Meta Description: These days, we tend to discuss social media in the context of business or self-promotion. We’ve forgotten that it used to be about connection.
Go on Google and type “social media” on the search bar. Done? Okay. Now look at the search results on the first page. Apart from the results that are geared towards defining social media, you’ll realize that most of the “relevant” pages on that particular term focus on social media’s effects in publicity and business. In other words, we’re obsessing over the possibilities of social media marketing.
It’s not at all surprising, considering the fact that this particular channel of communication allows users to reach a wider audience than they normally would. As an added bonus, most social media channels help people find the right kind of community for themselves based on interests and the like. This means that businesses and other independent professionals (authors, most especially) can have targeted publicity and engagement, making promotional efforts potentially more effective. So really, why shouldn’t we be excited about that particular benefit of social media?
Actually, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be. But that doesn’t mean that we’re not forgetting something essential about social media.
What social media was at the beginning
It used to be that social media – heck, the entire Internet itself – was focused on creating communities not for the sake of business or self-promotion, but for the sake of connecting with like-minded people. Why else would the nerds and the geeks be the early adopters? It’s not necessarily because it’s difficult to use. It’s because these are the ones who felt most alienated in their home towns, who are the most socially-awkward, who most needed to find others like themselves. Sure, social media soon moved past that phase and let other demographics in.
But at the end of the day, the original point of social media is to find real friends – or, at the very least, find human connections with whom you have things in common. Reasons for being on social media sites can be as simple as staying in touch with former school mates and colleagues or finding new like-minded individuals. Failing to remember that can be pretty dangerous.
Why it’s important to remember social media origins
There is nothing actually wrong with using these particular channels for selling both your products and yourself. After all, didn’t telephony evolve to include systems like PBX and the like because of the ubiquity of phone use for business? But the thing is that we need to retain some understanding of why exactly did people start to use the technology in the first place. In the case of phones, it’s because people liked being in direct, real-time contact with friends, colleagues and family. To this day, phones are still being used for that – which is why people are still comfortable using them.
Remembering that social media was all about making meaningful personal connections – not just about getting your name out there – forces you to use that channel wisely, with temperance. Just imagine what it would be like if your favorite place to hang out at was suddenly invaded by people who keep trying to sell you things. You’d become less comfortable there, right? You’d feel the urge to leave. And suddenly, the potentially large market dwindles.
The point is that we should maybe try easing up on the whole “social media for business” thing and re-balance our marketing strategy. Otherwise, we may find that the only communities left in these channels are the ones that don’t try to do anything more than sell or promote stuff to each other.
That, frankly, is pretty sad.
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Copyright 2012 ZME Science
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