Nov 06 2009
If social media is all about conversations, engagement and community building, what to do when there is only broadcasting and not actual conversation? As social media enthusiasts (and I call myself one), do we look in the mirror often enough and ask of ourselves am I really engaging or just pushing my message out?. Is social media becoming an echo chamber again? – Hummingbird604
So, do I practice what I preach when it comes to social media? Not always. Maybe that’s a good thing.
I’m long overdue for a social media-themed post, so I’m glad I saw Hummingbird604’s query. I’ve been meaning to blog about this for a while.
Linking to his post is a social act, so at least I’ve got that going for me. But like many social media evangelists of late, automation through Web 2.0 tools has gone from supplemental aid to crutch to virtual substitute for engagement. I still try to engage when I can, but I’d guess that upwards of 70 per cent of my messages in social media are broadcasting.
But that’s OK.
What is broadcasting, anyway? It’s not “anti-social” behavior, just not directly “conversational”. Mostly, I’m talking about those automated 140-character messages, usually containing links, that get churned out automatically from blog RSS feeds to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, hopefully engaging the eyeballs of my combined audiences. I do want to share interesting content with my friends and followers, and logging into separate profiles to do so is not an option. I just don’t have the time.
Don’t get me wrong. I love it when people respond to these syndicated messages with their own tweets, comments and email messages — and I do strike up conversations when that happens (And before I forget, if you do find this post interesting, please leave a comment!).
But how often do my “broadcasts” result in these conversations? Probably less than half the time. and I usually don’t have the time to engage beyond a few back-and-forth tweets before a project deadline wrenches my attention away. I have to keep my “social” conversations pretty streamlined — the equivalent of meeting a friend in real life for a pint, enjoying some stimulating dialogue and then skipping out 15 minutes later, just as things are getting good.
And how often am I actively visiting other people’s social media profiles and blogs to leave a comment or spark a discussion? Certainly, not as often as I’d like. I can probably count on one hand the number of comments I’ve left on blogs in the past month.
Partly, it’s a reflection of a tough economy where marketers have to justify their efforts with shorter-term ROI. Social media engagement can pay off big for organizations, even in the short term. Abandoning social media campaigns entirely to bots with RSS feeds — or just abandoning them, period, is a recipe for failure if you’re really looking to engage an audience. But when we find ourselves wearing so many hats and facing increasing pressures at work to deliver more with less, the “social” part of social media, just like the “social” part of our our non-work existence, will inevitably take a hit.
Social networking and social media are here to stay. The real engagement that comes with it is also here to stay, too. But work is work and there’s a time and place — online or in the real world — for conversations. We do what we can.