Thursday, April 21, 2011

Social Media Idiocy, Part II – Social Pressure

In Part I of this series on Social Media Idiocy, I pointed out the folly of adhering to rules and etiquette on asymmetrical networks like Twitter.

Today, I offer additional elaboration on why you should go against social media conventional wisdom (a.k.a. Social Media Idiocy) – because if you're not making social media work for you, it's working against you.

If you're tired of listening to the gurus

If you've obeyed all the rules and still haven't gotten anywhere

If the word "social" gives you heartburn these days

...Then welcome to Part II.

Since I'm criticizing others' Social Media Idiocy, I may as well criticize my own.

A few weeks ago, I discovered a new blogger whose work I really liked. One of his more compelling posts was about why he had given up Twitter and closed his account.

IMMEDIATELY after reading this post, I thought to myself, without any sense of irony whatsoever, "Wow. I like this guy's work. Maybe I'll follow him on Twitter."

I then went to Twitter to try to find him there.

So, yeah. Brain fart.

The Motion of the Social Ocean

In an earlier post, I discussed how following the phony "Ecology of Twitter" depletes value rather than adds it. If you get sucked into it, Twitter becomes a lot less enjoyable and a lot more pointless. It becomes harder to actually add value for others; consequentially, it becomes a lot harder to realize value too.

The point of engaging with social media at all – like pretty much everything in life – is value-add. Nobody wants to devote hours each week to something that neither they nor anybody else is ever going to get anything positive out of.

And yet, that's how most people use social media. They Follow, they Friend, they Connect, and they become overwhelmed. They usually start out reading everything and eventually stop reading anything, using social media as a lectern from which they are deaf – shouting their own message without paying any attention to what is going on around them. They feel anxiety when people stop following them or won't follow them back. Many, like the blogger I mentioned above, finally give up on the whole thing.

This phenomenon is not strictly associated with social media. The telephone is a perfect example. When people call you, it is almost always because they want something from you – often at your inconvenience.

Nonetheless, we are psychologically conditioned to drop everything when the phone rings and see what the other person wants.

Perverse, isn't it?

The value of any technology – the telephone, social media, or anything else – lies not in how others tell you to use it, but how you choose to use it that makes the most sense for you. Sure, there are great tips people have to offer that have worked for them in achieving optimal value-add on social networks, but you should never sacrifice the quality of your social media experience in favor of rigid adherence to some know-it-all blogger's Top 5 list.

The social media professionals/idiots of the world are so used to people being on Twitter and Facebook and using them in the same old idiotic ways that they are often closed-minded about new ways to use these tools – or even whether these tools should necessarily be used at all – that they have forgotten the importance of innovation and experimentation (essential ingredients to developing good social media strategy).

I think it's really unfortunate that the blogger I mentioned above felt the need to withdraw from Twitter altogether. Had he not felt the pressure of external forces to use Twitter suboptimally, he could have added great value for the Twitter community.

In the Conversational Convergence series, I discussed the importance of not attempting to control social media. Similarly, don't let others try to control it for you.

Embrace social media's organic nature. Make it your own.

Otherwise, the idiots win.

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