Social Media is Neither Social Nor Media

Joel G Goodman
/ 3 min read

Social Media wasn’t always like this

Back in the early aughts, people didn’t use it for marketing. They used it for one-to-one communication with their friends, peers, and community members.

But eventually, brands and companies wanted a piece of those conversations. And they’ve never looked back.

Please watch the video below to learn how you can be more authentic with your institutional communication.

Video Transcript

Today we’re going to talk about social media, its place in higher education, how we’ve used it for marketing and where things are going, especially in light of the turmoil happening with Twitter.

Every day it seems like we see new things happening with Twitter and not things for the best. And the thing is that we’ve come to rely on social media as our primary means of marketing, and that’s okay. Marketing has to happen.

One of the issues that I see, though, is that social media did not originally start as a marketing practice.

The thing that we know is social media today was not the thing that started up back in the early aughts. And when we think back to MySpace, to Friendster, to even the forums that we had before, all of these new apps and platforms came around. The thing that we focused on the most was 1 to 1 communication with other people who we wanted to interact with.

Eventually, of course, we as people that own brands and huge companies that also owned brands, saw opportunity to get into the conversation. However, in and of itself, marketing is at odds with social media. Social media is about that 1 to 1 connection or groups of people coming together. The very fact that marketing is primed to sell something to other people makes it inherently inauthentic.

And how can you be genuine on social media and actually be talking to people when all you really want is their money or their enrollment or their information? It’s really, really difficult. OG Social media, marketing, though, isn’t just us getting online and having a silly brand voice for our fast food company or whatever original social media marketing was word of mouth, right?

It was the sort of thing where you really loved a product and you would tell your friends about it and then they would go out and buy it or subscribe to it or use it. And that’s still the most effective way of selling. The difference here is that we trust our friends and what they vouch for, and we want to use the products that they recommend to us.

When it’s a nameless company or someone we have just come in contact with, we have to go and find those friends. What our brands decided to do was hire influencers, people that we still don’t know as normal citizens, but that have some sort of celebrity and fandom around them to vouch for different things. And that has its own set of ethical implications and a whole lot of corruption that has happened around influencer marketing that we’ve seen.

Look at any number of stories that have come out over the last several years showing just how awkward influencer marketing can be for your brand. And just look at the studies that have come out over the years that show the detriment to mental health, that social media and being always on has on people from the bias and content algorithms that further marginalize those people that we really need to hear from while amplifying those that we really do not need to hear any more from.

All the way to the effects on political discourse that we have seen disrupt our democracies all over the world. Social media, marketing capitalism on top of that has not done us many favors. And now at this point, with Twitter going in, who knows what direction and a whole slew of other social media platforms out there?

What do we actually do?

Where do we actually go? There are plenty of other places that we might be able to look, but what we can do is refocus. If we slow down, look at the platforms that our brands actually do participate on. Look at the places and platforms where our users are and maybe trim the ones that we don’t really need to be on.

We can have a more focused strategy for the future. At the same time, consider your users. Consider actually supporting them in the social content that your provide. Maybe go out and have 1 to 1 conversations online versus just broadcasting news stories or fancy events or jokes or overused memes that they just don’t care about. Social media is, of course, supposed to be about being social with other people, not just talking at them with brand messaging and images and things that we think they think are cool.

Consider how to support your people, where they’re actually at with content that will benefit them rather than benefiting your brand.


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