Social media 'experts' don't want you to read this

It's Social Media Week in London and apparently working on the Internet means it's impossible to communicate like a human anymore

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It’s social media week and therefore time for navel gazing on Twitter and Facebook if you work in this area.

Yet for an industry supposedly powered by 'engagement' it produces some of the most teeth-grindingly boring 'advice' ever.

Many of these social media 'experts' are all saying the same thing, which just so happens to be absolutely nothing.

A magical tumblr called thisisnotaninsight.com has shone a light on the self-important sludge that's been circulating around the event, helpfully curated for you to avoid with the hashtag  #smw #smwldn. It's never a good start when an event has two hashtags.

Such inscrutable gems of knowledge tweeted by social media experts can be found on this blog, such as''social media is all about personality and human engagement' You mean I might prefer engaging with a PERSON rather than a robot? Thanks for that.

Another glaring insight is 'Brands are not as important as the people in our lives.' Oh, you don't say.

My personal favourite is: 'Organisations must bring in great people and make great teams for collaboration purposes.'

Yeah because most places decide they only want to hire the least talented people who despise working together.

This 'advice' proffered in a ridiculous grandiose manner, annoys me not only because it makes a mockery of anyone who is genuinely adds value through social media, but also because it breaks medium's cardinal rules. Twitter and Facebook and the like are all about sharing. And you can't share nothing.

But here's the rub.. social media experts don't really like sharing. Either because they can't or because they won't.

Everyone knows social media is immensely important. Using Twitter and Facebook effectively is the gateway to making something go 'viral', the social media equivalent of striking oil.

But most social media experts don't even want to give you the drill, let alone show you how to bore.


Sometimes this is because a lot of social media is common sense. You give someone a map and suddenly the guide becomes less important.

Much of what does well on social media is necessarily simple and can be easily replicated.

It will be refined and polished and what Twitter chirps out will probably be better than what was first suggested. There's no glory in telling people what to tweet because someone's always going to do it better than you.

Plus often being 'good' at social media is such an intuitive skill that even the people who are good at it don't really know why. It's not even easy for other people to identify why that particular person's communication works on Twitter or Facebook.

There are limits to social media skills too.  What works on social media is broadly reflective of what is liked by the whole of the internet.

There are certain things that people just don't have a huge appetite for. However much social 'genius' you throw at it, it's going to be difficult to, ahem, 'create a buzz'.

If being skilled in social media was the clairvoyant competence it's sometimes made out to be, places that sell car insurance or phone contracts wouldn't have to make animals their brand ambassadors. Compare the market doesn't have a Facebook page, but Aleksander Orlov does.

That's because most people don't want to share car insurance quotes publicly with their friends. If they do, odds are they won't have many friends anyway.

That's not to say there's not a skill to being a success online, but it's both patronising and worthless to talk about 'engagement'. What a surprise, the clever, creative and informative things people like in real life they also like online.

It's actually really difficult to 'prescribe' a best way to use social media because how you are using Twitter or Facebook depends on what you have to say.

A lot of the people are using it  in surprising ways to encourage people to like their brand.  For example confused.com flip-flops lined with turf from Glasgow Green  to allow fans to keep their national ground beneath their feet while watching the match.

The moonwalking Shetland pony was another social media sensation. But that wasn't just because it was tweeted out and 'facebooked' in the right way (although #DancePonyDance was clever)... it was also just a great piece of video. The campaign was taken to another 'sharing'  when it allowed other people to take part and mix their own pony videos. That did lead to the infamous 'Findus pony', but it was very funny.

But whatever social media experts tell you... there are no 'tricks' and this is part of what makes engagement so successful: it's real. Readers share on social media what they have always wanted to share with others.

The articles mothers rip out and leave accusingly on their daughters beds, the picture of the emu in the Saturday mag that reminds you of your physics teacher, the recipe you think you should try. It's just suddenly this has got a whole lot more important .

 

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