Is social media losing its social?

Networked communication

Inspired by a debate on my favorite Twitterchat the #SMXChat, I have decided to write a post about what it was that provoked me to engage with social media on a more professional level.

Even though I have studied digital communication and social media for many years now, a lot of people would still consider me to be a novice when it comes to social media, and maybe they should. Until a couple of years ago I was “just” using social media to connect and engage with my friends, and if it hadn’t been for that nagging feeling that social media was losing its social and becoming just another advertising media, I might still be doing just that.

I always hold the perspective of the user, and sometimes that user is me. So when I got fed up with the increasing numbers of commercials with slim or non-existing relevance and the unauthentic personal branding on social media, I decided to research whether or not I was the only one. I was not! The majority of the people I asked had the same paradoxical feeling as me; social media was becoming an anti-social social necessity.


The anti-social social media

Even though some companies are using social media to be social, the vast majority of companies seem to have forgotten that social media is essentially interest based networked communication and are just distributing boring like-bait campaigns and sponsored ads. I have lost count of how many times so-called social media experts have filled my newsfeed me with “good” advice on how to boost my own views by posting the right amount of visuals as well as scheduling and automating my online presence. Scheduling and automating might be necessary for large scale publishers or businesses, that need to say something in relation to a product/article release or similar, but you just CAN’T schedule social!

Maybe I was blunt, but I didn’t see it coming. Never, not even in my wildest imagination, did I expect that social media would transform organizational (and personal) communication into being push messages once again. Commercials and adds = money, they must, for why else would companies give up on this great opportunity to get to know their customers as well as their prospect customers through authentic “real time” conversations and connections?

Sure you can measure clicks, likes, retweets, shares etc. and you can measure conversions, and you might think you can measure image, preferences etc. but remember people are selling themselves too. Big time. What I share or like, might not be a reflection of what my true preferences are but merely a reflection of my personal brand building.

I find it disturbing that the advice given by many social media “experts” is the exact things I consider being unfortunate communication coming from a business. Maybe I’ll remember the brand, but only for the lack of good communication. My personal top 5 of annoying and anti-social organizational communication on social media is as follows:


  1. Spamming me with no or low value sponsored ads

I can see how ads can create brand awareness, but if I’m already a follower or maybe even a customer I don’t need your advertising! I want some extra value of some sort – backstage knowledge, engagement or similar. If I only get what everybody else gets, what’s the point?


  1. Spamming me with trending content that has nothing to do with the brand

I’m guessing everybody have read jab jab jab right hook by Gary Vaynerchuck, but please create your own content. Show me your value. I really don’t want the latest trending YouTube video or funny cartoon from a brand about something completely irrelevant when I’ve already seen it from my friends a thousand times before.


  1. Begging for shares/likes/retweets

I really don’t think anybody likes being told what to share. For me it has the opposite effect. I share what I think my connections would find valuable or interesting. Anyway, if your content is worth sharing it will get shared regardless.


  1. Multiple and repetitive posts/tweets

Why do companies spam me? Do they think I’m dumb? Do they think I will find the post more interesting the 5th time I see it? Really! It is just annoying and I don’t get it.


  1. Automating posts/replies

If you’re not going to engage in conversation with your customers, why be on social media in the first place? There’s nothing more disappointing than being ignored or getting an autoreply when showing your interest in a company. Anyway, how are you supposed to further develop your product line or your customer care if you don’t engage in dialogue with your customers (even when it comes down to critique)?

It seems to me that a lot of companies (and people) building their personal brands are missing the point of social media.  They are no longer social but have become like hunters; creating mindless and boring click bait campaigns. In order to get as many likes as possible they have become followers and thereby set aside their own culture and values.


So why is social media anti-social and what can we do about it?

This question is what prompted me to take on social media as a communication professional. I felt a need to join the conversation about how we are using (or misusing) the possibilities we have with social media. Today many businesses use social media as just another advertising channel, which I believe is undermining the entire concept of social. In my opinion it is possible to sell your product (or yourself) and still be transparent, authentic and genuine.

People don’t trust advertising, hell, they don’t even like it. People trust people! People trust their connections; they trust companies that dare to be themselves, flaws and all. Most companies on social media today don’t really say anything because they just say the exact same thing everybody else is saying.

Unfortunately social media became this anti-social time killer as soon as people realized that there was easy money to make. Before we would log on to connect and share. Now we mainly log on to sell. We sell our business, our hobbies and our dinners. Heck we’d even sell our own mother if we thought it could help our business (or personal) brand building. The paradoxical thing about it is that even though we are all doing it, we all seem to dislike it at the same time. I do it myself, I try not to, but I still do it. So why do we do it?

Of course this is meant as a provocative question. But think about it. How many of your ten year old shallow friendships still exist today and what would you say about those friends if you were asked to recommend them?

Maybe we are all just too egocentric. Thinking about what others can do for us, instead of what value we have to offer. I’m pretty sure that once we stop chasing the money and start caring about what unique value we have to offer our customers, success will follow. Build your social community on interests, values and culture.



With that said; here’s my top 3 bits of advice for being truly social on social media:


  1. Be social

Only automate and schedule what is absolutely necessary. Be present. Listen. Engage in dialogue with your followers/customers and give them the opportunity to collaborate on building up your image and your brand. Create mutual and interest based relationships. Go all in!


  1. Be you

Be authentic and genuine. Every company is unique and has something special to offer. Nobody ever got anywhere by pretending to be someone else. Figure out your value and build our content strategy on that. Creating your own unique content and showing off the real you will create trust and goodwill in the mind of your followers/customers.


  1. Concentrate on bringing value

Show you care. Concentrating on bringing value, insight and experiences to those who secure your success as a business is the best thing you can do for your business. Giving your followers and customers value will help create loyal brand advocates and inspiring connections. Think long term instead of how many clicks you get.


And always start with a Why?

Edited by @Marksalke




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