Before it became commercial, the web was social.
By the late 1990s it was definitely more commercial than social.
Then, with the fast growth of dedicated social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, it became seriously social again.
The arrival of the smartphone in 2007 made the web even more social. Smartphones are, by definition, social devices. And many of the most popular apps for these devices are hard-core social.
And then social media became a commercial broadcast channel.
OK, that’s the short version.
To put it another way, while you and I still enjoy the truly social aspects of the web, both on our computers and our smartphones, companies and organizations are using “social media” as a broadcast channel to sell their products and services. They are rarely being social at all.
Go to the Facebook page of any large company or brand and you’ll find plenty of promotions but very little in the way of true conversation.
To be fair, I think a lot of companies started out on social media with good intentions. I think they wanted to be social. But found it just too hard.
Big companies and organizations have a lot of history to get past if they actually want to talk with their customers and really listen to them. They have a hundred years of ingrained habits that make the idea of actually being social something they find hard to fathom.
To compound the problem further, companies large and small are being sold tools and services that enable them to automate their social media. For example, a company can schedule a tweet or Facebook update a few weeks in advance.
Is that social? Hardly. It’s like scheduling what you’re going to say at a particular point at a dinner party that won’t take place for another two weeks.
How could your comment possibly fit into a conversation that hasn’t even started yet? It wouldn’t.
All this to say that I think social media experts and managers have lost their way.
They are using social media as a broadcast channel, not as a way to enter into real conversations.
The only people who are really being social on these platforms are regular people. Individuals. Not companies.
When I see something like this happening, I immediately think “opportunity”.
If companies are not being well served by the experts and tools they use now, it’s time to give them something different.
And my guess is that the best person to offer that kind of difference is someone like you. Why you? Because you’re a writer and a marketer, and you’re still living and working on a “human scale”. You still interact with others one-on-one, and not through automated systems.
I see an opportunity for a new breed of social media writers who approach companies and show them how to pull back from the broadcast model of social media and tap into the conversational model.
Would companies be receptive to that kind of approach? I think so, because I think a lot of companies also recognize that the broadcast approach to social media just isn’t working.
If I had the bandwidth to open up a second career for myself, I would be all over this.
If you do have the bandwidth, you might want to give the opportunity some thought. Social media marketing desperately needs help in getting back into the “human realm”.
NOTE: For foundational training in social media, and in what it means to be a social media writer, you might want to check out my program, How to Make Money as a Social Media Expert.
About the author: Nick Usborne is an online writer, copywriter, author and coach. Read more…
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