In 2008, as I was preparing for the early 2009 release of my first book, Gravy Wars | South Philly Foods, Feud & Attytudes, I began paying attention to the then new phenomena known as social media. My gosh, that sounds like ages ago. One friend in particular kept bugging me to get on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. It wasn’t until he said, “you have a book coming out; you need to be on these sites,” that I sat up and said, “oh yeah!”
Having recently launched my PR practice and still an active member of the broadcast media at that time, I adopted this new media and immediately realized its potential. “Social media is PR on steroids,” I proclaimed at each of my speaking engagements during the early years of new media. I became adept at “marrying new and traditional media,” a service differentiator I touted.
Over the years, my social media fervor waned in conjunction with its ever-changing and increasingly pay-to-play algorithms. While I was bummed about the new challenges associated with attaining impressions, I understood it. After all, these platforms were in business to make money, which is the sole purpose of all media. (BTW, if you think media companies are in business to disseminate information, think again. Information is a media outlet’s product not its purpose. Delivering a good, useful, provocative, or entertaining product gets eyeballs, thus ratings, thus money.)
Then 2020 happened. Censorship and propaganda went off the rails, and both were and still are encouraged by many. What the heck is going on?
Stay with me. This is about marketing, not politics, although the latter bleeds into everything.
Over the course of my life, the refrain went from “live and let live” and “free speech” to “shut up or be ostracized.” I thought it was commonly understood that “the good thing about freedom of speech is that it makes it easier to spot the idiots,” a quote, or variation thereof, often attributed to Abraham Lincoln.
The dangerous thing about censorship is that it leads to communication echo chambers. I saw this on Twitter with its bots and hopped off in 2021. For a solid year, I ruminated about dumping Facebook, the platform that enabled me to communicate with my largest following. Finally, this past September, I pulled the plug, and a month later, I deleted Instagram.
Did I make a big marketing mistake?
It remains to be seen but I truly doubt it. The best form of marketing is always word of mouth, so I will focus again on building real relationships. In the meantime, I do not believe social media will go away, but I do think the echo chambers will eventually dissolve with the advent of decentralized platforms.
Web 3 will certainly be interesting, and something every business needs to understand if they are to, as Wayne Gretzky said, “skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.