3 Developments that are Sabotaging the Social Media Movement

By Stanford Smith, Contributing {grow} Columnist

I’m worried about the social media movement.

Although in some ways the initial enthusiasm in social was overblown, we were right to place high expectations on the convergence of media, social networking, and collaboraton.

However, as of late, something seems to be missing.

Thoughtful dialogue has turned to petty conversations about rules and technique.

Thought Leadership has morphed into clever personal grandstanding.

When I think I’m going a bit overboard I can’t help but notice some disturbing signs – starting with …

The Selling Out of Social Media

One sign is the gradual co-opting of social media as a broadcast tactic. Marketing professionals increasingly use social networks as a platform for reaching precise demographics. Facebook ads for soccer moms, LinkedIn for HR professionals, Twitter for novel writers, whatever slice you want, a social network has it.

It seems that the social faithful have gone to sleep and allowed the pendulum to swing too far to the media side of “social media” cutting the heart out of the movement.

Unfortunately, this approach guarantees that Social Media will play second fiddle to PPC, email marketing, and even SEO in the market discussion.

This is not where we want to end up.

Perhaps this is inevitable since it seems that we have precious few innovators in the field.

Where Are The Innovators?

It’s been a while since I had a “wow” moment.  It seems that the rule of the day is to “model” (read shamelessly copy) instead of innovating. The evidence surrounds us.

There are numerous Old Spice Q&A spin-offs, CEOs are racing to match Tony Hsieh’s Twitter engagement, every company wants Facebook Fan page razzle-dazzle. However, no one is pushing social engagement into new territory.

To be fair, we are struggling to find where that new territory is but far too many of us are content with being copycats and pundits rather than innovators.

Even though this is troubling, there’s one more sign that threatens to hollow-out the promise of social media …

Conversations or Professional Small Talk?

Do a quick audit of company Facebook pages and Twitter accounts and you’ll see a disturbing trend, I call it the rise of “Professional Small Talk”.

It works like this, instead of having meaningful dialogue, the company loads its tweets and Facebook posts with inane conversation starters. You know what I’m talking about –

  • “Do you prefer a hot or “white” Christmas?
  • What are you wearing today?
  • What is your favorite season?

This small talk is entice a person to comment or share. From there, the so-called engagement is rolled up into fancy metric reports showing hockey-stick engagement growth. Does the audience really feel any closer to the business? Nope. But somebody’s spreadsheet looks a lot better.

While Professional Small Talk looks like engagement, its just panders to small thinking and guts the social movement in the process.

So what’s going on here?

3 Habits That Are Sabotaging The Social Movement

Three bad habits have conspired to rob the social movement of its momentum. I’ll touch on them and we can discuss them at length in the comments. Here we go:

Tool Addiction: Sharper minds among us tried their best to intervene and break us of our tool habit. They were unsuccessful despite their tireless work.  The race to focus on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn techniques dumbed down our thinking and forced us to sit at the kiddie strategy table.

ROI Fixation and Vanity Metrics: Almost from the start, “practitioners of the obvious “started beating the ROI Drum. Before marketing professionals even fully recognized the benefit of social business, the ROI priesthood began challenging social’s efficacy.

Instead of calling for patience, harassed social media managers raced to embrace Klout, Follower vs. Following stats, retweets, Likes and other vanity metrics. While the metrics placated executive teams, it forced us to use an inadequate quantitative narrative to describe a powerful qualitative phenomenon.

The Engagement Rut: On the opposite side of ROI Fixation is The Engagement Rut. This happens when simply commenting or tweeting satisfies social media goals. Companies unwittingly embraced this by creating social teams who just needed to “show up” and tweet from a loose script.

Along the way the social program became unhitched from business goals and strategy. Soon, the social person became the passionate and chatty person at the party who didn’t have the faintest clue why she was invited to the party in the first place.

How to Kickstart The Social Movement

I may be biting off more than I can chew here, after all social business is more than just a 700 word topic. However, I believe there are a few key questions that will refocus our attention on what makes social business special and profoundly important to every aspect of business.

How Can Customers Drive Innovation?
Businesses have to invite customers into the design studio. Sustainable innovation will come from satisfying and anticipating customer needs.

