to the latest viral video.

Take a look at the hottest topics when it comes to Social Media and it is all about telling companies better ways they can con us into thinking they care about having a conversation. It’s all about getting more eyeballs on your Facebook Fan page or how to best use 140 characters to get your non-sales sales pitch across to as many people as possible, and then get them to retweet it.

For once we had the possibility of a global platform from which we had the power to make those in power listen to us. What we have ended up with is nothing more that a digital Madison Avenue and a whole lot of digital garbage that won’t shut up.

I would like to hold out some hope that the original intention of Social Media could make a resurgence. A hope that we can take back our platform for change. I just don’t see it happening which is really sad.

Articles And Offers From The Web


14 Responses to “R.I.P. Social Media, it was a nice dream while it lasted”

  1. Auriette

    I’m caught in the middle on this. As a marketing professional, I’m required to use Facebook and Twitter to try to sell my organization. As an individual, I’m sick of every company I encounter asking me to follow and friend and fan them. The thing is, I sometimes do, because I enter sweepstakes as a hobby and that’s a way to enter giveaways. It dilutes something that should be about individuals keeping in contact. I’m really ready for the whole social media marketing thing to go away, so I can just fill out entry forms the “old fashioned” way and keep my Facebook page for my friends.

  2. trib

    Sounds like we’re of one mind. The numbers least of all and the marketing next are absolutely the least interesting thing about the social web and all the assorted bits that hang off it. Anyone that believes social media is about selling stuff and eyeballs has their head up their own backside reinhaling the crack smoke they’re drawing in from somewhere. Nothing could be more false

    Yes, they can be fun. Yes they might help us track down a high school pal. And so on. But that’s just the start. The singularity of hyperconnectedness rapidly approaches, and when it’s all connected, from your phone, to your mincemeat you buy at the supermarket, that’ll be when we’re on to something. When information and context is ubiquitous and mundane. When connection is just the way it is. When it becomes trivial to find out where your long lost high school pal is because they’ve explicitly published and shared that piece of data (and so much more), that’s when it gets interesting.

    Until then. the marketers can go, as I have heard a good friend say, “eat a bucket of dicks”.

  3. soundhunter

    I use twitter for the conversation, for the idyllic scenarios you describe here. I think social media is the greatest thing that ever happened for activists, environmental, Iranian and other oppressed peoples, birth/breastfeeding/anti circumcision. These are the causes I personally follow and retweet, and there is no marketing dollars to be made for anybody that I can see anyways, for the passionate people using social media for non profit message spreading. I don’t follow marketers, I’ve learned that anyone who says they’re a social media expert or whatever is generally speaking, boring to follow, and likely not interested to engage in conversations with me since I’m not interested in hiring them, or buying anything via twitter. As for Facebook, I get the coolest, most relevant ads I’ve ever seen online on my facebook profile, Big Lubowski Dudeism church, and captain beefheart t-shirts, I don’t mind the ads there so far other than the constant body image ones they seem to toss any woman/mother.

    I do agree however, re: concerns about our data being stored forever. Lots of people active online have experienced various forms of online stalking and I wish there was some way to go back and clean up some of my past sharing.

  4. Steven Hodson

    Auriette I can understand the feeling about being caught in the middle. As I said in the post I still – however faintly – hold out hope for the larger ideals of what Social Media could stand for. The problem is that in typical human fashion we are using it concept as a single giant club where in fact Social Media should be more like the surgical knife used where and when it can do the most good. That doesn’t mean that Social Media doesn’t have a place in a corporate world the problem is that the ons size fits all approach currently being applied is only ruining any potential for real change.

  5. Steven Hodson

    Twitter’s move to rank by popularity in its search results is a perfect example of how perverse this whole thing has become – totally expected though.

  6. donovan

    None of this matters anyway. Will it in 100 years? doubt it. It’s all just a game, enjoy it for what it is.


  7. Cindy Kim

    Great post in resetting priorities around social media. In part I do agree with this post that it’s more about publishing than conversation. But we’ve seen some great movements that social media has paved the way for – such as the election in Iran. The fast pace in which information was disseminated across the globe was astounding and I think there are different goals social media serves for different people. I heard a great keynote at SxSW last week – how interactive communities can become the leader in key movements such as the awareness for global issues. Yes – interactive communities have to understand the greater purpose they can serve versus mindless two way engagement we see on a day to day basis. Rather than looking at it from a publishing standpoint and sharing information, we have to take the lead role of citizen journalist and share vital information that is useful to others.

    On another note, while many businesses use the social media sites to listen, engage, and raise brand awareness, we have to look at these platforms to again, educate.We use it to mostly listen and solve issues for our customers and also share critical security issues that are important. But key thing is – they have to define what their end goal is. If it’s to drive sales, that is not it. Thanks for this insightful blog.

    The Marketing Journalist Blog:
    Co-founder of Linked WOW 3.0 Group:

  8. Desarae A. Veit

    I disagree but not entirely.

    While many people are trying to scam the system and hopefully one day social networks will take a bigger front on fighter back at them and shutting the spam bots down that is not everyone.

