The Growing Pains of Social Media

After discovering internet chat rooms in the mid-90s I was amazed that I could ‘chat’ to anyone across the globe in real time on my PC.

Admittedly since then my social media knowledge has vastly improved, as have my online experiences. Gentle warnings from others to ‘watch out for creeps’ put a swift end to my chat room days.

While chat rooms presented dangers that come with online liaisons, they allowed for opinions, chatter and conversations at free will, with anyone who was prepared to listen. Communities formed organically based on mutual interests.

This still happens to some extent, but it is fair to say social media has morphed before our very eyes.

  • Businesses are now largely involved if not the drivers behind social media.
  • Conversation has become a selling point, gripe mechanism or apology platform.
  • Communities are now the perfect platform to sell products and services.

We are lucky to get through the day without being bombarded with corporate messages or hidden advertising. Users are subconsciously inundated with branding, nudged through to a site or told about a new product in giant neon lights.

User beware, you may think you are joining in a conversation, or providing an opinion on a topic, when really you may be providing valuable consumer information to corporations that can suck you dry.

That may be a little dramatic, but the truth is for businesses to reach consumers on social media they need to pay big dollars, and they expect value for money. Users have little choice but to accept the reality. For example:

  1. Paid Facebook ads which are strategically placed in your news feed to look like updates.
  2. Affiliate marketing pointing you to sites other than what you were looking for.
  3. Remarketing following your every online move and tracking you down.

I am not against corporations using social media to their advantage, or paying for the privilege. In fact it’s smart business.

I do however wonder whether going back to organic social media routes with less clutter is what people really want. Do you see business, marketing and social media as a good mix?