Sure, I know Henry Ford’s (and Steve Jobs’) innovation caveat – “If I asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse and buggy” but we shouldn’t use this to lock customers out of meaningful product development collaboration.

Social provides amazing tools for this collaboration and we should be taking the lead in developing and implementing them. Businesses who use social to view customers as the source as well as the beneficiary of innovation will achieve enduring competitive advantage.

How Do We Restore Real Dialogue?
We urgently need to move away from ‘Professional Small Talk” and start focus on building relationships through meaningful conversation.

Notice that the goal is a relationship not just a mention. Once we get our priorities straight we will be able to align expectations around customer lifetime value, loyalty, and advocacy.

How Is Your Organization (or client) Inspiring Its Customers, Employees and Partners?
Social business draws its power from fantastic products and services. People want to talk about their purchases, social media just gives them an efficient way to do so. However, social tools can’t save uninspired products.

Simply having a Facebook page doesn’t create real excitement around your value proposition. As social strategists we should take the lead on helping businesses infuse their products with the ‘wow’ factor.

Do I believe that the social revolution has stalled?


I also believe that we have exactly what we need to get our momentum back.

Am I being too harsh? Has social media lost its relevancy in your organization?

Contributing Columnist Stanford Smith obsesses about how to get passionate people’s blogs noticed and promoted at Pushing Social, except when he’s chasing large mouth bass.

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  • Thanks for this post. You are articulating some very real problems in business use of social media. The 3 habits sabotaging the social movement really ring true.

    I feel that we’re in a sort of trough for social media use at the moment due to the fact that the C-suite has woken up to the potential of being in the space but they want/need it to be simple and its metrics to be simple. Particularly when outsourcing social work simplistic irrelevant targets are set just because of the compulsion to measure.

    Getting out of the trough is going to be tough I fear. There is real potential for social business but cultural change at the level required is not easy to create.

  • I dont think that it is strictly true! There are a lot of people a lot lower down the spectrum that are the ideas people and are trying to push social media for what it should be and not what the “experts” “gurus” and any other “leaders” are doing.

    Nobody has taken serious time to look at Google+ and how to make the most of what is there. So far there has been a lot of moaning and not a lot of action. I wrote an article and I think that you will see a couple of new ideas and no tools needed.


    I’m not posting for a link I am posting to stand up for the little guy who doesn’t get any kind of recognition for ideas that are then used as a “model”

  • Don’t forget that business on social media are actually encroaching on people’s online space. The more other companies do a bad job the easier it will be for the few that are good. I think that we are having to get better and better at creating social experiences that people actually want to be involved in.

    I would say that there is a complete split between those that are doing social media well and those that aren’t. Some companies are amazing and have it spot on, others are there because they know they should be but they dont do anything when they are there. 

    Add value to people’s day. The only golden rule of social media.

  • Interesting point.  From experience I know that the entire organization has to embrace social business for it to be effective.  I agree that the innovators are stuck in the trenches, the question is how do we kickstart relevancy throughout the organization.

  • Hi Stanford,

    First of all, not sure how you found an old-timey picture of yours truly, but good work. I often think of myself as being ready to throw a pie at any moment, but in a glamorous way, you know?

    Second of all, lately you’ve been reading my mind. See, I used to be able to spend more time talking about social media with other social media folks because I was unemployed.

    But then I got a job where I actually have to DO social media – and suddenly, my friends’ blogs, tips, tweets are just not helping me as much as they used to (friends, I still love you). Part of it is that I’ve changed sectors: from the corporate world to the philanthropic world. But the other part of it is that so often, much of the ongoing social media conversation is about the individuals involved. It’s almost gossip. And that’s not helping me do my job.

    The way I’ve been thinking about it lately is: it’s very, very easy to be a social media person and write for other social media people. Even you, Stanford, you write for other bloggers. I think you have access to an audience who not only wants to consume your content – they want to engage with it! Please know, I’m not criticizing you – you are one of the thought leaders I look to. You DO in fact help me do my job. But I think it’s easy for you to demonstrate success with social media because you are writing for a group who “get it.”

    I guess what I’m saying is, I want to see examples of people who AREN’T writing about social media succeed in social media. Gary Vee wrote about, jeez, was it fishing? and how you could have a blog about fishing and find people who were mad passionate about fishing and get them to comment on your blog and build a community? Well, I want to see that guy who did that. Stanford, that’s possibly not your job, and yet it would build my faith that social media works for non-social-media people (and no B2C examples please, those are darn easy and they’re everywhere, I too follow Ann Taylor on Facebook).

