Social Media is a Waste of Time, Part I

Social media is a waste of time. There, I said it. Yesterday, I read a long blog post by a guy I’ve never actually met. Then I read all the comments. Then I left a comment, offering advice he asked for.

It made me no money. It gave me no leads. It helped me cross nothing off my to do list. I fell a few minutes “further behind.”

I sometimes spend 30-40 seconds glancing at new Tweets that add absolutely no value to my day. I played a Facebook brain teaser game to learn that Gene’s brain is bigger than mine (damn).

Social media is a distraction. Social media is a time waster. Social media is unproductive.

There, I said it. And I’ll admit it can all be true. Now, let’s ponder this for a moment. In Part I, let’s think about why that doesn’t matter even if it’s true. In Part II, let’s think about why that is only partly true.

The nattering naysayers want to talk about being productive in marketing and they are right to do so. Let’s compare social media marketing, which is what Ignite does as a social media agency, to other forms of marketing for a second.

  • Watching television is (more often than not) a waste of time.
  • Reading (most) websites is a waste of time.
  • Listening to the radio is a waste of time.
  • Reading magazines is (more often than not) a waste of time.
  • Almost everything in your mail pile is a waste of time.
  • Talking to your friends is a waste of time.

Only rarely do any of the above lead to new business growth, lead to income for you or lead to crossing something off your to do list. But marketers still try to reach us when we do all of these things:

  • TV advertising
  • Web advertising
  • Radio advertising
  • Magazine ads
  • Direct mail
  • Logo shirts, WOMMA, influencer marketing, etc. etc.

Let’s accept your (spurious) assumption that social media is nothing more than a waste of time. Even if that were 100% true, as a marketer don’t you want to engage people when they are wasting time? Particularly if it’s LOTS of them wasting it. Social Networking Use in the United States

We’ve got 72 million active social network users in the U.S. right now, and that’s growing about 40% this year. (And that’s just the social network stuff.)

As a marketer, you should want to figure out the best way to reach these people. (FYI, if someone is being REALLY productive, you CANNOT reach them through most marketing anyway.)

The best way to reach people engaging in social media is by engaging back, on their terms. You can call it amateur to amateur if it makes you feel superior, but I prefer to call it person-to-person. And if you can figure out how to do social media marketing (or let us figure it out for you), there’s nothing more powerful.

And that post that I talked about at the top? Reading that and leaving my comment gave me pretty much the same feeling as talking in person to a friend or co-worker about a problem for a few minutes. And that’s part of the good stuff in life.

Now, sorry if you wasted your time reading this. 🙂 But now that it’s gone, invest 90 second more in the comment field, and tell me your reaction.

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5 Comments
  • Aaron
    Posted at 02:59h, 09 December

    Social Media Marketing is highly dangerous to brands and must NOT be embraced at all. Too many cooks spoil the broth! If you are ‘engaging’ in customers who mix business speak along with playful banter and perhaps rude comments, you are making your brand common as muck. Even seeing your brand logo along with potentially harmful comments on a twitter feed, blog, facebook page can tarnish a brand. Seeing customer complaints being posted on twitter is not good. Customer services depts speak to customers one on one without the world watching. Social media, just like the .COM bubble will burst with a catastrophic bang. People who have jumped onto the band wagon and are embracing social media are dancing with danger and damaging their brands. A brand is NOT about engaging with people on twitter. If you intelligently analyse what the MAJORITY of twitter feeds are about – it is merely internet ‘GURUS’ promoting some dodgy eBook via an equally dodgy looking one page sales-letter website. If you then look at twitter intelligently, you will find that millions of people are all talking millions of different things all at the same time – this causes a catastrophic information overload and achieves nothing. Social media does NOT improve productivity or sales at all. If you really look beneath the covers you will find that employee man/ woman hours are utterly wasted on facebook and twitter. Furthermore the ROI of twitter is no where near as high as the ROI of a traditional advertising campaign. This is because in the LONG -TERM (what really matters) – the brand will be damaged beyond repair. Engaging in social media is like making every one of your clients/ customers a brand manager – and when this happens it is a case of too many cooks spoil the broth or in this case – the brand!

    I know I am being very controversial about not agreeing with the masses of people that are embracing social media–however, during the .com boom, the wise sage Warren Buffet disagreed with the masses of investment professionals around the world who were jumping on the bandwagon regarding the dot com boom – Warren Buffet never invested even one dime in the tech stocks of the dot com boom and he predicted the crash and it happened. Now, to give you a bit about my background, I have an elite MBA in Finance & Strategy with International Marketing and have worked for numerous Fortune 500 Co., as well as run an advertising agency. This does NOT make me an expert of any sort, but I do have a deep understanding of business and branding and corporate functions. It appears EVERYONE is trying to get something from nothing—this attitude in society caused the .com BUST—where investment bankers and MBAs and private equity firms were throwing money at any .com startup even if they had NO IDEA of HOW or WHEN they would generate revenue. The same attitude caused the current credit crunch crisis—trying to generate money out of nothing—thin air by living on CREDIT and not knowing HOW to pay it back. Similarly, SMM is free and people are trying to make it generate millions—there is a fundamental flaw in this business model that people cannot see. The main problem with the SMM model is the very nature of the fact that it allows everyone to comment on anything and everything—there is no longer any strategy or coherence in the message as you cannot coherently control millions of individuals with millions of opposing views.

