Social media is great, except for…everything about it
Let me be clear about this. I am not saying I dislike social media, I am saying I dislike the conversation that goes on and on endlessly ABOUT social media. As though social media in-and-of-itself is something useful, interesting, innovative, popular—something that connects, unites, rallies, organizes, spreads, inspires, shares and helps make a better world. But it’s not, and it doesn’t. Social media is conceited and needs to get over itself.
Now, you might be thinking that I clearly must not understand social media because of course it does all those things—it has changed the world as we know it. But here’s the thing–social media is merely a means to an end. It would be completely useless and irrelevant if it weren’t for the content delivered through it–the messages, ideas, pictures, videos, stories and information transmitted from me to you and you and you. The messages are what inspire, move, teach, and motivate us to do something.
What isn’t helping with social media’s ego problem is those who gather at events and conferences to obsess over the latest update and newest features in these channels. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always fun to geek out a bit with others about the environment that social media professionals swim in every day, and it’s imperative to stay knowledgeable on how to best use these channels to deliver our messages. But let’s not let the conversation put the spotlight on the delivery channels as the end. We need to stop boosting social media’s insatiable ego!
Rather than seeing the social media channel itself as the main focus and purpose when discussions in the sales, marketing, product and branding areas veer toward creating a social media strategy, try putting the focus back on the message you’re trying to convey, and think about how social channels could best be leveraged to support that message in different ways.
The very best execution of social media makes the channel become almost invisible, taking a back seat to your story. It’s a delivery mechanism and nothing more. If the right social channel is used in the right way, your audience walks away with your message in their head and no other distraction about the channel. If they walk away remembering they were on Facebook, reading a blog, checking their twitter feed, snapchatting…but they can’t recall what you said or why you were even there talking to them, the social media tool has cannibalized your message and failed to serve its purpose.
And with such competition for attention span today, our delivery channels can’t be hogging the spotlight from our messages. Think about if social media were like email. We hardly ever think about an email itself rather than the messages that are delivered within the email. That’s why email works so well to deliver your message—and has hung around even after the popularity of social media. Thinking of social media as just the next ‘email’ is also a good way to dampen fears about it being overly complicated, or not worth delving into, or something to avoid–showing those who were not indoctrinated with it since birth that it’s not that different than the message delivery channels they have always used.
My job and my passion involves creatively using innovative technologies and social media channels to help the organizations I believe in deliver their messages in a better, more effective and convenient way. It’s because of this that I take issue with social media’s tendency to hijack the message, steal the attention and redirect it on itself–the channel– as the important factor, when in fact our messages, our points, our stories should have the full spotlight. It’s the stories about people that step up their humanism to help others, the credit union that gives a member a loan for her dog’s life-saving surgery, the company that shuts down profitable operations when it conflicts with their ethical values–the messages–that make us inspired to share a million times over and give social media its power.