  • Wow Jenn.  That comment was awesome.  I accept your challenge to find the everyday (non social) folks that are trying to make social work for them.  Stay tuned.

  • Thanks Stanford. You had another post in this vein that seemed to get at what I’ve been thinking – you just manage to write it so much more eloquently!

  • Scarycath

    Hi Rhys, I’m a G+ convert. Nice article and yes, I’d have to agree, the circle system, because it’s there from the start is a perfect and simple way to ‘arrange’ people. 

  • Hi Jenn, what a brilliant observation! How much of the Social Media “Traffic” via twitter, facebook. blogs etc. is just our industry talking to itself? Well, a lot!

    Stanford, I like your position on this and would like to suggest that one additional point would be education.  Most of the educational sessions I see about Social Media are all about “execution” which is breeding a gang of tactical players (experts) who have no underlying concept of what this thing called “Social Media” really is so they can actually “understand” how to execute. What you are seeing is the “hype” factor.  Everybody is piling on and creating a tremendous amount of noise (similar to Jenn’s comment), but if you peel it all back, you will find a growing number of companies and industries who are doing this right and having profound impacts.

    Soon, the noise will diminish and the reality will prevail.  This is a classic market cycle.

  • I have a friend (@soulati:disqus ) who keeps wanting me to guest blog about this…but it feels so negative! And plus Stanford just keeps putting it so well I don’t need to, as you say, “add to the noise.”

  • I’m so glad you wrote this, Stanford! If you read my blog, you know I feel the same. Just yesterday a friend forwarded on to me an email from a local social media firm that executes social media for clients. The mail had their packages for buying fans for FB/Twitter/G+. And their social media calendars for the month for several clients. The calendars were full of exactly these silly “conversation-starter” tweets and posts.

    I emailed my friend back asking, does this really work for their clients? Does the firm actually have any indication that this is resulting in more sales/conversions? If you’ve seeded with bought fans, which are usually fake accounts that
    Like the page and never return (unless paid to comment or something), then
    you’re mostly talking to thin air, anyway. And there’s been a lot of data recently indicating that this kind of standard posting on Facebook really don’t result in either increased impressions/reach or sales. Why would it?

    I think there are better, more sophisticated approaches. I’ve written about them some and am working on more content about how to develop better strategies. But, the fact is, it takes work!! As someone below commented, I’m not sure the C suite wants to do actual hard work in SM.

  • This a great article and the comments here are even better.
    I think that @twitter-54546555:disqus made a fantastic point. There is a lot of us social media people just talking back and forth here. There’s some that are really into in and bunch of others that are just jumping on the band wagon because this is a new industry that they think they can make money in. But as @twitter-15056439:disqus points out, it’s a market cycle. It’s going to happen like this with every new fast growing industry. It will calm down eventually. I just can’t really say when.
    As to what you said Sanford, I think that the reason you’ve seen innovation die out is that when the social movement started EVERYTHING was new. Now we have a bunch of companies that are trying to get just a foothold in this new world and so they are looking to see what others are doing and seeing if it works for them. Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. Experimenting is how people figure out what works. That’s how they come up with new and innovative ideas. Yes, I see tons of people following in others’ footsetps everyday, but I also see a lot of people trying new and interesting things to engage in social channels. Sometimes they’re not always huge things like Old Spice, but they’re new and working for those companies. You just have to keep your eyes out for them.
    People will continue to innovate in new and old spaces. We just sometimes have to wait and see. And if that’s not your speed, I challenge you to go out and be the innovator and blow everyone else away.

    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

  • I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with this one, too often executives or management want a pretty slide deck pumped up with vanity metrics to make it look like they really ‘get’ social media. Unfortunately, what’s missing, is the search for true value and alignment with business strategy. Social is not an experiment anymore, and just because your irrelevant chatter got some reaction – doesn’t mean that it was valuable. 

    The movement that I joined two years ago has turned into one giant case study. 

