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We Need to Save Social Media: An Appeal

Several months ago, I discussed the perpetuation of the race to the bottom in social media. Specifically, the freeloading and and unjustifiable expertise of folks who claim to be professionals in the subject, but are not. These are folks who push content, write books, lead speaking seminars but have never done anything in their right mind in social media, but arrive at the party early. 

It’s time to take our industry back. 

My frustration came to a head earlier this week with a discussion on buying followers and friends over social media to increase the amount of followers and fans. The basic premise of logic was, if Mitt Romney can have a lot of bought followers, why can’t I? Furthermore, my buddy Robert Caruso blogged about this very topic last week as well, and after some good thought, I felt that I needed to write this.

No industry is perfect, but no industry has been more criticized, vilified and automated than that of social media. What is an area of marketing meant to create, complement and push the leaps and bounds of networking and conversation has been run over by individuals who think that automation can be the way to go. Faking social media, after all, is still faking social media. What are the problems, exactly?

1. TrueTwit validation is one major example, where the need to “validate” whether someone can be a simple connection has become a ritual for Twitter power users that is otherwise a waste of time. Because social media is like networking, TrueTwit is like asking someone at a party to show you their driver’s license and proof of citizenship in order for them to even have a conversation with you. If that doesn’t sound stupid, then I do not know what does. 

2. Purchasing followers is a huge trend these days on social media. These followers do nothing but inflate the numbers for pages and Twitter handles to increase the amount of legitimacy. In the networking sense, a purchased follower is like asking a group of blind loyalists to follow you around and chant your praises. We find national leaders like that to be weird, so why aren’t those who purchase followers the same? 

3. Content without Conversation: I see a lot of folks everyday who turn their stream into a content river. When you engage with them however, there is no answer but a lot of crickets. Social media was never meant to be just media, otherwise it would be a news ticker. I have seen many businesses and also worked for one that did just that, with the exception of customer support. No matter if you are B2B or B2C, engagement is necessary! Without that, you’re taking the web back to the early days of the Internet. 

4. A Lack of Customer Service: Time and time again I see that businesses have social media presences but don’t do much with them, if anything at all. Having a social media presence to have one is not valid in saying that you are doing social media. You must still engage, talk to your customers and make sense of their issues, or create the evangelists that are key to the business. 

It’s important that we as an industry really wake up and understand where social media has gone. Invaded by people who think they can just get out of bed and execute, we need to express and emphasize that there is so much more than just that. I’ll outline this in a future post, but it’s important that the crisis be explained first, so that we can think about what has really happened. I urge you to spread this post and the calls of others so that people can change the industry back before it is too late. 

Albert Qian is a social media professional and aghast at where the industry has gone. Tweet him @albertqian on Twitter. 

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