Socially-paranoid media: where did it all go wrong? (Weekend rant)


What’s really happened to social media these days? What used to be a fun place to share untethered banter, humor, intellectual conversation and debate, perhaps be a little risqué, has degenerated into a stuffy medium for puffing up corporate brand mush, and regurgitating the same old bland insight we’re having pushed at us daily. Every corporate suit is now on there, lauding how amazing their company is… praising their clients and uttering meaningless, hollow words of adulation. In fact, many of the “senior” people on there have their marketing people even do their social for them… it’s not even them.

All of you know I do like to dabble a bit with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to engage with people – both with people I like socially (Facebook) and industry contacts with whom I consider valuable to stay in regular touch (LinkedIn). I also have the luxury of being the boss, so no one can fire me 😉

Over the years, social has been terrific for communicating with people, sharing insights, opinions, research, news… it’s been fun, and it’s been personal. It keeps you connected with so many people that when you bump into folks at conferences etc., it feels like you spoke just the other day, rather than five years’ ago.

But, in recent months, it’s just become so polarized and stuffy. There are people using social only to promote themselves and their companies… the personality has drained from it. I find myself spending more time removing connections than adding new ones.

Case-in-point, I dared to post some (slightly dubious) research on LinkedIn the other day with a joke about how much analysts need to be wined and dined to get the best scatterplot grid placements. I didn’t even criticize the research, I just popped up the grid with a joke on the axes about boondoggles and posh dinners. Within about three hours of posting, I received some really snotty comments from the analyst firm in question berating me for daring to poke a little fun at one of its lovely magic grids. They were pretty nasty about it too. And then I got an aggressive note from a marketing guy in one of the suppliers (which was nicely positioned in said grid), complaining about my “unprofessionalism” for poking fun at a competitor. 

So I took the offending post down – my intent was to generate some banter about the techniques suppliers use to get positioned well in these grids, not a bunch of nastiness from people who just seem so bloody paranoid these days.

To cap this all off, I then get a phone call from the boss of the marketing guy (who complained about my post) requesting me to put it back up as they were getting so much free publicity from it (20K+ eyeballs).  You just can’t win at this, can you?

So where do we go with this?

  • Hone your network to people you get value from. If you find people offensive or not adding value to you, then just remove them, rather than create a nasty discussion thread
  • Get a sense of humor: arguments can be fun. If you disagree with someone, but the conversation is useful, then voice your disagreement about the topic and have a proper discussion… don’t just criticise and disappear. Use the forum to exchange views and ideas – you never know, some good may come of it.  If we all just agreed with each other all the time, we’d never learn anything…
  • Drop the ego. These are networks where you agreed to exchange information with people, so be prepared to see things you have an opinion about. And be prepared to be criticized – that’s the whole purpose of this stuff. If you can’t handle a little professional debate, then stick to Facebook and the pictures of dogs and babies…
  • Be open to the fact that the opinions or research you put out may be flawed. We should be willing to learn from each other and accept some input, flattering or not. If you think I am smoking something, just tell me… and I’ll do the same with you. Challenging each other is the only way we learn and get better at what we do.

Posted in : Confusing Outsourcing Information, Social Networking



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  1. Great piece Phil. I completely agree that social has become wooden and lacking in any personality. Kep fighting the good fight!


  2. Phil –

    I read the post you referred to. It was funny and on-point, without being rude or abusive. It is sad that the corporate suits have hijacked social in this way. My advice is to use it they way they do – promote your own stuff on there and save your sense of humour for your friends,


  3. Keep posting Phil! Folks got to have a sense of humor, like you say or go get a life! The funny part about some people on Linked In is that they start “mandating” behavior codes and take themselves too seriously! This is a free social network, not a corporate intranet, hence no one can lay down rules or sermonize =)


  4. Geeze Phil, I don’t know whether to be offended, paranoid or intrigued. I think I’ll go with intrigued and see what emerges.

  5. Right on Phil! The real collaboration and sharing of knowledge and ideas (the original premise behind social) has been overwhelmed by the need from people to promote themselves and suck up to their bosses in public. Says something about human nature, I guess.

  6. Phil,

    I think the worst aspect of social today is the executives who have their marketing staff do their social media for them. You can tell because you will make comments and they never respond. Sad.


  7. @Balaji – Yep, I am frustrated that this wooden, stuffy behaviour has some how become the mandated norm. Guess it’s the only way corporate people feel comfortable getting their personal brands out there in public. What results is people just “liking” dull articles without reading them, people just posting any crap that promotes their company or something harmless. So it all becomes a big waste of everyone’s time, where nothing usefull is learned, shared or achieved. Ugh!


  8. @Sheila – Yeah, why there are many senior people who just seem to think it is too beneath them to post on social themselves just baffles me. As if they don’t have 10 minutes a day to check in and get engaged. I would NEVER let others post under my personal brand 😉


  9. Great article and you touch on reality.
    One thing we would never do…
    “So I took the offending post down –”
    Did you put it back up?

  10. Hi Phil, Great post. I was just lamenting this very construct today. I want to read inspiring, useful, thought provoking articles vs company promotion pieces. And if I’m going to share company promotion pieces, I want to give a teaser to give people information as to why they may want to said piece. Many promotion pieces have valuable information in them, or at least the blogs from I’m a promoter at heart, with content over fluff.

    It’s humorous to see your contrarian views. Perhaps it would be even funnier if you changed the axis on an HfS Blueprint grid in the same manner? Or in the manner that you/your team are courted. 🙂

    All the best,

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