    Social media is not a platform of just spam and publication. It is not only the “snake-oil” sales men as you so abrasively put it. Social media is still being used to connect, share ideas, make new friends and contacts, help clients and prospects, and even crowdsource opinions.

    In all sense of the traditional media term for broadcasting it is entirely not the same. In no way can I yell at my television for hating a commercial and have the person who made it apologize, defend it or want to become my friend. If I find a newspaper ad spammy, it would take a lot of effort on my part to call that person out. We DO have people who care about this space and while no one is policing it, I would say it has a fairly self-monitoring system where people will call you out if you set back the community.

    I care about this space and think it has a lot of potential both as a way to stay connected with friends across the world and with brands that I personally am interested in. I get better customer service on Twitter than on the telephone with most companies. I’ve talked to my favorite authors and some celebrities thanks to sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google Buzz. The majority of my friends and client contacts from the past 4 years are thanks to social networks and my blog. Social networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Buzz, YouTube and others. You are right, social media is not a coffee shop setting. You have to make your own coffee and you will only get out of this space what you put into it, but the rewards are great if you are willing to wade throught the muck and find the true treasures.

    If you find the right business strategist, you can brainstorm some pretty amazing ideas too. Ideas that can change the space, improve the community and open up a company to a whole new world where your clients are helping you innovate, all the while helping them in return. It’s like any relationship, give and take. Think of how many people are successful in helping other people in these spaces, do you think they cam in with all the answers? Hell no. They are probably still learning new things, and being put in their place as we speak. Yes, “social media” has been around for about 5 years as it stands today, but that just means that we are all still learning and revising our tactics on how to understand each other and what is considered proper etiquette. Now all the people who are marketers and taking advantage of the space, yes they give it a bad name but hopefully you can nicely take them aside in a DM fashion and give them a pointer or two. If you don’t like the way things are going, help us change it.

    –Desarae A. Veit
    Agency Couture | @DesaraeV

  9. Will Reichard

    Provocative post–nice read.

    I’d venture that marketing you hate is just bad marketing. Marketing should the process of helping you find what you want in the way you want it. I would agree that many marketers still haven’t got this point.

    I like gadgets, so I want to make sure companies get information to people who write about them so that I can read about them. If my friends have read about something I haven’t and that I’d like to know about, I appreciate hearing about it from them.

    It’s all about what’s wanted. I think a lot of this will be sorted out because the old “push” strategy of hard selling will fail in this climate, and we’ll be left with organizations that really do get what “conversations” mean. As someone involved in online and social marketing, I’m looking forward to that day.

    Thanks again.

  10. Kevin Boulas

    I think we get too concerned about social media – a medium is a conduit; by definition a means to an end, not an end of itself. The so-called gurus get so focused on what Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare etc. etc. ad nauseum mean for marketing, they lose sight of the goal.

    The goal in my mind is to incorporate the customer’s voice in your business. This idea transcends marketing and PR. It has little or nothing to do with Twitter or Facebook per se, and instead involves the development of a culture, a set of strategies, and associated people, process and technology enablers to both listen to the customer’s voice, and also effectively address the implications of listening – a topic I think few have even begun to grasp.

    I agree that with the advent of the “mavens” and “gurus” we are turning social media into bad infomercials in many cases, but I also believe (or hope) the community will police itself to a great degree, and my voice and your voice will counteract the effects of the spammers – I already see efforts made to attack the most obvious of these techniques, and I believe as the community becomes more sophisticated, those with little to say will be seldom if ever heard. And this is right and appropriate – their influence is proportionate to their value in the community.

    Finally, I reject this idea of social media as a “permanent record.” By mere scale and scope of what is being “published” these days, I find it unrealistic that this specter of a “big brother” effect has implications for your career or other aspects of your life – even if, with all of the noise out there, that your comment would be plucked from the 2 billion users’ hundreds of billions of monthly posts. Equally unlikely is that your message actually would reach 500 million. That’s not really the point – I can’t influence 500 million people – nor can most of us in any meaningful way. The point is to influence who we can influence, and that is done the way you build influence in your personal life – consistently and honestly. And only when many people are influencing many more people will any meaningful effect result.


  11. JimiBostock

    Man this is really quite funnt. R U serious or is this a spoof.

    You really have no idea what is going on it seems, with all due respect

    Granted, there is a lot of snake oil happening in the social space. I am not sure how we stop that.

    But the work I do for clients across teh whole web space, including social, reaps huge results. I and my team are judged on our results. If we don;t deliver, we get turfed.

    One problem might be that those of us that are at the coalface do not lightly share how we do things. So, there is probably a lack of real case studies but there are some, you should go and have a look for them

    Jimi Bostock
    PUSH Agency
    Brisbane | Canberra | Sydney | Australia

  12. Claudia Guzman

    Social media helps people stay connected with friends at the same time it is also significant for business purposes in a way that it can enable businesses to gather input and feedback directly from their target audience, and use that intelligence for more effective marketing management. Insight into why people like – or hate – a brand is needed to help change and control audience perceptions and preferences. As for consumers, social media helps them to become aware of the products and services offered for them.

Around The Web