There are several ways to use social networking and social media:
- To help you connect and interact with people that you know.
- A catalyst to enhance your own thinking.
- A way of broadcasting your products and brand to a captive audience.
- There are probably other uses as well, but how long do you want this list to be? I’ll get to what is wrong with users pushing products through social networking in a moment, but there is another group of people that use social networking: self styled experts and consultants. People that claim to know how to utilize social networking and social media, people that would be otherwise unremarkable in their careers but have garnered a following of people. I started following @keyinfluencer and @skydiver after the former made a comment on twitter that blew up in his face, a horse which has been beaten to death on blogs/comments and twitter. They haven’t had a great amount of interesting updates to read since, but @skydiver aka Peter Shankman has some interesting projects, not the least of which is HARO. So they both stayed on the list of people I was following, even after the drama died down.
Around the same time, my official twitter honeymoon period ended. While people are initially interested in someone new, that doesn’t last long unless you are relevant , such as the work they do or the values they represent, there is very little connection that causes interaction. I was sitting at about 25 followers, none of whom actually interacted with my tweets for the most part. I wanted to be relevant and included, and I really really wasn’t. It’s enough to make you pull your hair out.
Then I added @guykawasaki after @keyinfluencer retweeted something from him. Over the next 15 to 20 minutes I picked up another 5 -10 followers, all of them matching the above stereotype. Lots of followers, about an equal number of people they were following…social media experts. People trying to use the medium to their benefit.
I’ve been to a few presentations in the past that these people remind me of. The sales pitch, the angle:
"You too can be *RICH*, if you do what I do."
With slicked down hair and a suit that they hope I’ll recognize is expensive, (which of course I don’t - I know absolutely nothing about suits), the presentation is a money making effort all on its own. The person up the front has no interest in making anyone else rich, or adding value to your life. And who can blame them, why should they care about you? But why should you respect them either? Aside from the fact that they’re doing well financially (assumedly) there is nothing else outstanding about them. They’re not making the world a better place, just trying to get ahead themselves.
If any of the people above feel that this isn’t fair then speak up. I certainly don’t know everything about you. Peter Shankman certainly has something that helps out a lot of people, what about the rest?
I was having a discussion about SEO and social media the other day with my dentist. We talked about a lot of things, not the least of which was the fact that businesses were increasingly trying to utilise this new platform to push their agenda. That may be effective to an extent - but it’s not real. The essence of social networking and social media is that we don’t want to be spoonfed and forcefed what we consume. Twitter is all about finding people to follow that are interesting and useful, but at what point does it become just another billboard that can be used to get your money?
A perfect example of the corruption of social media is the spamming that goes on. Because of the explosion of available services (there are now several twitter clones for instance). It has become common for people to spam ALL the available services, in an attempt to get your name out as hard and fast as you can. A recent issue on Etsy.com highlights the problem that comes when you force an advertising campaign into a format that is designed for personalities, not products. Timothy Adam Designs was recommending that people use a service called socialmarker.com. SocialMarker is a service which lets you post the same URL to up to 160 social bookmarking sites instantly. Timothy’s instructions were embraced by the Etsy community, and subsequently all linking to etsy from propeller.com was banned as it was considered a spam site. He was at a point the social media expert on the Etsy forums. The kicker is, Timothy’s instructions were posted to the Etsy forums as his method of getting blog hits, which would increase his popularity, which would sell his product. His angle: “You too can be rich, if you do what I do.”
Social media is not designed for products. If you are pushing your products by announcing them on twitter, or bookmarking them on the plethora of social bookmarking sites then you’re not doing the right thing. Another interesting forum post on Etsy deals with the fact that a lot of these sites have rules in the Terms of Service against this very action.
There is a place for /Social Products/, but don’t misunderstand me. Social Products should not be mistaken for self promotion. Social products(or services) are when someone else recommends your product or service. Social products are more commonly known as word of mouth, someone buying your product or using your service and feeling so strongly about it that they have to share it with other people. There is only one way to get into that category; be outstanding in what you do.
Stop falling in with the wrong people. I’m still being ignored on twitter, but I’ve had this realisation that it doesn’t matter. On one level, I’d like to be relevant on twitter and have people read my blog, because that may help me get more consulting work long-term. But what I really have to do to get work is follow my own advice. Be outstanding.