Josh XO started a good thread on Hairbrained about social networking, and it prompted me to hop on my soap box (which I do too much, I think), and being the content whore I am I decided to post my rant here as well. It’s a good topic for discussion. If anyone has any comments drop them below!
When you boil it down, social networking is basically just trying to get other people to like you, want you (or your services or goods), and build a relationship with which you can continue to be relevant and present in their daily life. This benefits you because you will be more available to them than other businesses, and but it has to benefit them as well or they won’t see a need to maintain the relationship that is social networking.
Social networking is such a contentless buzzword now, it’s the texture & movement of the marketing world, it bugs me. I’m not dissing your article though (Ed. Note: Referring to Josh’s original post on social networking), what you wrote is great info and about something tangible, and most importantly: Useful.
I just hate what the term “social networking” means now. Texture, movement, “fashion forward” all used to mean something too, until they were applied to everything, and lost their substance.
And 99% of all social networking is fail. Maybe higher than that: 99.99%
And of that 99.99% of fail networking, 50% of that fail is a direct result of the person (or persons) doing the social networking not analyzing what makes the successful ones successful, and 50% of the fail is caused by people afraid to give content away.
The first half of the fail brigade is pretty straightforward:
“Hey, lets make a website. All the cool people have websites. Dot com and all that. What makes a website good?”
“Animated gifs. Lots of animated gifs. Can we get a site on Geocities?”
“Sir, that company has been dead for – ”
“That’s too bad. Such a good concept that was. Well, here’s $20. That new intern is young, get him to make us a website.”
Or the same fail, but from the viewpoint of a small business owner:
“I want a website.”
10 minutes later
“This is confusing”
2 hours later
“Oh my god…this is really, really hard…I’ll never…”
15 hours later
“Well it kind of…ok that’s good enough. I’ll put that site up. There’s absolutely no worthwhile content, and I’m assuming people actually want to know about me and my business, but oh well. I’m sleepy now.”
And then the only changes and updates to their website come in the form of visual changes to the way in which the same damn information they put the site up with is displayed. (Coming in 2011: A brand new website design! You’ll read the About Us page in wonderful perrywinkle blue this time! Yeah!)And just to break up the wall of text, a million redheads![/cap
The other type of fail is the content hoarders. The “We can’t give them anything – they haven’t given us money yet!” types. They’re the ones who design everything with the mindset of an attractive girl who flirts with people to get them to spend money on her, then ditches them.
“Yeah! That’s a great title for that article, that’ll attract a lot of attention because it sounds really useful and relevant.”
“I know right? And the article looks pretty good too, I’ll just – ”
“Wait a sec. We don’t want to give away too much, we want people to sign up and give us money.”
“How about we have some free articles then? To entice people.”
“Ok, but make sure they’re really, really, really shitty articles about things that are useless and not relevant to anything. Preferably about things everyone already knows. And put lots of stock images of smiling people in it. That’ll make it look professional.”
“I don’t know if that’s really going to attract anyone…”
“You’re right! Lets intersperse our good articles into our bad ones. But only display the first sentence of the good articles, then make it say “Log in to continue.””
That kind of behavior doesn’t make people want to log in, sign up, subscribe, add your RSS feed, or even bookmark your site. It makes people want to kick you in the nuts.
On a meta level it communicates: “We’re so worried that we have nothing to offer that we honestly think after you get the one piece of information we have to offer, we’ll be rendered obsolete.”
And who wants to subscribe or friend a person who is that stingy or insecure that they think they have to trick you into liking them with bait?
Content should be pouring out of you, if you want social networking to work for you. This isn’t the year 2000, nobody has a Livejournal, and nobody cares about you as a person anymore. That fad is gone. To succeed, you have to actually produce real content – which means interesting, relevant, entertaining, or useful. If you can’t, then don’t try to social network. You’ll annoy people.
I’m short, and I’m not trying to become a professional basketball player. Play to your strengths, not your weaknesses. Maybe you know someone who can produce content, and would like to be involved. Maybe you’ll have to pay someone. (In money or favours)
But in this business, we all know that bad advertising travels faster than good advertising – and doing social networking wrong has an amazing power to make people actually dislike you as a person.
Think of that person everyone sees at a party, the one who does the tupperware/makeup/sex toy/man cave parties and wants to tell everyone about how great it is and what a great opportunity it was for them (and could be for you!).
Does that kind of behavior make you like that person more, or less?
I’m on a bitchy tangent here…ramble ramble… Sorry bout that. Having some man-pms (Manstration?) lately. (I love everything and hate everything at the same time! ARRRRRGGGHH)
Anyway, the moral of the story is that just like when the printing press was invented: Content > the package it comes in.
And content is basically free. It’s everywhere, in everything you do in life. For example, I guarantee this post of mine will be bastardized, editing or rewritten a bit, and put up on my blog.
And if you go through my gigantic post, you’ll see that it’s:
- Relevant: It’s about the topic being discussed in this thread.
- Useful: It points out concrete examples of what not to do and gives suggestions on what you should do.
- Easy to read: Proper punctuation and grammar. The paragraphs aren’t enormous, there’s plenty of visual space and landmarks for the eye.
- Funny: Well, I’m hoping… I’m usually funnier, but this is a topic that makes me go all serious-mode.
- Different: It isn’t what other people have said so far. And while some ideas may be similar, I said them differently.
And that’s all you need to do to have as many followers you want (or whatever your goal is). Well, almost – there’s one thing that wasn’t on my list because it doesn’t apply as much to this case: Consistency.
You can’t just put one page up, one blog post, or one tweet. Nobody starts out with a huge amount of followers & traffic, you need to build up to it – and you do that by releasing regular, consistent content. It doesn’t have to be every day, it could be every week, as long as it keeps coming and giving people a reason to come back.
Josh XO is a great example of this. His show could totally suck, and I would still watch every episode, just because he does it three times a week. Now, as luck would have it his show is awesome, but that’s the power of regular updates – If you’re the only one putting regular content out, you win by default. If you’re the little guy, and the big guys don’t put out regular content, where do you think all the hungry people will go? To you.
Don’t worry so much about making each thing perfect, or each tweet awesome, or each video viral. Just learn to keep putting stuff out there on a routine basis and the rest will come with time.
Alright, that’s enough preaching, time to get off my soap box!