    You’re also completely right about people’s obsession with the tools. The same way someone can’t build a house just because they have a hammer you can’t generate any sort of value just because you have a fancy listening product. If you’re unwilling to create relationships with the people talking about you, then you are also unwilling to turn those same people into loyal (revenue generating) customers. What ever happened to the notion that the most important time in customer retention is BETWEEN transactions? 

    There is more to social then just Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. What about REAL user-to-user communities? Research Panels? It is cheaper to keep a customer that you have then to go out and find new ones. 

    Thank you for this post, while my comment seems sort of scattered, I completely relate to this and look forward to sharing it with my colleagues. 


  • I’m glad this post resonated with you Marissa.  Would love to be a fly on the wall when you discuss with your colleagues 😉

  • I don’t know that I see this as being a new trend. Many years ago I worked for some Biz/tech publications as an ad sales specialist and found that many of the ad agency planners/buyers were lazy.

    They did the least amount of work possible to complete their job. That meant reviewing simple metrics that didn’t really dig into what was happening but gave them numbers for their spreadsheets.

    Few if any were called to question about that. They would talk about not wanting to spend more than X on the leads generated from an ad buy but wouldn’t conduct analysis beyond that. No post click conversion or tracking of how sales were generated/completed.

    So I am not surprised to see any of the things that go on now.

  • Great points Sheldon.  Here’s the deal though… I’m not that excited about innovation around tools and social etiquette.  I sincerely believe that Social Business is the next big strategic shift for businesses.  It started in marketing but will soon absorb and captivate the enterprise.  Looking through that lens, the conversation in all quarters (not just SocMed) is wholly inadequate. I love experimentation, but without the right hypothesis it’s easy to waste time and money.

    The questions I posed are focused on understanding the real engine for competitive advantage – customer dialogue and collaboration.  These questions help focus on the right hypothesis and make the innovation meaningful.

    *Oh, by the way – I am a big fan of Sysomos 😉  

  • Really great post, Stanford. You know, there’s been an undercurrent in social media lately that’s been bothering me and I haven’t been able to pinpoint it exactly. I think your post articulates exactly how I’ve been feeling. Mark’s post from the other day did too. 

    I think we’ve come to the point in the social media lifecycle where businesses have realized the need to “do social media”. However, having social icons on your website or slapping together a Facebook page isn’t enough anymore. It has to go deeper than that and I lot of businesses are missing the point. I think perhaps the bigger issue is that many businesses are leaping head first into the social media waters without even exploring whether or not it’s a viable option. There are truly some businesses that are going to have a tough time being successful at social media. And others may have great opportunities to be successful with it, but have no idea how to get there. I think a lot of marketers out there have led businesses to believe that social media is a silver bullet. And, in turn, businesses have drank the koolaid thinking that social media is the answer to everyone’s prayers. But, as others have pointed out, it takes a lot of hard work to be successful with it.Maybe social media was easy in the early days, but I think it takes a lot more work to fight for attention now. Attention is at a premium and I think businesses have to work like hell to grab a piece of it. It all comes down to strategy. Small talk is not a strategy. “Likes” are not a strategy. It’s our job to help businesses decipher where to spend their time and attention because as you pointed out, many businesses are still not getting it.

  • It will be interesting, that’s for sure! 🙂

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  • Wow, Jenn, I love your comment. It was some sort of catharsis for me!

    I currently work in social strategy and implementation, (going into my third month).  I just graduated in May, and I was struggling with the job search – particularly because employers were nervous by my Deafness – until my networking led me to Melissa Giovagnoli at Networlding .  She is helping me start my own business as I work for her and it is a remarkable opportunity.

     However, I’ve started feeling a little skeptical about focusing it on social media strategy & implementation. I want to avoid creating packages with those FB/Twitter editorial calendar deals you mentioned Neicole.  And I bite my finger at times when I can’t engage on twitter for all the accounts and resort to staging tools.  I certainly don’t want to be staging tweets for multiple different clients. 

    That misses the humanity of social media. Even as I was learning about all the tools, I was a little disturbed at how hung up people were on the tools, their scores, and dependency on Mashable or reading about the latest ROI tool to help them maintain their “expertise” status. I believe those who do well in social media have the innate ability to swarm on all interfaces of social media and make connections.  Maybe we don’t need to read social media articles religiously. Maybe I’ll be more compelled to become more innovative with my strategies…. 

