Micah January 19th

Social Media is Dead

Awhile ago, now more that a year, I wrote a post entitled SEO is Dead. What people dont realize is I didnt write the post out of the anger that so many people accused me of, but out of the sadness of seeing an industry that I put so much time and effort, so much of myself in, as we built Current Wisdom, get horribly off track.

Now, I am watching social media catch the same horrible affliction and accelerate towards the same horrible end.

Its easy to blame the marketers. After all, marketers have a tendency to overdo it. Its quick to blame the brands, since companies often jump at the next big thing and put a lot of their resource against it. Its fashionable to blame the “social media expert,” but the internet has always been a dynamic gold rush where people follow the dollar regardless of the quality of their work.

What is killing social media, is that people are forgetting that its SOCIAL media, not social MEDIA. We put on our “personal brands” and head out into the world to make it safe for the brands we represent. We go to conferences where we meet the same people and talk about the same things, and fail to innovate. We put ourselves above the brands that we market and spend our time extending our influence. We worry what other social media professionals think about US rather than what our customers think about the BRANDS we represent.

Social media is dying.

Am I lambasting all social media professionals? Of course not. There are many, many social media professionals that do amazing things within the constructs they are given. They do awesome outreach with limited budgets and limited support. Some continually give back to the community through education and knowledge and most importantly, time.

But the vast majority of us are making it up as we go along, much like we did as SEO was growing. We look to the few that have an “inside track,” and emulate them, as if they are made men and the chosen ones. We forget that social media means making connections and collaborating with our communities and we spend our time being peacocks, and demanding our communities follow us.

Social media is dead.

I dont know if we can fix it. I dont know if social media will become like SEO, where its practiced by many, but perfected by few. Where the companies and agencies that win are the ones that understand that, for example, there is real benefit to making the kitchen a social place to help build the brand of their appliances, or that real communities are built on collaboration through transparency.

If you are a social media professional, I ask that you think about what value you are bringing the industry and the brands that you represent. Are you just outputing the same old crap, or are you finding new and interesting ways to create engagement? Are you sharing your failures and successes with the social media community? Do you collaborate with other professionals?

Im frustrated with the current state of social media. There are too many people not realizing the damage they are causing the industry. There are too many people that have put the immediate dollar ahead of the long-term benefit of our industry. It will end up that a few agencies and people will dominate the landscape and the majority of social media professionals will go off and do whatever the next big thing is. We will look at the social media industry much like the SEO industry is now viewed, as something that has been riddled and defiled by fortune hunters, rather than the marketing/PR revolution is it.

Social media is dead. And that just sucks.

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  • i don`t know if is dead.. twitter ? can be asimillated with social media
    and twitter is not dead

  • megfowler

    Social media aren't (check out my plural! I just made a thousand stodgy editors smile) dead to me because I don't view “social media” as an industry. I know there is an industry built around them, but as a writer, social media are just another way of getting words out there, for myself or for my clients, or for pointing to words that exist somewhere else.

    The tools remain useful, and even with the serious message congestion out there, I still manage to get some fresh air out there when I need to.

    The idea of the “social media industry” SHOULD die, because they SHOULD be viewed as tools.

    People shouldn't spend their whole days obsessing about tools or talking about tools or meeting up with other people to talk about tools… or otherwise behave *like* tools.

    They should use these things in the course of communicating about actual, useful things — things that pull them out of the meta of using tools to talk about tools. I don't care what those things are — food, politics, technology, fashion, current events, causes, lip gloss, underpants, REALLY ANYTHING — but something that matters to them.

    Not blogging about blogging, or Twittering about Twittering, or ANYTHING like that.

    And I don't mean blogging about blogging about something meaningful, either.

    Just talk about something that matters, and take advantage of great tools to make it happen.

    When people ask me why I don't go to more meetups and conferences and seminars and, and, and, and… well, all the social around social media, I can only reply that it's not that I don't want to meet great people and have great conversations.

    It's that I don't feel the need to learn more about tools over and over again and gaze deeply into my own navel to analyze how I'm using them.

    I'd just like to use them, and when I hang out with people that are awesome, well… we can talk about something else.

  • >I dont know if social media will become like SEO, where its practiced by many, but perfected by few

    Do you think the challenge with social media “amateurs” is that social media was not created, like SEO, expressly to better business? Facebook and Livejournal weren't created specifically as ways for people to promote their business or even really themselves for monetary gain?

    So often we see the “social media: you're doing it wrong” posts. Yet why is facebook so popular? Because people started using it for their own benefits: to reconnect with old or new friends. And yes, businesses sought a way to use it to better connect with individuals. But social media outlets weren't, on the whole, devised to allow businesses a way to connect with individuals.

    Social media strategy should perhaps somehow be a limited field to innovators: but the notion that everyone doing anything with social media should somehow be aggressively moving it forward seems a bit counter-intuitive to some of the core benefits to social media: low barrier to entry. Mass numbers.

  • Amen.

    /begin rant
    Or rather – I think it should die. You know the old adage about the person who talks about sex the most usually is the one that's having it the least? That's social media. The more people talk about it, the less likely they are actually doing anything.

    That's not an attack on the big wigs – they've attained the level of philosopher. They can philosophize on the subject because – well, they made it to that level. Everyone else? You're as close to a philosopher as stoned college kids arguing around a table in their dorm room.

    Stop talking about social media as a subject. Talk about people doing it, what they're doing. Just stop talking about it like it's some mythical thing. If I talked about how wonderful the telephone was all day – I'd end up in an asylum…..

    /end rant

  • I'm not so sure the medium itself is dead — social media still has much benefit to offer companies and individuals alike — but I sure share your distaste with the industry that has grown around it.

