Is Social Media Still Social or Is It a Marketing Machine?

Remember when social media was about connecting with people? You’d find folks you hadn’t seen for a while or schoolmates from years’ past. You’d find new people to talk to in groups of shared interests. It was social.

Today, when you open Facebook or Twitter or even LinkedIn, you’ll find yourself smacked in the face by advertising. Some of this advertising is disguised as “featured posts” or “posts you may be interested in reading” or even just a plain old advertisement admitting that it is an advertisement. Nobody seems to want to socialize. They just want to promote themselves or their products.

I miss social media. It was fun to open up Facebook and see a cute cat video. Okay, those got a little annoying after a while, but still, a joke or a video that wasn’t asking for a share or a “click me now” was fun. Now the social sites have become marketing machines.

With targeted ads and an advertisement appearing in every 20 or so tweets, I ask myself why this happened. Then I remembered greed and big business and the exploitation of any type of forum that will spread their brand image and it made sense. I don’t like it, but it makes sense.

Many businesses are using systems like Hootsuite to set up their messages to smack you in the face at scheduled times. The messages don’t even try to be social. They are just advertising. Period. They could at least put in a little effort. 140 characters isn’t a lot, but it can be done. I saw one Twitter user who noted this trend, @WotV_. She provides some funny tweets, some informational tweets, and then a promo tweet thrown in that is always accompanied by the tongue-in-cheek hashtag #shamelessselfpromotion. At least she’s trying to serve up her advertising with a little humor and self-awareness.

If you are using social media to promote your business, show some restraint. Just because you CAN post every minute, doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Check out what you are promoting before you put it out there. Is it relevant and interesting? Does it have value to your “followers” or “friends” or is it repetitive and too frequent? Make sure you have something useful or at least entertaining to say. You can measure the success of your social media marketing by using the built in analytic tools. Likes, retweets, and followers do not indicate that you are succeeding in your goals.

As someone who likes the social in my media, I’m asking you to entice me to read your content and find out about your business or brand. Don’t just throw a sales pitch at me like a baseball. I don’t want to read another and another and another note about your business. If you don’t show me some value in having you in my stream of media, that unfollow button becomes very tempting.

Don’t replace the “social” in social media with “sales.” If you have an interesting bit or byte of information to share, then tell me. But not every hour. And please give me some variation. Buy this; follow this link; buy this; follow this link will only get you closer to the unfriend zone.

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