The other day on Twitter, I came across a post about the death of social media. I clicked over to read it and found myself agreeing with the author on all of his points. “Oh yes!” I thought. “Let me count the ways.” As I began writing out my comment, I looked at the other comments and realized . . . oh, the post had been written two years ago.
The author, like many people now, was using automation to fill his Twitter feed with archived posts. Such irony — an archived post about the death of social media!

Like most marketers, I jumped on the social media bandwagon — first with a blog, then LinkedIn, then Twitter, Facebook and Google+. (I’ve resisted the siren call of Pinterest.) Like most people, I’ve chugged away, posting updates, sharing people’s content, and leaving comments.

I don’t have any real beef against social media — except for the time suck, which I’ve pretty much eliminated. (Tip: take it all off your phone.)

I know it’s good for SEO (just type my name in Google, I own the first page — woohoo!). I know it’s good for getting my name out there — I get referrals these days from people I vaguely know. I know, beyond a doubt, that without it I wouldn’t be half as “famous” as I am. (I like to joke that online I’m semi-famous but in real life I’m known as my son’s mom.)

But social media has changed. It used to be fun. It’s not fun anymore. In fact, it’s exhausting. Talk to anyone offline and you hear the same thing: overwhelm and exhaustion. Few people who do it for a living actually like it — but everyone does it. Because we’re supposed to.

What really bothers me is that the “social” aspect has gone away. Back in the old days (ca. 2009), you could meet people on Twitter or LinkedIn and actually make a few connections. People bantered back and forth and exchanged ideas. Now, social media — and especially Twitter — has become just another way for some companies to push out messages 24/7 — similar to a radio station run by a computer.

My stream these days is full of “inspirational” quotes (unfollow), archived updates that I’ve seen already, and endless retweets of “breaking” news. “Breaking! Mashable just posted a new article!”

Even Chris Brogan has observed that social media these days is pretty dreary (see his post, The Bare Truth of Social Media Marketing.)

Basically, we’ve gone back to the old model of mass marketing — which I thought social media was supposed to have changed — only now it’s cheaper to push out your messages to people who say they want to hear from you. But are they listening? I don’t know.

I’m not saying that all companies run their campaigns this way or that social media is dead. What I am saying is that when I see more people talking about how they’re taking a break or that they removed Twitter or Facebook off their phone and were better for it . . . well, something is broken. But I’m not sure what.

All I know is that I’m finding that I’m searching for places where I can actually talk to people again — you know, the old-fashioned way — one-on-one and face-to-face. I’m attending networking events again and coming away excited and jazzed. When I get invited out by a friend, I say yes. Instead of sitting in a Google Hangout or doing a Twitter chat, I go ride my bike. Or take a walk. Or go out for dinner. Anything that involves getting out and meeting people versus staring at a “screen.”

I know lots of people feel the same way I do because I’ve spoken to them. None of us knows what the answer is. I only know that I feel good when I limit social media and take it in smaller doses.

I’ll continue to respond to people however they connect with me because as Chris Brogan says, social platforms are still a viable communications channel. But I’m not sure I’ll be automating any of my content anytime soon — even though I have over seven years of some really good stuff — as to me, that’s just not sociable or what social media is all about.

What do you think? Feel free to add your two cents.

  • Celine Keating

    Ouch. I’m just getting started with social media, and your column gave me pause. Given that there’s such a steep learning curve for me with this, I wonder how deeply to dive in. Probably the key thing here is to limit how much time to spend with online engagement. OK, I’m putting on my sneakers….

  • A lot of businesses use social media as a promotional channel, and basically broadcast sales pitches. Social media can be used to find like-minded people whether they are members of the same industry or a part of the target audience. Social is very important for business, but you still need to keep the “social” aspect to make sure your connections are the best for your brand.

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  • I’m with you & Nick. It’s not just a matter of pushing content out anymore, you have to interact with people too. Otherwise there’s no point. I’m trying to interact more with people on Twitter, as that’s one of my main contact points. People run into problems with it when they look at it simply as a publication tool, which it’s not. It’s a way to INTERACT with people simply. If we all kept that in mind, things would be more “lively”. 😉

    • Julia — Agree 100%. I’ve been trying to interact more and leave thoughtful blog comments when I can — as well as increase engagement on FB.

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