This was going to be another rant in the style of my ‘grinds my gears‘ post of a few weeks ago but then I thought, hey, everyone loves a top-five list, right? And isn’t that the New Year’s thing to do, really?
I already wrote the requisite post looking forward to 2009 after the last Social Media Breakfast so this time I’m taking a different take. Enough talk about what 2009 will bring, let’s focus on what is best left to the annals of history; what should we leave behind in 2008? And pour yourself a coffee, this bad boy is LONG.
Now, without further ado, the Top Five Four. I decided to truncate the list after I crossed 1,000 words. Number five wasn’t very convincing anyway.
4) Making interaction into a transaction – Or, worded less pretentiously, auto-responding new followers on Twitter. And stuff. The Twitter example is probably the best and most tangible example so I’ll focus on that, though the greater theme articulated in the fancy-schmancy wording above applies to more than just the microblogging platform, I think.
Lounge around the twittersphere (twitterverse? twitworld?) long enough and you’re bound to encounter this phenomenon. Find new and ostensibly interesting person. Follow them. Immediately receive a direct message like “Hey, thanks for the follow!” I actually followed someone once who immediately replied with a thank you and a link to a special offer for his Twitter friends, a free copy of his e-book!
Here’s the thing, folks. I followed you on Twitter. A service predicated on the personal nature of interaction. I followed you because you had interesting and original things to say. Most likely I followed you in the hopes of one day having a conversation.
And you come back at me with an automatically-generated, absolutely impersonal, completely meaningless auto reply?
Interestingly enough, Chris Brogan – a man far wiser than I – started discussing this on Twitter just last night based on this blog post and this blog post, which is going to make me look like I’m cribbing ideas. But I promise, this enraged me the first time I encountered it, I was just too lazy to blog about it until now.
It’s stupid and it defeats the purpose. Auto-replies work for email because it’s an inherently impersonal medium. It is, at its core, a transaction. Twitter and SM aren’t. Don’t treat them as such.
3) Popularity Contests – I admit, I was momentarily flattered when I was nominated as one of Canada’s most influential men in social media. And I’m sure the dozens of people who read this blog and follow me on Twitter were stoked for their boy. But, putting aside for a second the fact that I am going head-to-head with the likes of Mitch Joel, Joe Thornley, Bob LeDrew, Colin McKay, (should I go on?)… you know, people who other people pay to listen to… putting all of that aside for a second, this might be the most ludicrous idea for a poll I’ve ever heard of.
First, isn’t the glorious thing about social media the fact that it transcends traditional barriers and classifications? Why does it matter if a SM advocate is Canadian, or a man, or right-handed, or green eyed? And while I’m ranting (it is my blog, after all), who defines what an influential person is? How many followers someone has? Their blog’s technorati rank?
[Sharp readers are starting to notice a theme to this top five list].
It’s not about numbers, it’s how you use them. It’s not about transactions, it’s about the quality of interactions. I personally think Ryan Anderson is the most influential person on that list but that’s a completely subjective measure. Ryan introduced me to Twitter, Ryan dragged me to my first Third Tuesday and Ryan was the guest speaker who drew me to my first Social Media Breakfast. Perhaps coincidentally (perhaps not), Ryan was the only person on that list I knew in the real world before I knew him in the online world.
Does that mean Ryan is more influential than, say, Mitch Joel? Mitch Joel who writes regular columns in the CanWest papers (gasp! A MSM spy in our ranks!)? To me, yes. To others, no.
The Oscar adage holds true, it is an honour to be nominated. And it’s a great way to find new blogs to read. But let’s not pretend it’s anything more than a popularity contest. It is set up to glorify or reward people based on the same dated metrics we decry when the mainstream media use them. It runs counter to the democratization of ideas that we all profess to hold so dear.
2) Ego Services – Dave Fleet wrote a great post on this subject awhile back. He focused on the potential foibles associated with a service like Qwitter, which (more or less reliably) tells you when someone stops following you on Twitter so you can harass them to find out why. Another service, Twitterrank, caused a stir when some alleged it was an ego-driven phishing scam.
For me, though, the problem with ego services isn’t so much what can go wrong with them, it’s that they exist at all. Most of my rationale for this can be found under #3 on this list so I won’t waste time restating my case. And, in looking for the link to Dave Fleet’s post, I found that once again he beat me to the punch and made a great argument against yet another new potential service, Twitter Authority Rankings.
Who cares if someone has 1,000 followers, who cares if they have a Twitter Grade of 100, if they don’t have something interesting to say (from my perspective – like ‘influential,’ ‘interesting’ is a purely subjective measure) I won’t get anything out of following them.
1) The rise of the expert – Are you sitting down? Good. Because I’m going to shock you now. You are not a Social Media Expert. Neither am I. Neither is Chris Brogan or Shel Israel or any other incredibly intelligent person who devotes their life to writing, thinking and talking about social media (perhaps tellingly, I’ve never seen either of them call themselves a social media expert – just for the record).
It is impossible to be an expert in social media because social media is constantly changing. It is, at best, a loosely defined concept subject to an individual’s interpretation, and, at worst, a meaningless bit of jargon we apply to make ourselves sound smart. Want proof? Read Susan Murphy’s recent post examining the thriving social media network in Arborg, Manitoba.
Sure, you can be a Social Media Advocate. Or a Social Media Consultant. Even a Social Media Strategist. But applying the ‘expert’ label is basically one big red flag for me. Because it implies you understand it. It implies you know all you need to know.
At the risk of picking on poor Mitch Joel (I don’t know him personally but in our limited online interactions to date I get the feeling he can take it. If not, sorry Mitch!), he tweeted and blogged a few weeks ago that he’d just discovered TweetDeck.
One of Canada’s most influential men in social media, one of the few who has crossed over and written about digital marketing in mainstream publications, didn’t know TweetDeck? I’ve used TweetDeck for months!
Please understand, this is not a condemnation of Mitch Joel. If anyone I’ve talked about today deserves the ‘expert’ label, it’s Mitch (though to his credit, he’s never applied it to himself either). What it does, though, is illustrates just how impossible it is to ever learn all you need to know about SM.
Wow, longest post ever. As a reward to those who read (or skimmed) to the bottom, I steal from the ever-hilarious Hugh MacLeod and present one of his series of “Social Media Specialist” cartoons.