“We all have personal brands and most of us have already left a digital footprint, whether we like it or not. Proper social media use highlights your strengths that may not shine through in an interview or application and gives the world a broader view of who you are. Use it wisely.” – Amy Jo Martin
The internet is one of the greatest (if not the greatest) inventions of the past century. It has given people unprecedented access to information and culture, and will certainly play a huge role in all future advances that will be made.
Being used to transmit information, it is also a form of interaction, and it has changed the very way we meet and interact with people. We are, of course, talking about social media.
Thanks to it, “we all have personal brands”, as Amy Jo Martin states in the opening quote. We use social media to get informed, as well as to express ourselves and share information, and that is the beauty of it. The masses become the media, sharing and commenting on all sorts of topics, ranging from news to history, and everything in between… and companies want in on this.
It’s hard to blame them, as using social networks to attract new clients is cheap and effective. But social media should not be about creating clientele, it should be about discussion, interaction, and overall socialization, as the name itself implies.
In the hope of preventing social media to become just another marketing tool, I have decided to do my bit, and make a list of a few reasons why marketing is ruining social media. These are subjective observations, so do feel free to discuss them in the comment section.
Let’s get started:
1. Social media as transaction, not conversation
What marketers need to understand is that the principles of marketing for social media, are completely different from marketing for any of the other traditional forms of media. Ads on social networks should not only welcome discussion when it drops by. They should invite it over for dinner, and make sure they include a vegetarian option on the menu.
It is not hard, but it definitely is not as easy as ending the post with “tell us what you think”. Some “commercial entities” do get it right though. Game of Thrones’ Facebook posts manage to engage users in the right way, by posting quotes from the show and screencaps. They do this because the people responsible for the page know both the product, and the target audience.
If you have ever been an admin for a page yourself, then you know exactly what I am talking about. This problem might just be specific to Facebook, but seeing as Facebook is the social network, problems affecting it have a backlash on social media in general.
Like-bots are fake (or possibly hacked) accounts that give likes to pages, in exchange for money.
This is wrong because the number of likes a page has should represent the quality of product or company it is representing, and the quality of the posts it is producing and how engaging they are. Like-bots have negative repercussions for everyone. Firstly for the user, because he gets tricked into liking what could well be a horrible page; and secondly for the owner of the page, as whatever interaction he does get from the bought likes, will definitely not translate into sales.
3. Too many rules
When you have too many rules, users know what to expect. Than, in turn, leads to them not being surprised, and once you take surprise out of social media, it’s game over, man.
Rules like “what time to post” or “how many posts per day” do nothing other than clutter the news feed a few times a day, every day, at the exact same hour, with feeds from corporate pages (I think I’ll start using the term “like hunters”). That can lead to people no longer accessing the network at those hours, or worse yet, accessing it at all.
4. Missing opportunities
Social media, more than any other media, gives a company the opportunity to seem more like a person. It is marketing’s first real chance to finally humanize a brand, company etc., and finally create that illusive “human connection” between man and product. A chance that marketers are not really taking.
Most like hunters (told you I’d start using it) just keep posting the same things over and over again. Worse yet, the “same thing” that they are posting over and over again are ads in the purest sense possible. Instead of actively participating in what essentially is social media, marketers tend to choose to just post photos of the latest phone or whatever. What they could be doing is posting FAQs about the product, or maybe even offering customer support via their social network page.
5. Using you to advertise
What I think is probably the most insidious marketing strategy ever has to be Facebook’s “X likes Somethingorother Inc.” ad system. You have probably seen this first-hand in your news feed, when someone from your friends list appears in your news feed, as if he has recently liked a certain page. Thing is, he probably did not like the page recently, not by a long shot.
This practice is simply horrid. Just think if you would start seeing ads on TV where you personally would be endorsing a certain brand of toothpaste, without your permission. You would be completely in the right to get upset.
Now, admittedly, this does only appear to people who are in your friends list, and viceversa. However, the real issue here is that (at least in theory) that company is using you to make money without giving anything in return, and more importantly, without explicitly asking permission to feature you in their ads.
There is, perhaps, an argument to be made that if everyone was innovative, that would be the norm. And if the norm was innovation, then it would loose its value. It is the old “can’t have light without darkness” argument, basically, but there is just too much playing it safe in social media marketing.
Not enough marketers are willing to take risks, so they fall back on ridiculous rules, like the ones we mentioned earlier, making social media bland and samey.
7. Trying too hard
If you are in the right state of mind, this particular thing that marketers do can actually be kind of funny.
Having a brand post totally unrelated things, like Doge memes or funny fail videos is both hilarious and annoying at the same time, because you see products trying to act like they are people, too. This is what happens when you interpret humanization as anthropomorphism.
Humanization makes users feel like there is an actual person behind the page, interacting with them in the name of the product, and providing them with the information they need. After all, that is why they pressed the like or follow button.
By trying to make the product human, you get an all expenses paid trip to the uncanny valley. Users will feel like they are interacting with an android that has activated its social media protocol, in an attempt for maximum engagement. You cannot replace empathy and common sense with statistics.
That wraps this list up. Like I said at the beginning of the article, the items on this list are pretty much subjective, so they are completely up for debate. I would love to hear your thoughts on why, or even if, marketing is ruining social media. Solutions, corrections, and opinions in general are all welcome, in the comment section below.