    SMM can:
    1) Disintegrate a strong internal corporate culture by giving individuals too much power. Governments are elected by people to RUN the people and country to prevent ANARCHY! If you give PEOPLE all the power to have a referendum on EVERYTHING then you ruin the country and cause CHAOS. Similarly, if you give CUSTOMERS all the power to dictate what a brand should be, the multiple opposing views will cause brand anarchy and OPENLY annoy and anger people around the world at a rapid pace. Furthermore, it will cause employees to openly oppose internal corporate culture, openly challenge management strategy, cause openly shared silos and rifts and disintegrate corporate culture, which in turn can affect the brands values by affecting customer service, employee morale etc. This goes a LOT deeper than the internet ‘guru’/ work at home mom/ soccer mom mentality. SMM can damage brands beyond repair.

    2) SMM is extremely time consuming and generates trickles of revenue compared to traditional main-stream media. SATELLITE, TV, RADIO, MAJOR NEWS/ MAGS, INTERNET ADS—these are the channels that even though are saturated, they have more consistency and enable more control over your message. The SECOND you hand over your brand message to the masses of un-qualified ‘brand specialists’ AKA the public, then you are going to cause chaos, confusion and mayhem. Imagine if the government said tomorrow, we are resigning and would like YOU the people to run the country! IT would end in utter chaos because people look up to LEADERS, but if you have NO BRAND LEADER and just millions of ‘followers’ trying to dictate what a brand should be—it makes millions of leaders, which causes disintegration and damage.

    3) RISK! SMM can produce unprecedented amounts of risk to a brand. Not only is there the direct threat from competitors, and dissatisfied customers, but there also is the threat of data protection violations which can cause people to lose trust.

    If you REALLY THINK about WHY in the past the peasants WORSHIPED ROYALTY, or in the present day WHY the masses WORSHIP CELEBRITIES—it is because of the perceived POWER! It is because they are JUST OUT OF REACH, it is because they cannot be touched—BUT—the second you remove that perception and you say, hey WE ARE JUST COMMON LIKE YOU—then the POWER goes out of the window… and with it goes the perception of being ELITE—and when that happens no one will want your brand anymore. If ROLEX advertised on the back of milk cartons no one would pay $5000 for it. THE CHANNEL is just as important as the message—and if you ‘advertise’ using SMM you can damage brand reputation.

    All this is just the tip of the iceberg—I have written an in-depth thesis about all this backed up with evidence—it is controversial but highly engaging and interesting. Thanks for your comments and I hope this opens up a huge debate because I would love to learn from everyone out there too. Thanks!

  • Jim Tobin
    Posted at 14:26h, 10 December

    Aaron, wow… That’s quite the response. Lots of things we can talk about there…But let me just take this one. You wrote: “Even seeing your brand logo along with potentially harmful comments on a twitter feed, blog, facebook page can tarnish a brand.”I agree. And that’s another argument for participating in social media marketing. No brand can stop a harmful comment from any of the 30 million Twitter users or 350 million Facebook users. Putting your head in the sand and cranking out TV ads (as you seem to recommend) only let’s the damage go unchecked.Could there be a bubble, where the “phony folks” in this space go away? Likely. But that doesn’t justify what you’re saying at all. You say SMM can damage brands beyond repair. I’d like you to list of some brands that go into SMM and were damaged beyond repair please… Because I can list countless examples of those that have benefitted…

  • data recovery
    Posted at 20:09h, 30 April

    I just read this post and found that you have taken social media’s other facts also.

  • kinoshika
    Posted at 04:25h, 03 May

    I appreciate the concern which is been rose. The things need to be sorted out because it is about the individual but it can be with everyone.
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  • Santosh Shukla
    Posted at 18:06h, 05 May

    Hi Jim, You have very neatly pin pointed the pain point with Social Media. It may tend to become the biggest time-waster.
    However we all know that it is essential also for us in Sales/Marketing field and also for everyone else. I like to relate the social media to the toruk (Avatar fame) which needs to be tamed to get the best results.

    I identified the same problem and have found some answers that work for me. I would recommend you to try them. Using these tips you can save your time and achieve the best of social media.

    Read the tips here. http://blog.insideview.com/2010/05/02/investing-too-much-time-on-social-media-how-to-boost-your-roi/

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