The opportunities to engage and interact are two of the most often communicated benefits of using social media. While these benefits sound good in theory, I’m not sure that most users are doing a good job of taking seriously their individual responsibility to ensure these benefits are realized. Often times, people who are active on social media and social networks are too busy building their own personal brand to be bothered with 2-way conversation. If the benefits of social media are the increased opportunity for engagement and interaction, then why are so many users focused on themselves?
Whenever new technologies and communication tools are introduced, it is often difficult to figure out how best to get the most benefit. Some users want to use it for one purpose, while others have a completely different purpose in mind. While there will almost always be a commercial slant to many endeavors, the level playing field that self-publishing has created is leading many users to focus exclusively on creating their own marketable personal brand. I’m all for people focusing on how to create and capture value for themselves. However, I think that social media is in danger of becoming known as the channel for brand building. If this happens, many users who initially joined because of the proposed social promises will simply tune out.
One Way Communication
Human beings have an inherent desire to be social. The shift away from organizational identity to personal identity has been coming for a long time. It began with the ease of self-publishing via blogs. Twitter has made it even easier for folks to share their thoughts, links, and personality online. Unfortunately, this self promotion has created the possibility that the social web will become a giant one-way communication device. Everyone talking AT everyone, but no one is actually listening to what anyone has to say. That doesn’t sound like the type of engagement and interaction most people would define as social.
One of the major benefits of our social interactions is the opportunity to learn from others. When I was in business school, I loved to have case discussions with my classmates. Based on our prior experiences and rigorous analysis of case data, we had each developed a defensible position about what we thought the protagonist should do. For me the best learning moments came not when my own point of view was confirmed, but when a classmate communicated and defended a point of view that I had failed to even consider. Yet, this type of back and forth dialogue and subsequent growth is rare on the social web. If all we do is publish blog posts, re-tweet interesting content, like and share links on Facebook without engaging in true interaction & engagement; then we aren’t really learning anything from each other at all.
While everyone has their own ideas about how to unlock the true value of the social web, it will be tougher and tougher to realize these benefits if the current trends of brand building and self-promotion continue. Surprisingly, many point to one way communication as a failure of corporate brands to engage with their target audience (prospective candidates & customers). Yet, these same strategies are being employed by individuals when building their personal brand. What do you think your community will say about you if you are too busy to talk because you are focused on building your brand?
–Omowale Casselle (@mysensay)
About the Author: Omowale Casselle is the co-founder and CEO of mySenSay, a social recruiting community focused on connecting talented college students with amazing entry-level employment opportunities. Our solution integrates social media, real-time web-based communication, and intelligent analytics to enable employers and students to discover, interact, and connect with each other.
That's exactly right. I don't know the specifics of Klout, but I know that I prefer telephones to megaphones. Unless, I'm at a sporting event or other rally. Then, megaphones are perfectly acceptable.
I'm looking forward to bringing together the best of online/offline conversations as we move forward in our new social web/world. The hashtag for specific events is good at getting conversations started around specific topics and events, but there should be a way to stimulate these conversations more frequently around topics of interest. I think that's when you really start to tap into the amazing benefits of community.
Thanks for the comment. I'm glad you enjoyed the article. Definitely not old school. Although, there are many different ways to use the telephone...witness the rise of texting by GenY. In fact, one could argue that any web-based tool is simply an evolution of telephone technology since the traffic (voice, text, data) is traveling via similar principles as the telegraph.
I agree with the distinction you are drawing between sales & marketing. Although, I think that beyond brand building, web-based tools afford the user the ability to better distinguish between which marketing channels resulted in sales much better than traditional tools. This makes these tools more integral than additional and really calls into question the fear that these technologies will create widespread personnel redundancies if adopted.
Since there aren't any stated rules regarding how to use social media sites or tools, folks may come across as more focused on self promotion (which in theory is ok since there aren’t any rules anyway) even though we might see more communication focused on promotion, I find most people respond to persons who are truly interested in having a two way communication or dialogue about a topic. So unless you're giving back to social sites or communities folks don't typically respond to primarily self promoting communications. Even though there aren't any rules I do feel like there are unspoken rules when using social media sites such as be authentic and give back to the communities you're sharing with, if you don't, folks won't respond to any communications you might share which defeats the purpose of these kinds of tools and sites,
Thank you again for sharing your thoughts on this topic and know I love a great debate so would welcome your feedback.
I completely agree that brand building and 2-way conversations aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, I believe the strongest resultant personal brands will be those who focus first on what they can give as opposed to what they can receive. However, I believe that those who are intentionally trying to build a brand will focus on one-way self promotion as opposed to true 2-way engagement. These actions are destined to fail.
While I would agree that there aren't necessarily well-established rules for social media sites/tools, I'm not sure that it is entirely necessary. The main reason being is the social fundamentals are the same whether the conversation takes place online/offline. Therefore, all folks need to do is look to what is acceptable offline and translate those boundaries into their online behavior.
Unfortunately, this isn't much of a debate since we pretty much agree with each other. Perhaps there is someone who disagrees with this point of view.