by Marie Nicola
The techies thought they had it made. Years of creating their perfect digital utopia nurtured a desire for convenient socialization. A world where personality usurped beauty and unseen pajamas could be as nerdy as the aliases. However, all kittens grow into cats and at some point the innocent playground of internet chat rooms and message boards would inevitably morph into neighborhoods of fame seekers, friend seekers, and fun killers. Social Media is no one’s friend. It is what it is, a catch-all dirty word that describes the death of the Information Age at the beginning of the Attention Age – but it’s what it has done to internet users that is important.
In short, I entered the online race for attention. I was a wide-eyed blogger talking about my life on Blogspot and before I knew what happened, I emerged as a cold-blooded marketer navigating the endless possibilities of self promotion on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Blip.FM, and the multitude of other online technologies. I was a blogganista, a haphazard after-hours word jockey who craved comments and got hooked on the adrenaline rush of website analytics. Each time those numbers clicked upwards it was like another hit of some elicit substance coursing through my veins – it was euphoric – like a high impossible to describe to someone who doesn’t speak web. My parents? Forget it.
That’s what Social Media does to good people, it arms them with the power to have control over their own marketing. What once was reserved for the backroom operations of men in finely tailored suits looking for surreptitious methods of convincing the masses of their need for Coca-cola, McDonald’s, and cigarettes was now available to the public. Now the consumers are the content producers competing for ways to direct traffic to their blogs or online personas. Fame quickly became the “new black” and the lines got blurred on what defined a “power user” from an “expert”. Those of us who saw the forked tongue of social media hide behind the innocent face of Facebook profile pictures of new born babies realized that success wasn’t destined for those who embraced it but instead for those who were smart enough to jump out of the way early on. There’s something to be said about being a social media wallflower and for me, it’s 500 hits a day to a website I haven’t updated since 2009.
Tools like Twitter, Facebook, and blogs are the holy trinity of social media and every business needs to subscribe. The days of a one webpage homerun hit are long gone, consumers are looking to interact with their products online and they expect them to be personable, informative, and accessible. Each technology accesses a different demographic and allows you to create relationships. Keep in mind social media is a busy world and you’re not trying to fight for attention from your 14-year-old super-wiz niece and her Justin Bieber loving friends. The kids are on there, but they aren’t the only ones. If you’re doing it right and you’re doing it yourself, you’re competing with people like me, the part-time behind-the-scenes roadmen for the dogma of Tweets.
The transition didn’t simply happen, it wasn’t an epiphany or a lightbulb going off over my head saying, “You’re the one, the ‘enfant terrible’ of online interactions.” It came gradually. Somewhere around 2008, trial and error had finally manifested itself as usable knowledge from the accumulation of online marketing efforts since my first website at age 14.
Currently, social media users, driven by the depraved lows of an inner-recession boom, flocked to become self-employed consultants. Power users bought buttoned down shirts and turned into the greatest snake-oil salesmen of the Wild Wild Web. Lacking true grit, their promises often revolve around follower count and incessant jargon about how many hits their glorified diaries get. No one’s safe, especially when a click happy ingénue is at the helm of a campaign teetering a client’s brand on the precarious ledge of Social Media’s unforgivable transparency. Choose carefully, my readers, choose carefully.
This is it, the strange world of online marketing. Love it or hate it it’s time to embrace Social Media for what it can offer. It doesn’t matter if the techie utopia bred legions of try-hards, technology is not cyclical but it sure is permanent. Use wisely.
Marie Nicola is Women’s Post’s community manager.