Yesterday as I was looking through my Facebook feed with my typical selfish focus I wondered if I should unfriend some people. I’m sure they are lovely people, and at one time I could have told you why we were friends. The problem is that too often I read their post and I am annoyed. It’s not that their is any particular egregious behavior that annoys me, let’s face it, sometimes I’m irritable and someone can get on my nerves with just the wrong post about labor strife, out of control kids, or dancing cats.
Stepping beyond my self focus for a minute I wondered how often the annoying facebook poster, or tweeter, or blogger is me. It was then I came to what I’m going to call Chato’s seventh law of Social Media: “If it is annoying in real life, amplify that by the power of three in social media.”
Because we don’t know the context of what someone will bring when they read a posts it is really hard to predict if they are in the right place to hear a sarcastic comment about kids or click into a hilarious dancing cat video. There is no greeting to gauge their interest initially and no reaction to gauge their level of annoyance and see if we have work to do.
That is why a little personality can go a long way for an organization in social media.
There are other corrollary lessons here. That is why I’m working on my book Super Simple Social Media. For instance, isn’t one of the problems that I would unfriend someone rather than be challenged by a different point of view?
Last night I was giving a short overview of how social media can be used for marketing for a class of graduate students. A student raised her hand and asked essentially, “What advice can you give us to be safe on the internet?”
I found myself with only one answer, “You can’t.”
It was actually a tough thing for me to answer because that part of the equation is far from being solved and in general I find social media communities to be fairly civilized places where you can control some level of privacy. However, there are competing philosophies like those of Facebook and 4Chan at SXSW highlighted in this article (http://www.geek.com/articles/news/4chan-founder-criticizes-facebooks-zuckerberg-over-claims-that-anonymity-online-is-unethical-20110314/) which seem to indicate that even in the world of social media elite there is debate.
The point is this, as in most things in life that have consequences, it is better to have thought through the issues and have a plan. Even a business that decides they don’t want anything to do with social media needs to make sure they have a plan and can articulate their decision. Social media isn’t something that you want happening to you.
Another student in the class shared how an unofficial LinkedIn site had harmed their business. The threat is real, not only to our personal privacy, but to our professional lives as well. It makes sense to take the time to think it through.
This afternoon, I spent a few hours working on a presentation that I will be giving on Monday and Tuesday to marketing classes. Besides trying to work through the challenges of covering of explaining social media and how it relates to marketing one of the things that I was really struck with was how data ages fast on the internet. For instance, I pulled up a slide that I had used two years ago for a presentation for senior executives about how to implement a new social media policy. For that presentation, I had pulled together a few slides of statistics. I was amazed how many are out of date. Two years ago Facebook grouped together were the size of the world’s most populous country, in today’s research I learned that is now third.
That’s a pretty minor change, but others are more important. Six months ago Facebook hadn’t launced itself into the online video business, and there wasn’t proof that Facebook could help spark a revolution. A few short years ago I was talking about how to implement a strategy to be at the leading edge, now I fear a lot of organizations are simply lost in the social media landscape. The innovators keep innovating, and then there is the rest of the field.
On one hand the gulf is widening, or is it. The innovators are actually making it easier for the rest of us. As communicators and markets get involved, the technical is getting easier because it is written for us and by us. Facebook is a good example. You don’t have to know anything about code to make a good fan page. Twitter is even easier, if you can handle email you can reach thousands of followers. As I look back on how fast the data about the web has changed I also see a change in its nature. The last ten years it was the technicians. The next ten years, it is about strategy.