Monthly Archives: April 2011

Social media experts really don’t understand social media.

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There. I said it.

I follow way too many social media experts on Twitter. Too many folks who want to teach your company how to be successful in social media. They promise you heaps of good fortune with your Facebook page and they’re super excited to do your tweeting for you as well. There’s a whole industry now built around these folks, and regardless what they call themselves, they really have no idea what they’re doing. If they did, they wouldn’t be doing it.

Social media platforms weren’t really designed for business; they were designed so folks like you and me could connect with each other, share little things and basically keep in touch — in a superficial, but somehow meaningful, way. As these sites attract users, they also attract businesses — especially those who want the Internet equivalent of a storefront on Main Street.

Problem is, the goals of a business and the goals of an individual in social media are severely different. I choose to use Twitter to connect with folks, whether I know them in real life or not. Facebook is the place where I maintain a loose connection with old classmates. LinkedIn is for keeping in touch with colleagues. Businesses, on the other hand, use social media for two reasons. Those who do it closest to correct use social media to respond to customer complaints, join conversations about the brand, monitor chatter about themselves. But the majority are there to sell.

I can already hear you: “OMG, Dan. What’s wrong with that lol?”

The problem is companies and organizations overestimate their customers’ desire to engage with them. Sure, I love Pepsi and my BlackBerry. I follow both on Twitter. But I don’t engage with them. I don’t remember the last thing I read from either company. But that’s not the point…

Remember in high school how you and your friends found that perfect spot to hang out? No parents or cops or teachers…it was a place where you’d sit back, chat, maybe even sneak a couple of dad’s beers and share them in the summertime. That’s how most social media sites start. They’re little clubs where the cool kids hang out.

Imagine you’re at your little hangout and suddenly a McDonald’s opens 20 feet away. And then the AT&T store opens next to it. And an auto dealership. And 30 social media experts open storefronts, all surrounding you. Suddenly you can’t even talk to your friends without wading through all these businesses, and they all keep trying to get your attention. And of course your parents and teachers show up, because they’ve all heard your hangout is cool. After awhile, you and your friends just decide to find another place.

That’s what social media experts are bringing to social media.

Myspace was cool at first. Everyone connected with each other. You kept in touch. You shared pictures and songs and everybody was happy. Bands all wanted Myspace profiles, because it made getting a web presence easy. Then businesses all wanted to be on Myspace, because that’s where the kids were.

Where’s Myspace today? Overrun by businesses, musicians and celebrities. My own band still has a page there, and our only friend requests come from TV shows, movies and businesses. It’s over, people. Businesses are just standing around in Myspace land, begging each other to buy.

The same is happening on Twitter and Facebook, where social media experts, in order to keep themselves in jobs, continue to push the importance of a business being involved in social media. Unfortunately, that one little fact shows just how little they understand about social media, and their own role in destroying it, one site at a time.

The sad part is that I agree that companies need to have Twitter and Facebook accounts. I think we’ve come to a point where you’re silly if you don’t. But never once have I seen anyone point out just how bad businesses are for social media. Our social media experts never say “Listen, we should be on Twitter, but we have to realize our mere existence on Twitter will surely hasten Twitter’s demise.”

That, folks, would be an honest, and knowledgeable, expert. Anyone out there ever heard that? I bet not.

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