The social media riddle

To paraphrase a friend, it looks like the crusades for the Holy Grail of the Church of the Social Media are at their peak. Before explaining you why i...

To paraphrase a friend, it looks like the crusades for the Holy Grail of the Church of the Social Media are at their peak. Before explaining you why i think this whole social media stuff is a big waste of time, please watch the following 4 minute video:

 

The video above is not made by me, i have found it on a blog (via zoso) some time ago and it caught my attention. Now let’s get back to my view on the subject. In fact this subject can be divided into several different topics. So let’s debunk some myths about social media experts and their tools: Twitter, Google+ and Facebook

The social media experts

Social media “experts” are popping up everywhere like mushrooms after a good rain. In fact they are the fastest growing segment of “experts” in the world, the growth rate being unprecedented in marketing history. If you go to an internet related conference you are certain to find them there in ever growing numbers.

But what makes someone an expert ? School ? Study ? A certification ? Experience ? A reference ? Should someone proclaim himself as an expert ? Or should he be proclaimed by others as an expert ?

If so, do any of these people have what it takes to be an expert ? An expert should give you a solution for which he/she can vouch. An expert should deliver measurable results to you and should be paid according to results. The fact is that they rarely deliver but they take the money anyway.

Let’s go back a few years and remember the thing called Second Life, younger social media “experts” might never heard of it – though calling yourself an expert should be updated on things like this. Well,  when Second Life was at the peak of its hype factor, the social media experts back then advised everyone (companies especially) to open up virtual offices in Second Life because that’s the future and everyone will be on Second Life – and customers will even queue in front of the virtual desks. I know a few banks and other companies who took the advice and invested money in these virtual offices. A few years later we can see that Second Life is not what social media experts promised. However they took your money and they are gone.

Obviously we are the ones who are responsible for allowing anyone to call itself what he/she wants and get away with it. As the video above states it – we accept experts without a reference.

Twitter

Twitter is “the promise land” for quite a few years. “A great service that didn’t yet reached its potential”. And it never will, i might add. I was writing about how useless is Twitter almost four (4!) years ago. Since then most social media experts discovered Twitter themselves. Now they advertise it as the next big thing in social media.

Twitter is social, i must admit. Everyone was told that Twitter is cool, Twitter is the thing to do. So all my friends have an account on it. And most of them didn’t even bother to log in a second time and don’t use it at all. I think that is because the signal to noise ratio on Twitter is absolutely frightening.

I was shouting into a vast echo chamber where no one could hear me because they were too busy shouting themselves. (source: leoville.com)

Why is that ? Most of the people who actively use Twitter are marketers and social media “experts”. And the one single thing they do is to spam. If they are not sending you promotions or links to their content & articles then they are spamming you by following / unfollowing.

Can anyone tell me how on earth can someone follow almost 95000 people ? See this screenshot:

calacanis

To effectively follow that many people you must be unemployed. Just to click “Follow” on ~95000 people would take you 26+ hours if you spent one second for each people you follow. But to check a person if its worth following or not, it will take significantly more time. That is unless you follow everyone.

People like this actively seek followers and follow themselves just to be followed back so they can send you whatever they’re trying to sell. Some of them went to the point of using automatic tools to follow/unfollow users.

Well there is nothing social about bots that scour the Twitter wastelands and add/remove followers regardless of who they are.

Twitter is heading toward “everyone following everyone.” …To me that makes Twitter more like playing Pac-Man than a valuable social networking tool, as people’s robotic software programs digress into an outrageous dance of following and unfollowing. (source: Reed J. Caldwell’s blog)

Google+

Although Google+ is a newcomer to this game they are already in the same situation as Twitter. I will not go into specifics here but its enough to mention that i receive many notifications that people added me to their circles on Google+. That would be fine if i would have posted anything worthwhile there after creating the account and would be even finer if i would also know those people who are adding me. Fact is that Google+ is the single social platform where most of the people who added me are strangers. I don’t know them, i’m not a celebrity to be added and i didn’t post anything there. So why are they adding me ? Probably because Google+ is heading towards what i wrote for Twitter “everyone adds everyone”.

Facebook

And now the cherry on the cake. The new Holy Grail of the social media.

Facebook is useful if you want to follow what everyone you know did lately. People use Facebook to post all kind of content. From their last vacation photos to their naked newborn child and from silly videos to stupid chainletters, they post everything. Unlike other mediums, here there isn’t anyone verifying if something that is posted is true or not.

I’m not an adept of censorship but i truly believe that when someone states something publicly it should be at least verified. Unfortunately people are lazy, and they do not verify anything, most of them take it for granted. Facebook leveled the playing field and everyone (no matter of his/her abilities) has been given a tool to spread anything he wishes. Just read the above link with stupid chainletters if you don’t believe me.