    Thanks for giving me something to think about – all of those who have contributed – and of course, you, Stanford! 

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  • Angela That’s all you need to

    One of the only business pages I’ve ever liked and been active on is a local Wine Merchant. The staff all take turns posting updates, but these updates are relevant and fun. They talk about what they made for dinner the night before and what wine they chose. The post funny conversations with customers. 

    They aren’t out to have a million fans. They are out to create a community of passionate wine and other libations aficionados… and we respond with real talk, passion and ultimately dollars. I think they’re doing it right.

  • Heh. I had a conversation with a friend of mine (a social media pioneer that got drafted into the agency world) back in September about the fact that we seem to be seeing the same tweets and blog posts over and over. We came to the conclusion that the adoption rate has been so slow that there is still a massive demographic that is not very far up the learning curve.

    Lots of people “doing it wrong”, if you will. That is where the innovation is, not out on the bleeding edge, but rather back in the crowd where people are re-purposing social media tools because they don’t know any better.

    Locally, meaning in my town, there are a lot of people that don’t even have email or a computer at home, let alone a Facebook profile that they update with a smart phone.

    Real innovation is going to come from watching and learning from the late-adopters.

  • This is a fabulous comment Jenn and I totally hear what you are saying. There’s so much focus on the medium, the message itself is getting thrown out with the baby and the bathwater. Or something like that. 

    A lot of businesses can dable with social media now because there’s so much commentary out there on how to “engage” (I hate that word sometimes!); however, I’m yet to see a site or brand that connects socially with me that isn’t in the media / communications industry.  

    When it comes down to ROI and doing something that gets and demonstrates results really quickly, email marketing and PPC are easily streaks ahead of social.

  • Measurement is now a mantra, “if you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it”, so in the absence of being able to easily measure the qualitative stuff that really has meaning, measure anything that looks like it makes sense, job done, next problem!.  
    measuring qualitative stuff takes real understanding of the often convoluted cause and effect links that bind us together, or not, and building that understanding is very hard work. Much easier to squibb it and just measure how many times a dumb tweet got dumber.

  • Enjoyed your response here and it does feel here on Grow at least that the social backlash is grumbling away. Not that I think you’re grumbling Neicole; I just think that you, Jenn, Stanford and so many other folks here are noting that professional social media marketing has to be more than a package of bland tweets. 

    I’d like to see some data on how consumers are actually influenced by companies social presence. Even in my local gym there’s now a big poster saying Like Us on Facebook. I mean; why would you ? There’s no key value proposition other than, hey, liking them. 

    This, to my mind, is indicative of what’s going on out there. We’re collecting Likes but don’t know what to do with them. 

  • As @twitter-54546555:disqus said, I want to see the proof! As a genuinely engaged B2B company looking to listen to & (shudder) ENGAGE, it is darn difficult to find the people to actually engage with. Where are they? It certainly doesn’t help that in our industry, using our product is often a secret weapon, and one that no one wants their competition to know about. It is their vested interest that the less we are known, the better it is for them. Harsh.

  • Great post. Many people/organizations are trying to figure out a role for social media in their overall communication mix. I recently authored a blog post that raises 6 questions you should answer before plunging into a major investment in social media. I think it compliments what you wrote fairly well. If you’d like to read it and comment on it, here is the link –http://strengtheningbrandamerica.com/blog/2011/12/5-key-questions-for-your-social-media-strategy/

  • Jon, I suspect that social media will “grow up” and become a powerful strategy option for companies that are customer-centric and know how to turn word of mouth into sustainable competitive advantage.  Fingers-crossed.

  • I’ll take a look Ed.  Thanks for coming by!

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  • Samantha,
    I’m not convinced that “engagement” is the goal for every business – especially B2B.  For B2B companies I believe that it’s a process of building trust and consideration for a specific solution.  This process looks radically different than a B2C outreach.

  • I believe that we have to get better at describing the consumer stories that live in the day-to-day social engagement.  Linear quantitative measures will always fall short in describing  human behavior.  This is where social media becomes a social psychology discipline rather than a simple marketing tactic.

  • Super astute observation here: Real innovation is going to come from watching and learning from the late-adopters. Gotta noodle on that one for a second 🙂

  • I absolutely agree.  What is this merchant’s facebook page address?

