While I tend to be zealous about the use of social media for marketing purposes and very evangelistic its promotion, I do agree with John that social media is a toolset. Where I do find myself at variance with his assertion is when he says these are "just" tools.
As with any tool, those associated with social media must be used in accordance with their design. You don't use a hammer to screw in a bolt and you don't use a saw to drive a nail. Similarily, there are certain "rules" that govern social media engagement and John hits the nail on the head (pardon the pun) with this declaration: Don't be rude. Don't be boring. Give to get.
However, there is a fallacy and even subtle danger in suggesting, especially to those either uninitiated or newly initiated in social media, that it's just tools. There is more to it than that.
Social media is also a mindset.
I have to go back to the "bible" of social media, the Cluetrain Manifesto
, and reference the very first of the 95 Theses - "Markets are conversations."
What I'm seeing, especially with Twitter, are some disturbing trends:
- Automation - This includes autoreplies and scheduled posts.
- Old-school, direct marketing-oriented "pitching."
The worst of the worst is when those two trends are combined. The auto-response subverts the need for real human interaction and the upfront pitch subverts any need to build real, human relationships (to whatever degree that's possible in Twitter).
Both fly in the face of what social media is all about and I'm grieved that the most conversational and human of all social media tools, Twitter, is being turned into nothing more than a marketing machine. (Same with Facebook too, for that matter.)
I like what blogger David Risley
had to say on this matter in a post from a few months back...
"There will always be some who will flock to a new social media site in
order to game it for cash. They see it as a huge pool of eyeballs that
need to be driven to their website. And, of course, Twitter is a good
medium for that. But, it has to be used PROPERLY and with social tact.
You need to be a good community member first, and marketer second."
I don't mean to be unreasonable or over-reactive. It's just that bad things happen to good technology when marketing people get involved. Look at the evolution of blogs over the years. What was once referred to as the "last form of honest advertising
" is now an untrusted medium
, according to Forrester.
A medium built on the stalwarts of "authenticity" and "transparency" has de-evolved to something that is, at times, farcical (see here
) thanks to marketers. Now, something similar is happening with Twitter.
I'm not suggesting that, other than Twammers, people have surrepticious motives. Rather, they are either misinformed or ignorant of social media mores and folkways. They just don't know any better (And, if they do, then shame on them.) and it is incumbant upon us "kool-aid" drinkers to help them get it.
Call me a purist if you wish, the fact is, old-school marketing doesn't work in social media. Dare I say it again, "markets are conversations" and "participation is marketing." If you're unwilling to adopt that mindset you have no business trying to ply your wares using these tools.
I'm not opposed to experimenting with the medium. However, I am unwilling to prostitute it simply to generate a more favorable ROI.
(One suggestion: If we're going to experiment, let's find a way to do so in a more controlled environment than in the full-on entirety of the blog or social media spheres.)
Bottom line: Social media is tools, but not "just" tools. It's also a mindset. If you're going to use the tools, do so in the way the way they were designed and intended to be used.
=Just to be clear, I have the utmost respect and appreciation for John and his point of view. He was a recent guest on Bizzuka's User Friendly Thinking
radio show and we enjoyed a great conversation. He is a man who has the utmost integrity, honesty and authenticity. He is my friend and has been for years. I have learned a great, great deal from him and am deeply appreciative of all that he has taught.