Six years ago, I began a love affair with the potential that social media could offer.

While I’d been online for much longer, meandering from blogging to forums and gaming, it was only when I started really getting into what MySpace, Facebook and Twitter offered that I saw something bigger than just talking about random stuff.

I saw the opportunity for everyone to truly have a platform to share from. I saw the opportunity for business to both understand and connect better with their audience.

But most of all, I saw a medium that would finally negate the crappy jobs that people and businesses were doing when it came to being honest and transparent, because now there was a viable way to cross-check the shit and converge on the real.

Yet for all that potential, here we are, six years later, and that potential seems to be fighting a losing battle in the war of attrition for eyeballs and attention.

Social Media Used to Be More Than This

Recently, I posted two articles that looked at the BS metric of standalone reach, as well as (the lack of) transparency in social media. These posts had been brewing on my mind for a little while, as more and more examples of crappy methods and the people behind them come to the fore.

I thought they may have been isolated examples, but as comments on the posts as well as discussions elsewhere proved, there’s a growing malaise forming in social media circles. People are getting tired of BS, and finding more instances of this numbing state of affairs now that the rose-coloured blinkers have come off.

These are just some of the examples in recent weeks – if you go back a few months, there are more to be found where the wheels seem to be coming off the potential of social media, and are being replaced by retreaded tires masquerading as profound content and authenticity.

Why? Why are we throwing away such an opportunity for true change and growth? Is it really in exchange for easy eyeballs and links to our content? Does “success in social media” truly equate to numbers of followers, fans, subscribers and having a higher social score than others in your niche?

Social Media Doesn’t Need to Be This Way

As we see more examples of questionable practices coming to the fore, the net effect is that they’re essentially saying it’s okay to be false. If you want to be someone, or a successful business, be either an ass or a fake.

Which is sad, since social media can be so much more.

As these examples above and many more like them show, success can come without faking it. Success can come by being real. Success can come by building small armies to do great things.

Simply put, success can come without the need to link bait for traffic, buffer numbers, bandwagon jump and similar.

If you’re still not sure about the dilution process that social media is going through at the moment, ask yourself this question:

When someone asks you what you do, or you’re attempting to convince a new client or business the value of social media. do you get a questioning stare and a smile that says, “Yeah, right”?

My guess is you do. Many times.

Until we counter this crap that seems to be pervading social at the minute with real work; real results; real numbers; and real honest-to-goodness quality, that look and smile will continue.

And no-one likes to be questioned and laughed at for too long. Do they?

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  1. Kirsten Weiss says

    I think this happens in most (all?) industries that experience a boom. First, no one knows about the industry. Then it gains some respect. Then it’s the cure for everything that ails you (red flag). Then people start noticing the failures and the fight begins to prove that just because the industry/service/whatever isn’t a panacea, that doesn’t mean it lacks value. I saw this in microcredit. Social media has been oversold and now the flaws and bad behavior are starting to become more blatant. But… individuals and businesses can do and have done terrific stuff with social media. I think we need to take care to focus on what works, when, and how, and just get real.

    • says

      Kirsten Weiss Definitely, Kirsten, which is why I wanted to make sure I highlighted the great alongside the not so good. I think what’s probably disappointing the most when it comes to social is the very people who were espousing its greatness to brands back in the day are the ones that are now (mostly) part of the malaise.
      MargieClayman got it spot on when she asked what brands who followed the early advice would think now, given that they paid big bucks for what turned out to be poor business acumen. Here’s to the crud meandering off and the good continuing to come to the fore.

  2. margieclayman says

    Wow. Thank you for the shout, Danny Brown.
    I will be sappy and say that I am truly honored – you have been one of the people I have respected most since I joined this crazy online world – for you to pay me props? Yeah. Makes me happy :)
    That said, I really do feel, really really, that we are entering a time when people are starting to, if not smell the BS, to at least start asking for more. I think more people are starting to ask the no-nonsense questions, and it will become clear who has the answers and who has more BS. I believe this firmly. And I hope not too many companies get caught in the crossfires.

    • says

      margieclayman I guess the telling point will be if the folks, brands and other entities that need to hear and listen actually do. Hopefully the brands needing the help will do their due diligence properly.

  3. DannyBrown says

    BrandonPDuncan Thanks sir, frustration wrote that post. Seems to have struck a nerve, not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.

    • BrandonPDuncan says

      DannyBrown Well, I’ve always liked you’re writing style. It’s true though. People get caught up in numbers, etc. rather than relationships.

      • DannyBrown says

        BrandonPDuncan True. It doesn’t help when companies send out emails about Top 1%, etc. Link-bait tactics to pander to egos, every1 suffers.

        • BrandonPDuncan says

          DannyBrown Not just companies, obviously. Otherwise Google wouldn’t be doing what they are with blogs. Unless I’m WAY off.

        • DannyBrown says

          BrandonPDuncan Yeah, that’s a crazy decision. OK, so maybe RSS being used less, but be creative and integrate better into other solutions

        • BrandonPDuncan says

          DannyBrown We’re working through some of that now with DadsRoundTable. It’s certainly challenging finding a good, not cheap balance.

        • BrandonPDuncan says

          DannyBrown Though, I suppose that’s why you guys make the big bucks. You’re way smarter than me on tactics and techniques, lol.

