The Social Contract

I’m not terribly social media-savvy and find all the talk about it exhausting.  I do try to keep up on at least the basics, along with the related gadgetry, but I feel like I’m drowning when I ignore Mashable for a couple of days and all of a sudden I have nearly 200 articles piled up in my feed reader.  Is it that I don’t have a staff whose job it is to be experts?  Can I use that as an excuse, please? But even if I’m ignorant, I can still have thoughts about it, and I might as well unload them on the internet, so here goes.

 I like Facebook, and the more I use it the more I like it.  It’s remarkable that it can serve so many different needs, both personal and business.  I’ve had an account for several years but just recently added a couple of business pages – one for my voiceover business and one for the karate school where I’m both a student and an instructor.  There are a few features Facebook lacks that I hope we’ll see in the near future.  One is that there is currently no way to post to other business pages using the name of one’s own business page, unless one opens a different Facebook account using that name.  Another is that when somebody posts something on your business page, there is no notification of that activity.  You just have to keep checking to make sure you’re staying on top of things and fulfilling your obligations which, in my mind, include responding when somebody comments.

 Most of the shortcomings of Facebook and other social media platforms, however, at least for business purposes, are actually those of the users and not the platform. I’ve “liked” the pages of many businesses related to my field, and when I see an update that interests me and I have something of substance to say about it, I leave a comment.  Ideally, the page administrator would respond and there would be a conversation of sorts – an interaction – which can help to start or enhance a business relationship.  Some of the page administrators get that, and it’s pleasant and satisfying.  It can be as simple as “liking” my comment.  Just a little acknowledgement that, yes, you matter to me.  Many other administrators don’t get it, and their pages are a one-way street, potentially kinetic but in fact, essentially static.   Maybe, after all, it’s a question of just not being able to keep up.  There is so much information coming at all of us – everybody is trying to stay up to date, AND get noticed, but they have so many Friends or Fans or whatever and nobody really has time to pay attention to anybody else.

 So, let me know if I’m missing the point.  I promise I’ll respond to you 🙂  By the way Daniel Koontz has a swell post about blogging and commenting over at Casual Kitchen.  Check it out.

5 Responses to “The Social Contract”

  1. 1

    Mary, somehow you always inspire me to rethink and reconsider.

    A few random thoughts on ‘social’ media:

    – There’s so much information floating around, and so little knowledge, let alone wisdom.

    – What does it really mean to have 1525 followers on Twitter or 2536 Facebook friends?

    – Why do the most idiotic, downright stupid and bizarre videos always go viral?

    – New, sophisticated and exciting means of communication seem to attract people that specialize in leaving rude remarks and profanity?

    – We’re supposedly building an on-line community of interconnected individuals. Conversations are limited to 140 characters or less. What are we really sharing? Who’s going to put an arm around you when you need to be comforted?

    – We are discussing observations without actual participation. We are responding to described and perceived reality, instead of sharing an actual experience. It might seem that we’re getting closer, but in fact, we’re distancing ourselves by staring at a monitor instead of looking into someone’s eyes…

  2. 2
    Mary

    Paul, there is a lot of potential benefit in social media. I know there are those who spend a lot of time interacting with people online instead of having real relationships, but I hope that’s the extreme. I keep in touch with most of my real friends by visiting, talking on the phone or writing letters/emails. My concern at the moment is business relationships. I have very few local clients so it’s rare when I can meet with them face-to-face. I think it would be a huge mistake not to take advantage of social media for enhancing business relationships, along with more traditional approaches. It is just frustrating when it doesn’t work the way I think it should – whether because the business contact doesn’t have the same goals or because they have so many fans and followers, as you said, that whatever any of them is trying to say gets drowned in the noise of what everybody else is trying to say.

    It’s one tool among many at our disposal. I’m still trying to find the best way to take advantage of it!

  3. 3

    Thanks for your response, Mary! As you know, I’m an avid user of social media myself. It’s part of my marketing mix and part of my networking efforts. While these new ways of connecting offer tremendous opportunities, I think it’s good to take a few steps back and reflect on what all the hype really means.

    It’s easier to connect these days, but I find it harder to make meaningful connections that go beyond a trivial two-sentence exchange. People pride themselves in the number of ‘followers’ or ‘friends,’ but still, someone has yet to tell me how to keep up with all these tweets and comments, and -more importantly- what to do with them. You’re right: we might be drowning in a sea of chatter.

    As I am learning how to swim in this endless ocean, I am also keenly aware of the never-ending barrage of commercial messages I am bombarded with. “Friendship” is being exploited and used to break us up into tribes of like-minded souls around products, services, entertainment and other commercial/trivial pursuits.

    Our buzz is being studied by marketeers. Some networks are infiltrated by recruiters and behavioral psychologists. The private is becoming more and more public, and it’s all more or less happening under the radar.

    Yes, I am glad that I now have new ways to stay in touch with my friends and family from overseas. Yes, I am happy to be able to promote my services and my blog to a wide audience without breaking the bank. And yes… I will be tracking this social revolution with a critical eye and a suspicious mind.

  4. 4

    I’m enjoying this conversation (and Mary, thank you for the link!).

    My thinking is, don’t get too caught up in the semantics of it all. Just because you have 1,000 “friends” of Facebook doesn’t mean you’ve trivialized the nature of friendship. Likewise, just because Twitter “conversatons” are limited to 140 characters doesn’t demean conversations.

    They are tools, at times very powerful tools, and at other times very puerile tools (e.g., Paul’s question on how the dumbest videos go viral). But I’ve also learned about incredibly impactful articles and websites by via Twitter and Facebook.

    That being said, I’m trying to figure out how to best use these tools too.

  5. 5
    Mary

    Dan, I’m thinking that, as with everything of value, the key is time, discipline and consistency. Allot a certain amount of time each day to reviewing what is being said in your network, and a certain amount of time to responding. That discipline is also required to keep one from going overboard – stopping when the time allotment has been reached!

    And once you’ve got it all figured out, all the rules will have changed 🙂


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