  • First, aren’t we forgetting a crucial element of online presence — Search Engine Optimization? That may well be the reason for broadcasting instead of initiating “meaningful conversations”. Search engines reportedly favor social media activity, and broadcasting is a perfect way of seeding.

    Second, if your audience (sorry for the un-engaging word choice) won’t converse, what to do about it?

    Third, it’s pretty darn difficult to find the right people to talk with professionally. I’m not talking about social media experts (well, practitioners, as I’m certainly not counting myself, for example, as being even close to expert) because the narrower your niche, the deeper the people who might be your potential clients are hiding. This results in what Jenn observes: it’s very easy for social media people to write for other social media people. You just somehow slip into it instead of doing the hard work of finding those you really want to talk with. Providing they are active in social media in the first place.

    Fourth, you don’t do product development in public. Inspiration, yes, but that will inevitably lead to conversation-starters like “what would you wish” and produce such a wide spectrum of opinions that you’ll really be looking for the needle in the haystack.

    So, you’re basically left with your peers to talk with or to, and “the rest of the world” to lure to your website by broadcasting keywords.

    Finally, take all of the above and place it in an industrial B2B environment and see what your success rate is there…

    In principle, you’re right, Stanford. It’s just that implementing those things is too difficult or resource-consuming for most people.

  • This is a fascinating scenario Samantha. Might be an interesting guest post at some point?

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  • Hmm…
    1. SEO works.  Focused on social for the moment. 🙂

    2. If your audience won’t converse then I would start with simply asking why?  The tool’s don’t guarantee interaction.  Here are some reasons why no one is talking back: You sound just like everyone else (generic content).  You are not saying anything worth responding to (boring content), or your audience doesn’t have the size (only about 1-2% of an audience comments/retweets, etc) or incentive to talk (wrong platform, poor audience targeting).

    3.  Actually I think its getting simpler everyday to find the right people to start a productive and profitable relationship with.  LinkedIn, Forums, TweetChats, even your own blog that has focused content.  Search Engine Optimization amplifies the content around these interactions.  So it definitely has to be considered.

    4. I disagree. Product development is done in public all the time.  I’ve spent 15 years in traditional advertising sitting in countless meetings with product engineers and consumers sampling and responding to product features.  I’ve watched companies like Ford actively listen to their social channels and incorporate that feedback back into the product development cycle.  I think it’s a good sign that Product development is becoming a public (semi-public) collaboration.  I think product development that starts with poor methodology IS bound to fail – so don’t do that.

    In the end, I agree that social is hard. I also agree that it’s easier to talk about social media, much harder to implement.  I wrote this post because I felt that we were in danger of avoiding the practical conversation and opting for the strategy-light banter that serious real-world doers hate.

  • Anonymous

    Stanford is spot on! Kimmo, it is very possible to write search optimized content that also builds a community around an interest graph. B2B is the perfect environment to create/curate content that is educational, entertaining and “meaningful” without having to resort to the “cheerleader” tactics  Stanford describes. You are right, Kimmo, that it is resource-consuming, but well worth the effort to have an engaged community on topics of relevance. The cheerleaders look for quantity, not quality, and are also the result of “influence” metrics/tools that encourage this type of exchange. You can also hire folks to supplement your content efforts if you have limited time. As a paid guest blogger for companies, I provide value to existing blogs with a fresh view and the benefit of my network. As an example, see my recent post for HL7standards.com which ranks on page one of google for “healthcare hashtags” and was widely shared in the healthcare community. I think the problem is hiring folks who just know the tools, but don’t know how to build community through content creation and curation.

  • Just want to comment on #2 if I may – or you might have an audience that just isn’t likely to comment, or might not even know how! I’m reminded everyday how “blog culture” is not intuitive to everyone, nor is it something that many people are interested in. Some people are not going to comment because they don’t see much in it for them.

  • Hey, thanks friend Jon! Let me quote our friend @businessesgrow:disqus – “it’s one thing to DO social, it’s another to BE social.” And there is a huge difference between telling someone how to do it – and then actually having to do it for someone who isn’t you. Phew, I’m learning a lot!

  • You hit several nails on the head Laura!