        • BrandonPDuncan says

          DannyBrown Ha ha. Uh huh. Good talking to you Danny. I’ll stop being such a stranger now that I’m home again. Night, sir!

  4. says

    If something is to stand the test of time– and I’m playing devil’s advocate– then everyone  will poke holes in it, question its existence, and call out the negative and attempt to make it bigger. All this –> in an attempt to question its legitimacy. When overused terms like Engagement, Transparency, Amplify and ROI of Social permeate our “marketing environment”, take it as a sign that the space is figuring out whether this thing called social really belongs here. We are all figuring this out and I agree that somehow social has been diluted. In some cases, it’s still being questioned but it is being elevated the more we ALL talk and write about it.

    • says

      hessiej Perhaps the bigger question then becomes should it even be called “social media”? I know there have been a few discussions around the web on what it could be, to A) make it more “adult and, B) make it more accepted. Agree there is crap in everything we come across in life (especially business), just seems social has become a rich playground for extended crap.

      • says

        Danny Brown Social has shown to evolve quite nicely and has garnered a generous following: millions of people and business minds ready to defend its ground. I think we’re still fighting very traditional views who, I would suspect, are largely the naysayers. They too will change eventually out of necessity.

        • says

          hessiej I’m not so sure it’s “traditionalists” we have to “worry” about. If you look at the examples I shared from margieclayman, Pam Moore and the others, they’re about early adopters, or experienced social users and brands. For some reason there seems to have been a shift, and I can’t help but feel that we’ve brought a lot of it on ourselves, with our guidance to connect with everyone, grow your Tribe, etc, etc. 
          Advising to grow numbers, and then see those numbers become a focus point for crappy approaches? And that’s just part of the bigger topic. I dunno, just seems more than “well some will never get it and they’ll use old, outdated approaches”.

    • DannyBrown says

      caro2point0 Thanks Caroline – still have hope for the medium, it continues to have great potential. Just need to separate the crud.

  5. DannyBrown says

    dschulenberg Thanks, Dara – definitely seems to have touched a nerve, great to see the conversation evolve. :)

    • TheReluctantSC says

      DannyBrown You’re so welcome & well done re your new book on the way. I hope to follow you with a book on fear free public speaking in Apr.

  6. says

    Hi Danny,
    I’m just a small business owner who fell in love with blogging … to point where it consumed me, a wee bit too much. This is definitely reflected in the tone of some of my more recent posts. 
    It took me that long to get to the nuts and bolts of it all. It really is surprising what you find the more you dig. Or maybe not, considering human nature 😉
    I generally ignore some of blogging’s top dogs, and try to accentuate the positive, but after 1.5 years on the social web I can understand why you’ve written a piece like this. I can certainly get behind the “beyond buzz and into results” message. And there sure as hell is a ton of bullshit out there and people doing their best to game the system.
    Also, I can really get behind what Pam wrote: “Building a community takes time and investment. Purchasing fake fans is cheating, unethical and wrong.” I completely agree with that and honestly wonder why anyone would want fake fans. 
    Me? I still don’t know crapola, but I learn every day from wise people like you. And guess what? My business is growing like never before :) Maybe in another 1.5 years I can fill more than a thimble with my knowledge.

    • says

      Craig McBreen And there’s your perfect answer right there, mate. The fact you’re just continuing to plough your own path and not get involved in all the silly games out there. The proof is in the pudding of your continuous growth – and at the end of the day, isn’t that the only answer that really matters? :)

  7. says

    Always a great conversation when I stop in here. This reminded me of one of my favorite quotes about marketing to the Gen X crowd. As Darryl
    Roberts from Wine X Magazine so eloquently puts it, “ … unlike the Boomers
    before us, we have a BS meter more sensitive than any seismograph. During the
    years we were watching Saturday-morning cartoons, we were assaulted by a
    barrage of advertising so intense it had to be addressed by federal
    Sometimes social media makes me feel this way, like I’m being bombarded and it just makes my head hurt.  I just want to crawl into my personal little blog that I almost never promote and just live in that world.

    • says

      penneyfox Does that make us more curmudgeon-like? 😉
      Over the weekend, I read a Tumblr blog that shared the social updates of people that blamed the victim in the Steubenville rape case, and I was appalled at how easy it is for idiots to have that kind of public forum. The right to free speech is core, but when does free speech cross the line?
      Sometimes social media and its scale and ability to have a soapbox disgusts me.

  8. says

    Hello @DannyBrown,
    Great article. This reminds of the stat regarding self-proclaimed social media experts on Twitter (over 180,000). 
    I don’t understand what people don’t get about social media. They talk about ROI before talking about people. They talk about results before focusing on strategy. It’s like they completely forget the basics as soon as they are hidden behind their computer screens. 
    As you said, social media doesn’t have to be that way.

    • says

      cendrinemedia Hi Cendrine,
      Thanks for the kind words and glad you enjoyed. Yeah, that stat always makes me smile – then you have the ninjas, rock stars, Jedis, gurus… the list literally goes on and one. :)
      ROIS is definitely key for brands to measure and understand where their success on social is coming from – but, like you say, we still do business with people, and they’re the biggest relationship to the sale, every time. Let’s make sure we look after them.