As marketing professionals, we usually have to justify ourselves to our bosses, our clients and everyone in between—especially in the less-tested, sometimes-hit-or-miss arena of social media. But now Ad Age wants accountability, too, as they ask “if you’re getting enough out of all the volunteer work you do for Biz & Ev and Mark,” or, more specifically, “Are we all just toiling mightily to make a bunch of rich nerds (Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his employees and investors, Twitter’s Biz Stone and Evan Williams and their employees and investors) richer, while we impoverish ourselves?”
That’s both a literal and a figurative question, since using those social networks is exactly what makes their founders and investors money (well, sort of), and, as the argument goes, we’re essentially a volunteer labor force creating content for these sites—an interesting point. Meanwhile, using social networks (at all, as the argument here seems to go) means sacrificing time (true), actual interactions (possibly true but not always)—and our very souls and identities.
They mean this to be a discussion on a personal level, since a central thrust of the argument is that these social networks have sacrificed so much of our privacy that we’re allowing them to steal (don’t we call that “giving” in English?) “the sole ownership of our own thoughts, emotions, personal expressions, etc.” from us (yes, if I post “I’m sad” on a social network, that means that they also own my emotion…. right….).
Of course, if you’re using Twitter and Facebook as a marketer, you’re there looking for business ROI from publicity—being public. Ad Age (you know, “Advertising” Age? About . . . could it be . . . advertising?) does acknowledge that social networks might work for these purposes, if they’re worth the sacrifice:
If you’re a brand marketer, chances are good that you’re extracting real value from investing time and energy in social media (and you’re happy to have consumers volunteering their time to be your “brand ambassadors” or whatever you want to call them); good for you. (And if you’re a consumer who gets off on connecting with big brands — or just wants to interface with customer service in a forum, like Twitter, where certain marketers seem to be hyper-responsive — well, good for you too.) In general, if you’re soft-selling something — like content or an idea — that can benefit from free publicity, Facebook and Twitter are your friends. Even if, well, they’re the two-faced sort who think nothing of riffling through your handbag or backpack when you get up to go the bathroom — you know, glad-handing “friends” (those are air quotes) who are obviously using you for something, only it’s not always entirely clear what.
Um . . . I hate to bring this up, but aren’t we as marketers just using our social networks as those same kind of “friends” (and possibly even the friends and fans we acquire on those social networks)—we’re just using them as the means to an end?
I do agree, of course, that on a personal level, excessive use of social media can rob us of time and valuable interaction with the people we care about most. It’s good to examine our relationship with the Internet and social media on a personal level and decide whether it’s really worth the time and effort we put into it, or if we might put that time to better use. While that’s the brief summary of the argument at the conclusion of the article, the main thrust is that using social networks is such a great sacrifice of ourselves (even without a time investment) that it’s not worth it.
What do you think? Do you demand ROI from personal social network use? Or are you glad that most people don’t ;)?