    One thought I had is that many businesses may be confusing Content Marketing with Social Media.  Content Marketing is the fuel to the social media engine.  When I hear people gripe about social media, they are often referring to a lack of relevant and compelling content.    They hope that tweeting and hanging out on Facebook will make up for the lack but they soon find out that they were wrong.

    If you look at it this way, then I can see how B2B companies would want to nail down their Content Marketing strategy.  After they have content, then look for platforms for distributing and engaging.  Same goes for B2C but I see the biggest challenge on the B2B side.  

    What say you 😉

  • Oooh! That’s a good point. I think you could be right. 

    I had a former client who wanted to focus on social media, but didn’t have any unique content. Churning out links to old PR hits or YouTube videos just isn’t going to cut it. I can’t imagine it’s very useful to use social channels if you don’t have a blog or another form of regular, unique content to share. Otherwise, you’re just chatting and hanging out without driving any traffic or leads your way.

  • I agree with you, Jenn. I think a lot of folks put blog commenting in the same vein as newspaper article commenting. There’s a lot of trash that goes on there and I think many view blogs in the same light. It’s not a fair comparison, but I think a lot of people don’t want to be associated with those who spew nonsense on some sites. 

    Maybe that’s just me, but I do think that the vast majority are hesitant to weigh in on blogs.

  • One consideration not taken is that the objectives of social media strategy mostly live within marketing. A marketer’s objective is usually something like increase engagement or increase conversion – not creating innovative products. The “professional small talk” and adoption of best practices (which can be construed as lack of innovation) …. might be like dribble, but there is an audience that’s responding to it… that’s why people will continue to do it. It doesn’t make these conversations less important – it’s just a different conversation. “Professional small talk” can be great in helping to humanize a company – and for some companies, they can definitely use it!

    Not every customer wants to talk about philosophical imperativeness of products – it’s so serious. Some customers want light-hearted conversations as a way to engage with their favorite brands. Those customers ARE engaged with those brands, and perhaps they do spend more incrementally because of that mindless engagement. Nothing wrong with that.

    BTW… I am in consumer insights and my job is to make products better through customer research, feedback etc etc. So I certainly am an advocate of having real conversations that lead to innovation. I just think that there is a time and place for all conversations with customers – it doesn’t have to be just one kind.

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  • Stanford — This is a really important conversation.  Indeed, conversation it seems is precisely the thing that is often lost in the shuffle.  It is as if we are “talking just to hear ourselves talk” on Twitter, FB, etc.  In my business (IP law practice), we are just beginning the process of “being social” as a firm.  We are excited to promote our clients’ work by discussing their innovations and how their decision to protect their IP has contributed to their success.  The excitement and buzz around them — the innovators — is something we believe is a worthy conversation.  This is probably a different approach for lawyers (it’s not about us — novel concept!), but a really good one I believe.  If our “being social” affirms other people’s belief in the value of their ideas by reading snippets of success stories … and if it helps them understand how to protect those ideas, then we can be a part of the solution.  

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  • @samantha, this is exactly the situation that demonstrates why one size doesn’t fit all in social. Sometimes I think we all forget that the purpose of the business is to make money. In particular, in B2B, social might not be a good fit for the reason you mention here.  Good on ya!

  • Stanford, excellent post on  a very important topic.  As others mention here, I’ve noticed more and more ephemera on social media. This corresponds with my consulting business picking up new clients, and my teaching/study schedule being busy.  I don’t have time for ephemera. Like @twitter-54546555:disqus I’m off working when I used to have time to engage. I do miss the chats on Twitter — #solopr #measurepr #smmeasure #HBRChat #Kaizenblog, and especially #ICChat on internal comms, which I moderated for 18 months or so. But now, I calculate carefully whether to take the time. Unless the content is compelling and the people interesting, I won’t. 

    I’d also offer that the debate over who should lead and guide social in organizations continues to thunder on.  Marketing still seems to me about telling, and about features and benefits, and about selling product quite directly. Public Relations, on the other hand, fosters relationships between an organization and its stakeholders. Seems to me that reclaiming responsibility from marketing should lead to a more holistic strategy. 

    Thanks again for a thoughtful post and discussion.  No ephemera here!

