Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Is social media really all about me?

I've been trying to formulate this thought for the last week or so, but I think I'll just come right out and ask:

Is social media really all about me?

Isn't that why we're here? Engaging in these tools is a way for us to search for a little validation. Talk about ourselves, our projects and our content (read: blog posts). Even brag a little. Heck, the tools themselves ask for it. "What are you doing?" is the trademark Twitter phrase.

Yes, it's an ego-driven system. But lately, I've noticed it's getting a little obnoxious.

Just the little things really. People hanging on and clinging to perceived social media "rock stars" at local events. Social media groupies? Make no mistake about it, they exist. Even folks on Twitter blatantly promoting themselves, their work and their products. If I want a cold call, I have at least three salespeople interrupting my family dinner and coming to my front door every week. I don't need to here it out here, too.

Again, my question: Is social media really all about me?

Or, is it about sharing? Is it about connecting with people you would have never had the chance to connect with before? Or is it about finding new and different ways to collaborate with folks from across the world in real-time?

I know there's a little "me" involved in all of this. Heck, I promote my blog posts out on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn all the time. But my feeling is there's a right way and a wrong way to go about it. And lately, I've just seen way too many people/brands going about it the wrong way. And that leaves me feeling a little disappointed, to be honest.

There--I finally got that off my chest. What do you think? Is social media all about me?

Or, is it really about "us?"


RockstarJen said...

Like just about every other communication channel out there, it's all about what you put in to it and take from it. If you're having a phone conversation with someone, and you do nothing but talk about your day. It's not a discussion, but a monologue.

There will always be both. Which one you want to be is up to you.

So, I guess it is all about you. If "you" want to be part of "us" and share with "us", yeah!

Anonymous said...

I think that if you must promote something (ie. product, company, etc.) you have to engage others as well. Ask them how their work is doing. Ask for tips on HOW you can get the word out on said company. By valuing your followers, you can almost 'justify' being a blatant SSP (shameless self-promoter.)

I like when people broadcast their blog posts - a lot of times, I miss them in my Google Reader. The more RT's (if it's not someone I read regularly) the more likely I will read it.

A great blog post that gave me a lot to think on.

AnnaB said...

Hey Arik, as Jen said, it's definitely what you make it. Blatant self-promotion eventually gets shrugged off. People get bored of that one-way communication. I find sharing or RTing links and posts (whether or own or not)builds a sense of community and adds value. Social media is give and take. It's not just about you or me. It's about everybody. Focus on that mindset and the rest happens by itself.

Danny Brown said...

I was gonna post my original answer, but then I realized you wouldn't let me plug my upcoming book or radio show - what the deuce, man? Where's the love? ;-)

I think it's a little bit of both (and going with the other comments on here, seems to be the common theme).

At the end of the day, any "venture" we undertake usually has one end result - to raise our awareness in the eyes of others.

This is how we get people to read our blogs, buy our products, support our charity campaigns, etc.

Yet as everyone here mentions, if it's just a continuous one-way street, then people will generally get bored and move elsewhere.

If you can offer great ideas, suggestions, questions and thoughts that get people talking and discussing, then you're immediately viewed as someone that could be worth listening to.

Then your job of promotion is already done and you're not even being false about it.

Give me a thought that makes me look to improve my approach at anything and I'll give that thought-maker my attention.

Cheers, Arik, great topic!

Stuart Foster said...

I think it's all up to you and how you present yourself. I get far more enjoyment out of helping other people out through my efforts then helping myself. Love giving an unknown awesome person a voice, learning from someone who comments on my blog or just hanging out with cool people. Love every minute of it (I do like the attention a lil bit though ;))

Sonny Gill said...

It really is what you make it and for me, I've made it mainly about the relationships I've built in my community. Does that community relate back to the work that I do on my blog and elsewhere? Of course. We can't fool ourselves into thinking that we're not doing this for at least a little bit of notoriety for our own work. But even so, that content is built to help the community and expand their knowledge, just as I learn from people like you and other bloggers that I read.

There's definitely two-sides to how people utilize social media, as the latter works just as well. The community that's shown only your work and no other interaction works depending on who you are or what your focus is. So long those tactics are clearly defined and you're not tricking anyone into thinking otherwise, I don't see any harm regarding that side of the fence...but you won't find me there.

Terry Morawski said...

Thanks for your post. I always enjoy your stuff.
The notion of the Twitter celebrity is interesting. I have several highly functioning and successful friends who will possibly never be on Twitter. To them, what they hear is still dependent on if someone has something interesting to say. People too easily get sucked into thinking that the Twitter personalities with the most followers have credibility.
For me, Twitter is about what you get out of it, so there is certainly no requirement to pay attention to anyone or to use the service a certain way.

mary said...

I agree with what's been said here. Social media tools, whichever you choose to use, are about conversation. It is what you make it, but like most things in life if you participate you'll get more benefit. The companies/people just out to promote themselves or their product are missing the benefit of the online conversation. For their sake, I hope they come around.

Ann Handley said...

Yes, it's about me. But it's also about you and Jen and Sonny and Danny and Stuart and Anna and everyone else. In other words, it's about us. I'm part of that, but it's the broader connection that gives context and meaning.

