I love social media. I appreciate the way it's allowed me to stay close to family and friends, even though I live 2,200 miles from my hometown. I'm grateful for the constant flow of amusing, helpful and interesting information it provides. I am thankful for the many interesting people I've met and gotten to know via social media (including but not limited to Jeremiah, Steve, Anna, Amber, David, Ian, Ben, Stefano, Brian and others). I love the professional opportunities it has furnished to me, particularly my role here at Forrester. And I especially value the way social media is changing the world — making it flatter and more transparent, challenging the ways we conduct business, elevating the importance of relationships and affinity and encouraging more listening and responsiveness.
But there are some things I'm sick of in social media. Do you share these dislikes? Any you'd care to add?
- 8. Auto DMs: I've been down this road in past blog posts, so there's no need to revisit the topic, but the flood of self-serving, generic messages in my Twitter "inbox" gets in the way of personalized and valuable messages I receive. I hope more people will heed the results of our recent survey about Auto DMs.
- 7. Peer pressure: It's inevitable that digital social channels will suffer from the same problems as analog social channels, and peer pressure is one of those problems. It's uncomfortable to reject people who wish to connect, follow or friend; it's even worse to sever those ties once they're made. Last year I slimmed down my Facebook friends and was guilted into refriending a person who I've met only twice and have had no contact with in more than 12 months. (Of course, the fact I was guilted into refriending is more my problem than hers.) I did not participate in Jimmy Kimmel's National UnFriend Day, but I appreciate the serious sentiment underlying the humor: As Kimmel has said, friendship is sacred and Facebook can cheapen it (but only if we let it by friending hundreds of people with whom we have only passing familiarity.)
- 6. Narcissism: I've long disdained those doubters who dismiss social media as a haven for narcissists, but that doesn't mean narcissism isn't alive and well in social media. There are many different kinds of narcissists in social media: There are Snow White Narcissists who every day sing about the greatness of their lives, the brightness of their futures and their thankfulness for every sunrise, budding flower and drop of rain. There are Stuart Smalley Narcissists who obsessively announce how much others think of them by thanking every new follower or retweeter or announcing when they're added to Twitter lists. And then there are Sméagol/Gollum Narcissists whose bipolar status updates vary wildly — one day it’s party pictures and tales of wonderful friends and places; the next day it’s how much they hate their jobs, the bus driver or their lives. By definition, all narcissists focus on themselves rather than others, which is what makes them so tiresome in social media.
- 5. Check-ins: Someday, check-ins (from Facebook, foursquare, Gowalla and others) will be very valuable information that signal a person has true affinity and is an active customer of a business, but today the flood of one-off check-ins is nothing but meaningless noise in social channels. While marketers may want customers to blast messages to every friend each time they complete a purchase or visit a location, no one can possibly care when their friends are getting gas, grocery shopping or eating an ice cream cone. A single check-in is generally useless data but 20 check-ins demonstrate true affinity that one's friends may find helpful and worthwhile. The sooner Facebook and others can turn the stream of check-in data into affinity information, the better.
- 4. Facebook haters: I get it: Facebook is big, has access to a lot of personal info and monetizes that data. Now get over it. We can hold Facebook responsible for ethical and legal behavior and appropriate transparency without bashing its existence and success. With Facebook accounting for one in four page views in the US and capturing more time than any other Web property (including Google, which encompasses that classic timesuck YouTube), the time has come to stop griping and start advising. Those concerned with privacy must start counseling people on how to protect themselves on Facebook rather than complaining about Facebook, and professionals in the social media or marketing field must engage on the platform adopted by 500 million users rather than hold it at arm’s length.
- 3. The search for easy social media answers: Social media is new, evolving and confusing, so it’s understandable that many people and businesses would struggle with its opportunities and challenges, but that should be no excuse for seeking easy answers. Nothing that matters to long-term success is ever easy, and there are (almost) no universal best practices that may be applied for every product in every category for every audience. Just as there is no single print strategy, television strategy or Web strategy that works in every instance, nor will there be a universal social media strategy. From audience identification to goal setting to ROI measurement to execution, every organization’s social media strategies will be unique. By all means, learn from what competitors and others are doing, but recognize that true strategic benefits will only accrue to those who commit to differentiation through learning, experimenting and iterating.
- 2. Claims of social media backlash and fatigue: I’m hearing tales of people tired of social media who are pulling back or opting out completely, but those seem to be exactly that — tales and not fact. For every rare individual who exits from social media, dozens more enter or deepen their engagement. While some complex social behaviors are stalling in the US, Forrester data demonstrates the number of people maintaining a profile in social networks continues to grow. Before you buy into any claims that some are tiring of social media, consider two things: The first is how inherently social humans are, and the second is how much social media has evolved and will continue to change. Just as the Internet of 2010 is a very different beast than the Internet of 2000, we can expect the same sort of evolution and growth in social media in the years to come. The social tools of 2015 will be easier, more personalized, more useful and more valuable, and people will not be less social in the future than they are today. Look for engagement to increase, not diminish, as tools improve.
- 1. What's the next big thing? This is one of the most common questions I’ve been asked since joining Forrester a year ago. We all love new things and want to be on the cutting edge, but focusing on some hypothetical post-Facebook and -Twitter world gets in the way of attending to the very real things that must be done today. Obviously, there will be a “next big thing” — perhaps it will be geolocation, mobile, cloud, the semantic Web, interactive TV, augmented reality, nanotechnology, serendipitous search, or some combination thereof — but let’s walk before we run! It does a company no good to speculate or bet on the “next big thing” when they haven’t yet cracked the code on listening to customers, responding, engaging and fostering advocacy in today’s most popular social channels. For the vast majority of organizations and people, the next big thing IS social media and will be for years to come.
Thank you for taking the time to read my list of gripes. Did you find them interesting and correct? Or am I guilty of the same narcissism that I complain of?