  • Hey Stan, I totally agree with your position on this.  I personally believe there is a lesson to be learned from where this phenomenon really came from.  It didn’t start in Marketing, in fact its beginnings had nothing to do with companies at all.  It started when consumers moved their discussions with each other about their interests and needs to an online world.  Businesses are now just figuring out this is happening and has been happening long before the hype cycle.  I believe that once companies understand this reality, your point about customer dialogue and collaboration will become clear.  But, as long as they (companies) believe they can (do) control this domain, they’ll continue to struggle.

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  • Anonymous


    You bring up a really good point about focusing solely on tools, scores and social media roi. I’ve found the social media analytics is most successful when it’s tied to other business goals or processes. Alone, I don’t think it’s as powerful.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • There are many social site in the interenet world like facebook ,Orkut etc.First-class products and services, social enterprise, from its power to attract.People want to talk about their purchase, social media is just giving them an effective way to do so. However, societies,can not save mediocre product.

  • I hear you, Sean!

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  • The interesting paradox in regards to your Conversation point is that you want to have in-depth discussions with the people you are trying to reach…yet attempts at depth can trigger the “social media fatigue” issue. I am guilty of it myself. I will not get baited with hot/cold Christmas or what am I wearing (spanning inane to slightly creepy). However, I do find myself tabling the more in-depth discussions to “when I have more time”.  And sometimes that “time” never comes.

    I did it with this post.  This Business Grow blog always has thought-provoking posts that require research or introspection before replying. In general, I will retweet the content because I enjoyed it, and then I will leave it open in a tab with the hopes I get around to providing some additional insight with a comment.

    I’ll add a +1 to the Vanity Metrics and Engagement Rut, too. It is important to have both real metrics that tie to business goals as well as real engagement that humanizes the brand and works to build advocacy that can even be measured over time. Engaging for the sake of engaging can become a major timesink…even if it might be enjoyable.

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  • Anonymous

    Dear Stan, 

    Like your fans below, I agree with most of what you say and I’m glad you’re saying it. These are conversations we’ve been having internally.  

    While I’m seeing in the comments below (Jenn, Jon), about how the message has been lost, what I’m not seeing here or ANYWHERE is a true methodology (besides what we do) to methodically help brands take their existing brand and help them apply that to their social media. I also don’t see a methodology whereby an organization’s messages (typically 3-5 they want to push out) are converted into conversations. 

    We have things like our “Social Media Brand Style Guide” that is the social media equivalent of a Visual Brand Style Guide. The former stating if you should use text shorthand or contractions, etc. The latter stating which fonts and CMKY colors you should use. 

    Where I disagree is the small talk. You ask, “Does the audience really feel any closer to the business?” My answer, which I have proven to my clients, is “Yes, it does.!” But it DEPENDS on your target audience and brand. We have a client whose brand is fun, lighthearted and a little snarky. The audience doesn’t want to get into anything heavy. We ask questions such as you outline above and use humor to create an emotional attachment. A large portion of that audience buys the product again and again and again. Yes, we’re quippy and cutesy, but we haven’t forgotten the reason we’re at the party. It’s to sell, increase loyalty and get them to recommend. So, we’re very subtle with our calls-to-action, but they’re there and we see spikes when we put them in there. 

    That said, it’s not appropriate for all audiences, which is why strategy is critical. 

    We also measure loyalty and engagement with our Social Promoter Value Assessment, based on a modified Net Promoter Score. 

    So, I thank you for your rant. It echos my personal frustrations. 

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  • Mark W Schaefer

    May I just say it has been far too long since you have brought the Ammo Thunder to {grow} Sean! Good to see you.

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  • Amen! thanks so much Stanford and @twitter-54546555:disqus what a fabulous discussion! I’m so relieved to know there are others thinking along the same lines……Jenn I really enjoyed your insights as well and will follow you on twitter now! kind regards and deep appreciation for all who have taken time to comment and discuss an overdue topic.

  • I suspect there’s as many thought leaders today as there ever was.

    They’re either finding different forums for their leadership, or are just harder to find due to the signal-to-noise ratio.

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  • Mose

    Mark you are being anything but harsh. When a movement, as you call it, is grabbed and exploited by amateurs, what did we expect? Dug your post. Thanks!

    We are social beings. There is nothing unique, nor mysterious about being social. All of us do it. This in itself shows the misunderstanding of this wonderful thing we have called the Innertubes.


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