What's been bugging me lately is tangentially related to this question: The relentless DMs lately about "make money tweeting!" "I just gained 500 followers overnight!" and "I just earned ten dollars!" Now THAT is really all about THEM, and has nothing to do with me.


Tim Parker said...

I think that if we want it to be about us, we'll prevail. I already see enough 'mutual behavior moderation' to be optimistic.


1. chrisbrgoan "Just unfollowed @platinumking for spamblasting me in DM." and told his 67,000 followers.
2. I'm going to email someone I follow ('cos I like her) and politely tell her I have had to turn off her feed to my phone 'cos she sends me too many tips about email marketing every day.
3. If someone follows me with whom I apparently have nothing in common, I likely won't follow them back... and so on.

I think in these ways and others we should end up with the connections and exchanges we want, more or less.

Arik C. Hanson, APR said...

Great comments all. Thanks for adding your two cents to the conversation.

Jen/Anna/Mary--your comments make me think of a story I tell folks who are thinking about joining MN PRSA. My "speech" includes a piece about "you only get out of this what you put in." I think our social networks online operate much the same way. If you join, but then sit in the corner and don't engage, you're not going to have the same experience as someone who jumps right in, makes new friends and gets involved. Makes all the difference.

Danny/Stuart--You guys nailed it for me. It's about value. Looking to help others. That's relationships 101. Not all that tough of a concept to grasp, is it? Wonder why what's so tough for some folks?

Ann--Your comment made me think of a phrase our CIO uses routinely: The Power of Us. Lot of strength in that phrase. And it's true--the power of "us" is much, much greater than the power of "me." Those that figure that out will rise to the top with the help of many, many people.

Sasha said...

I love this post and I think you are on to something very interesting here. I know I'm guilty for the self-promotion, but I'm job-hunting so I think I’m excused for the time-being, lol.
In terms of Twitter-groupies. I know, they DO exist. Oddest thing ever. I mean of course I follow @Oprah too, but I have seen cases where it’s taken to a whole new level.
But to answer your question, I think it’s about “us” with a little bit of the “me” in there too. We use outlets like Twitter to promote our blogs, but at the same time we are SHARING that information. Usually, people blog about things that interest them or that are new or cutting-edge or they just want to get something off their chest (just like you are doing now) – the thing is, it’s that “me” + “us” = social media relationship. You promote your blog on Twitter, I read about it, and we share ideas.
Granted it doesn’t always work out this way, but more times it does than not. But like every other outlet (Facebook, Linkedin, etc.,) there is a right and wrong way to go about it. You make a very valid point there.
For example, I recently added my own blog (sashahalima.com/blog) to Network Blogs on Facebook. My FB however is a very personal space for me. I don’t give it out and I have very strict privacy search options marked off on it. Mostly because most, if not all, of my FB friends are real friends, in real life and I don’t want to bombard that personal life with my “public relations” side. So I have tried to be careful about just how much blog-promotion I do on it. Though verbalizing it with you now is making me think I need to be a little bit more strict with myself on my Facebook, lol.
Ah well, see you on Twitter Arik!

Jason Sprenger said...

Arik, good stuff, as always.

To me, as others have alluded to here, your post is just another way of questioning why/how to use Twitter and other SM tools. Sure, there's some self-promotion involved - we're human. But if you're online to learn, help others and help move the conversation forward, you don't have to work hard to stand out from those users trying simply to boost their follower count. And the people that know the difference and are looking for quality will find you. Simple as that.

I guess I join the crowd in saying perhaps it's a little bit of both. Your perspective and unique personality are what helps everyone else learn. Without that, you're just like everyone else on here, and that's not good for anyone.


Cam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cam said...

(Whoops. Trying again.)

I suspect that much of the overtly self-serving chatter is a product of Twitter's mass growth in such a short period of time. Thousands of new users are jumping in without listening first. They are likely to establish a new "normal" for Twetiquette.

storyassistant said...

I believe the only route to take with social media is to HELP others. At all costs - "business karma" as I've liked to coin the approach.

What many seem to forget about is to stop yapping and genuinely listen to others needs. Not just because that is what you're "supposed" to do but because you legitimately care about what's important to them.

I feel the same of blogs. These should be where you start the conversation but again...it isn't about you but the conversation you're creating.

As with any interaction and relationship, there is always an appropriate time and place to "pitch" but only if there is an absolute need.

Deirdre Reid said...

Wow, get out of my head, Arik! When I started on Twitter, I noticed a lot of people RTing compliments someone else tweeted about them and I thought, are you kidding me? How can they not know how pathetic that looks? Yikes, that's a hungry ego to be fed.

However, I also noticed how people shared with others and how generous they were with their knowledge or connections. That was a wonderful thing to see.

I get more of a charge by helping someone (or at least trying) than I do from tweeting about my latest blog post. Sure, I love to see my posts get retweeted, who doesn't. Heck, I like seeing my RTs get retweeted, but it's not the same charge as helping.

Short answer -- it's about sharing, connecting and collaborating, as you said. It's hard to explain to people who aren't on Twitter that there is this community here, many communities. It adds quality to our lives. Isn't that something? Who would have thought it?