CHARLOTTE, NC. September 2013, by Chris Jones
One thing you can count on with Twitter: everyone on it has something to say. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be there. But there may be trouble in paradise:
Social media consultants and PR folks: look around. Many early adopters have grown fatigued, and are increasingly absent. Take a deep breath, and ask the hard question: Is anybody listening?
To me, factoring in social media’s rapid evolution, its not too soon for it to be having a mid-life crisis. Gartner, the industry think tank on technology trends, would call it the trough of disillusionment, a predictable window of second thoughts. Enterprise 2.0 advocate Andrew McAfee would be quick to point to technology adoption cycles that run 10 years or more. Even so, our collective excitement over social media’s breakthrough in marketing and PR is increasingly ecclipsed by a vague realization that maybe we were wrong.
Does social media matter in the scheme of things?
Let’s dig a little deeper.
Social media continues to post user gains on Twitter and new platforms like G+ and Instagram. Perhaps it’s only natural that newcomers bring the same bias to their marketing communication that they had in traditional web and broadcast media. Key word there, of course, being broadcast. It is the bane of those who seek to engage, and it’s a trend that’s clear to see in a typical Twitter stream. Even Twitter chats aren’t immune. You may find social interaction and friendly banter. But examine the content.
Do aphorisms outnumber personal perspectives?
And what do we know about our audience? Do we have one? Hopefully, we’re speaking to a community, or at least a group of loosely connected but interested stakeholders. If not, our tweets are simply flying off into thought space (and arguably, outer space) undirected and ill-focused, in hopes that somebody, anybody, might notice.
It’s time we take accountability for our messages. Ultimately, I think we’re experiencing growing pains as we learn a new way to communicate. Here are a few things we can do to put the social back in social media:
- Listen. It’s harder than it sounds. Watch people and hashtags that matter to you, and get into their flow. What’s being said today? Is it anything new that deserves a response?
- Focus your energy, responding to ideas that resonate. Many in the stream seem intent on outwitting colleagues with ever more clever tweets. Are we competing to be heard? Or adding value? Take ownership for helping with noise control.
- Tweet something that matters. Even if it means waiting.
- Tweet with personal insight. That’s what social media is about. Quotes and aphorisms can inspire, but that shouldn’t be all we have to say.
- Say “No” to broadcasting. Period. It’s a very 20th-century approach. It’s all TV and radio had to go on. Target your thinking, and be prepared to enage when someone responds.
- Use hashtags for context and relevance. If you can’t give your tweet a hashtag to associate it with a topic or audience, just maybe it’s not of value to others. Sobering? Perhaps. Hashtags help you think about your focus, and they increase the chance your tweet will reach someone who needs to hear it .. beyond the limit of your current followers .. which extends the half-life of your message.
As it happened, I was.
Twitter tells me I’ve tweeted over 27,000 times. I’m sure there are a few broadcast tweets in the mix. I’ll own them. But I’ll also challenge you to find them. There aren’t very many.
To me the ability to connect and engage with like minded people is the magic of Twitter, and social media in general. When I turn to Twitter, I’m focused on making an impact in specific ways, with a specific audience in mind. I’m not hashtag OCD. I’m bent on making a difference.
The alternative to broadcast? I call it “social intention” – a force that transforms broadcasting into purposeful sharing. It’s more than semantics. Two-way interaction is the core of social’s paradigm shift.
So think about it. And I mean, this time, really reflect. Go deep. I’d love to know your thoughts.
And there’s one more thing you can count on: I’m listening.
Chris aka @sourcepov