If you believe the media and social media “experts”, we’re living in the Renaissance of social media. Novel and creative campaigns like the recent YouTube campaign from Old Spice purportedly demonstrate the power of social in marketing. Hundreds of thousands of blog posts, articles, and books are written every year about how big and small businesses can leverage social media.
If we all believe it to be true, is it true?
We’re living in the Dark Ages of social media. Here are four reasons why:
we value words over substance: look at the blog posts in your RSS reader or on Twitter. Most of the posts are social media 101 posts offering ten tips to use Facebook and Twitter. Even those basic posts often contain little real substance – most of them reflect the same 10 ideas, regurgitated and republished thousands of times by thousands of bloggers and journalists. There are gems too – but those are rare exceptions.
I’m not suggesting that simple is unimportant. Learning must start somewhere. But simple in social media has become the norm, much like artistic elements in the real Dark Ages reflect use of simple geometric designs and patterns.
we reward complacency: Popular bloggers publish post after post containing basic and uninspiring ideas that get re-tweeted hundreds of times not because the posts are interesting – but because it has become important (both to be social and to increase our followers) to be seen as re-tweeting something written by another person. We do this despite study after study showing that the number of followers doesn’t correspond to influence.
Again, there are exceptions – people who create inspiring, intelligent and thought-provoking content. You know who you are – you don’t need your ego stroked by hundreds of people re-tweeting your posts (although that certainly won’t hurt).
we value harmony over debate: when was the last time you saw two people active in social media disagree about anything? It rarely happens. Why is that?
Perhaps disagreement is rare because social media is, after all, “social”. But when everyone is promoting the same concepts (and content), there’s not much room for disagreement.
More importantly, people fear failure. They’re worried about not getting mentioned in someone else’s blog post. Worried about not being invited to speak at an upcoming conference. Worried that their audience won’t buy their next book about social media. And so they stay clear of disagreement and debate – at the expense of progress and innovation. This fear of failure can be very harmful.
we don’t challenge perspectives and traditions: rather than fight to challenge and change perspectives and traditions, we settle by convincing ourselves that we’re looking at the world through a different prism, when in reality, our perpectives are only marginally different.
For example, when we push the boundaries like David Armano did in his recent post in the Harvard Business Review – Fire Your Marketing Manager and Hire A Community Manager – we miss opportunities. We should stop looking for ways to make social media work for us and our businesses, and instead look for ways that we can work with social media.
Rather than thinking in traditional organizational structures (i.e. which person should be responsible for community management), we should consider how we must change our entire organization to empower our social media activities.
Rather than embedding social media into every customer touchpoint, we should be looking for ways we can change our customer touchpoints to better leverage social media.
But surely the media and all those social media experts can’t be wrong!
They can be wrong. And they are wrong.
Folie à deux means madness of two — a rare psychiatric syndrome in which a delusional belief, or psychosis, is passed from one person to another. There is a story of a woman named Margaret and her husband Michael who adamantly believed invisible people were living in their house spreading dust. The craziness usually starts with a dominant person, called folie imposée, who begins imposing the delusions on others … until it becomes folie à plusieurs, the madness of many.
There are plenty of reasons to believe that the Renaissance in social media is coming. We’ll have to do better than regurgitated social media 101 posts, if we want it to arrive sooner.
We’re living in the Dark Ages of social media. That’s the truth.