The most painful thing is that they become accustomed with this shallow content. And if someone comes up with something more challenging or deep, they usually don’t like it. They like simple things that can be assimilated easily and quickly. This is one of the reasons why most Facebook marketing doesn’t work. And that’s the reason of the Like button. You can quickly Like something or not and move on.

Like

What is bothering me most in Facebook is the “Like” button. One of the more annoying applications of this button is the Like blocking used by some pages on Facebook. The user must first Like a page in order to access it.

Like blocking, where a user has to “Like” a Facebook Page in order to access a feature, typically has a 50% or more drop off rate, even when there is something there that is actually worth liking the page to get, such as exclusive content or a great coupon. Putting a Like block on basic content will almost guarantee a 100% drop off rate. (source: Why most Facebook marketing doesn’t work – part 2)

Yet most of the social media experts recommend it. In the screenshot above you have the page of a company where in order to access the current job openings you must first like the page:

propertyshark_fail

First of all this is like sitting in front of a church and begging. I see no difference between a company that begs for Likes and a beggar on the streets. Beggars receive money that they not earned and companies receive Likes which are not Likes in fact, these begged Likes lacks the significance, the user is not really liking your brand, it just pushes the button to access an offering.

Secondly, this is like a complete stranger showing up at your door and asking you to vouch for him,  vote for him or doing some other thing that implies trust from your part. Would you vouch for a complete stranger showing up at your door ? Think twice!

I personally never push the Like button on these kind of pages. If they condition me with a Like block to access their page i’m gone in no time!

Don’t like or Dislike

Why isn’t there a button called Don’t like or Dislike ? I have no explanation for this but i suppose this is part of a politically correct movement where they don’t want people to be “emotionally hurt” when they receive 99% Dislikes on their latest post about what they think to be smart and helpful information (the end of the world in 2012, wealthy African princess looking for love , etc.)

Bugs

Facebook is full of bugs. There aren’t too many days when the service is functioning within parameters. If i would receive a dollar for every instance when the page was buggy i would be rich. And the odd thing is that people don’t care. Working in web development i had cases where websites with a few visitors where an image was misaligned by 1 pixel, the customer called me and was very nervous about it. I can understand that. He was right to be nervous as he perceived it as a thing that might be bad for his business. But it seems that for Facebook it isn’t bad for business. Its business as usual.

Content and privacy on Facebook

The content users post on Facebook is not theirs, i said it a while ago, others said it a while ago but the fact is that no one cares enough to do something about it. Content posted to Facebook becomes the asset of the company that operates Facebook and they can do whatever they want with this content.

But its not just the content, it is also the privacy which is not yours anymore. Facebook is like a Big Brother which constantly monitors your activity online. They know every website you visit even if you are logged in or not to Facebook. That is because the Like button is used on so many sites and if the Like button is displayed on a website which you access, they can record that.

Facebook might be well intentioned with this monitoring, i can’t know what they do with this data, but unfortunately there are others on Facebook who can steal your information and use it (sell it) to not so well intentioned people. These are the 3rd party developers who develop applications for Facebook.

You know those little funny apps that ask you a few questions and tell you where you should live, or what historical leader you match with or what were you in an earlier life. These applications when you launch them first time (pay attention!) ask you to allow them access to your data. This data can be your email address or even your personal profile information or friend list. These funny little applications have a viral spread and this way the developer has access to millions of personal profiles of Facebook users.

So i would be careful what applications i allow to access my profile information

Is it the beginning of the end for Facebook ?

Empires come and go. Every empire, application or company have a rise, a peak and a decline. It seems that Facebook’s decline is already started:

Here’s a sad statistic: Facebook users spend 23 hours of every month browsing the website. That’s 500 million people staring at a computer screen as a social network swallows up 700 billion minutes of their time. Shouldn’t they all get a life?

The bad news for Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s 27-year-old billionaire creator, is that many people are doing just that. They’re using Facebook less, or leaving it altogether – which is known, would you believe it, as “Facebook suicide”.

Figures show that 100,000 British users deactivated their accounts during May, reducing the total number to 29.8 million. And six million logged off for good in the United States. What started off as an exclusive online social club at Harvard University has saturated Western society. (source: Is this the beginning of the end for Facebook)

So, i’m not a social media expert but i can tell you that the fate of Myspace will not be avoided by Facebook. It will not disappear, but it will be less important and much less used. Of course this will happen in time, right now it just starts to gain traction in underdeveloped countries. But in marketing the most important people are the ones with the big pockets, and these aren’t in underdeveloped countries but in more developed nations which just start quitting this service.

In the end

Everything i wrote here are my interpretations of certain facts, so these are my opinions. You should not take for granted any opinion. You should double check, you should form an opinion of yourself and you should share this opinion. But be careful where you share it. Because it might not be your content anymore after you have shared it.

About myself i can tell that i will use Facebook, Twitter (and others) less in the future, probably i will redirect the RSS feed of my blog there. So if you are curious what happened to me lately, drop me a call, write me an email or visit my personal blog.

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