    Just like I see people and firms continue to practice the unique art of good search engine optimization, I'm curious how good social media professionals adapt to an evolving landscape.

  • I totally agree with this. Ppeople ruin everything eventually.

  • I just view the current media as continuums of the past. I've been online heavily since 1993. I've participated in BBSs, usenet, email list groups, online bulletin boards, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and whatever else has come along that I might have forgotten.

    All have offered ways to have conversations and to engage people who collect around specific interests or, in the case of Facebook, as part of a varied network of connections.

    Companies have been paying attention all along (for example, in 1995 I was monitoring usenet beer groups to see what people were saying about beer and then I'd prepare reports for Coors). But companies have never really been able to participate in the discussions as companies. At best, they have employees who speak for themselves and in the process they might be associated with their employers. In other words, let's say I know Joe X, who happens to work for Company Y. I probably won't think about his company every time he communicates, but if I need something from the company, then I'll probably start my corporate dialog by contacting Joe. I don't need Joe to be a corporate spokesperson until I need a corporate representative. Otherwise, I just need him to be Joe.

    You probably could insert companies directly into social media by having branded characters carry out conversations (e.g., having a cartoon character have his own Twitter account). People sometimes like to be in on the joke and role play along. I did it myself with characters from a TV show when they set up their own Twitter accounts. I sent messages to the characters, based on the story line, rather than trying to engage the real people writing the messages.

    My main concern with social media experts is if they haven't been online for 15 or 20 years and don't know that whatever is popular now will be replaced by something else before long.

  • Meg, I think you are on the right track. When you look at datum (how you like that singular?) Not a single one points to the “correct” way to do “social media.” Thats where its completely correlates to SEO. There is no set path, so anyone can spout “this is the right way,” and no one can dispute without data.

  • It could be. I think that the amount of money top social media marketers are making (Chris Brogan has been able to build a whole business around his expertise and reputation, for example) is driving less talented and experienced people into the industry. That coupled with the shift in standard PR and marketing, people are just adding social media marketing to their offerings. Its just like web designers adding SEO to their list of skills, when we all know that they are just going to add some title tags and a description meta tag.

    Its also similar in that there is little REAL sharing of information. I sit down with people constantly around how a company should blog, use facebook and twitter. I just related what we have found to be successful. I share everything. It always amazes me how many people refuse to share anything, and are considered LEADERS. Its sad.

  • I 100% agree. I told someone at Graphic.ly yesterday “Would you rather talk about winning the race, or actually win it.” Im a doer with loud mouth; not a talker. I would love to see more doers sharing their knowledge. Their real knowledge.

  • Thats dour! :) People dont ruin everything….just most things.

  • Every technology and industry builds on the successes and failures of the past. But you dont have to have been online for 20 years to be a good social media marketer. You just need to understand engagement and what that really means.

  • a doer with a loud mouth. I like that. We need more of those….

  • No, of course you don't really need to have been online that long. But whenever I read about how Twitter will dominate social media, I remember how all the other online tools were supposed to be dominant and then got replaced. The very fact that something can rise quickly to replace what has gone before means something else can come along just as easily to replace that.

  • TashaBrighton

    Great blog, though I'm not sure if I entirely agree – social media is becoming so integral to the way everyone communicates there can't but be personality and innovation.. being a copy writer myself I do agree search engine optimisation can often be seen to go very badly though! My euphoric tone in a recent blog post (for a potential part-time job) perhaps seems a bit optimistic though! – http://www.siliconbeachtraining.co.uk/blog/2010… – Let me know what you think…

    Oh, and megfowler – I do agree (and I doubt you'd like my blog!), but although it may be dying for some of us, for others it's still a novel idea, so still worth blogging about blogging and the like!

  • Pingback: PR RIP? « Mesh Media Strategies()

  • You're my hero:

    “Where the companies and agencies that win are the ones that understand that, for example, there is real benefit to making the kitchen a social place to help build the brand of their appliances, or that real communities are built on collaboration through transparency.” – Now, I can absolutely back that.

    Love your insight, Micah.

  • Yeah, you lost me after the first few sentences, because you didn't use apostrophes in your contractions (i.e., didnt instead of didn't). Brush up on that grammar, man. It's hard to take you seriously, otherwise.

  • I never use apostrophes, and dont care how you “take” me. Hope you
    enjoyed the post!

    Sent wirelessly.

  • Derek Scruggs

    Hm. I get the impulse behind this, but when I look at my sales conversion rates and see how important SEO is to that, well… We're just starting to really go after social media so I'm not ready to pass judgment on that.

  • Derek Scruggs

    As a follow-up. I guess my concern is this post is basically the online marketing equivalent of “their old stuff is better.” If SEO is dead, please keep beating it to death because it's been great for our bottom line (and no, we don't do black-hat stuff).

  • Noreen Sullivan

    Social Media is not dead it is just Media. All media has been social from the start. The town crier, the followers of Christ, all repeated stories to friends. When TV and Radio created the one to many news voice it was like the Church being responsible for all written language. We came out of a dark age where information was controlled by a few sources. Marketing supported those avenues. Now the channels are split into new forms and the marketing has come with it. The authentic feel of early social sharing is gone. The larger a social channel gets the more like big media it becomes.
    Engaging with a brand audience still can be fun and great. So many “social experts” are not sociologists, or media experts. The new social has to understand both brand impact and group dynamics. Distinguishing between social and media is silly. If the content has social currency it will work if not it wont. This is not the first time that media has shifted, think the printing press.
    Social is dead long live Social.

  • honestman

    you’re a dick