Social media backlash or Advertising Age comment trolls?

Josh Bernoff, co-author of Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, a book that I highly recommend, recently wrote a column for Advertising Age about how the term “media” in social media is tripping up many marketers and business executives who often associate media with being a one-way communication channel.

I thought Josh’s column was interesting, but what really surprised me was the vitriolic comments blasting social media as a fad and navel gazing. Here are a few selections:

– I want to tell you a story but social media doesn’t allow me much space so I have to go. bye! Wait, how “social” is that? In ten years I see a new industry that will teach people how to communicate.

– Tweeting, texting, blogging but never actually speaking to anybody. Maybe “social” needs to be replaced with “anti-social” as well.

– What is the perverse attraction of the Internet? Why do advertising and marketing people insist in discussing aspects of the Internet endlessly? Because it is all totally meaningless!

And, my absolute favorite:

– Do any of you people work for a living? Whatever you want to call it, this “social” thing is part narcissism, part anonymous communication (which is very much anti-social) and part work avoidance. No wonder why the economy is horrible, so many people are “socializing” at the big internet water-cooler and nobody is working.

Admittedly, Twitter has exploded into the media spotlight within the past 4 weeks or so, beyond any web app or technology in recent memory. Last Friday, of course, Oprah discussed Twitter on her show and launched her own Twitter account. Then, this week, on Wednesday, Twitter was mentioned in three separate New York Times stories in the same day:

In the Dining section, a woman in N. Ireland who tweets recipes.

Also from Dining, the restaurant critic from the Daily News is suing a guy who is pretending to be her on Twitter.

And, finally, Maureen Dowd interviewed Biz Stone and Evan Williams, the co-founders of Twitter.

In the glare of media overexposure, it’s interesting to see the antipathy of the Advertising Age commenters. And, they’re not alone either, I’ve seen other comments comparing Twitter users to fat guys sitting in their parents basement Twittering in between dungeon runs in World of Warcraft. And, finally, there are many people who use the oft-repeated example, “Why the f*ck should I care what you’re eating.”

That misconstrued perception of Twitter simply isn’t true. Initial tweets about meals and minutiae have fallen away to reveal powerful discussions and information exchanges (yes, 140 characters long).

I’ll be the first to admit, I didn’t get Twitter at first. I glanced at the site, followed a few people, posted a tweet or two, but then didn’t really follow up. Now, I firmly believe that that first opinion had to do with the Twitter User Interface itself. Now, that I use a variety of Twitter desktop clients – Tweetie for Mac, Nambu or Tweetdeck – the power of Twitter revealed itself.

People can scoff or lash out at Twitter, but they may as well stick their finger in a dike and try to stop the evolution of communication technologies. Ever since Thomas Edison set up his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey, and even before that with Leonardo Da Vinci’s many inventions, the progress of technology has marched forward unstopped.

Twitter, or some variant, will be with us for a long time to come. Instead of sending mass emails, then managing the chaotic back-and-forth email conversation, Twitter allows people to carry on discussions and conversations with a wide variety of friends and acquaintances, and manage that information flow in whatever style suits you.

And, the stereotype of someone Twittering their every thought and action during the day will eventually dwindle as well. Plenty of people dip in and out of Twitter for short periods of time throughout the time and join the conversation. Then, at the end of the day, they turn off their machines, and converse and break bread with friends or family members, in normal, well-adjusted conversations. And, many of those people will probably mention ideas or news that they were exposed to via Twitter.

Twitter gallery

  • I'm not surprised at all by the vitriolic comments. I hear it a lot.

    It's like someone going to a party, sitting in the corner listening to someone they don't like, and then complaining that the whole party was terrible, instead of realizing they created their own bad experience. People with a bad experience on social media are following the wrong people.

    Of course any do-it-yourself media can be abused and turned into navel gazing or worse, but saying social media is not valuable is like saying the web is not valuable. You pick and choose and find what adds value to your life.

    Ironically those folks making comments on the blog post are participating in social media by leaving a comment. So, are they navel gazing? Do they work for a living? Hmm.

    Oh, and it's scary to think those folks are reading Ad Age. If they're in marketing, they better catch up fast or be out of a job soon.

  • Is this a new look for the blog? I love it. What you say is so true. People who scoff at Twitter don't understand. Look for a post coming up from me on my first thoughts about Twitter, (which really surprised me when I read my own words). Like any other form of communication, Twitter is what you make of it. If you participate, give and take, share good information, let the world know a little about who you are, good things follow. People can and do make real business connections on Twitter all the time. People who scoff at it really haven't taken the time to understand it. Once you get it, it's hard not to think it's a great way to communicate with people.

  • Hi Ron,

    Glad you like the new look. This redesign of my blog – business website
    launched last week.

    It's just interesting to me the vehemence of some of these comments re:
    Twitter. For some reason, it's really striking a negative chord with some
    folks.

    At the same time, I'm not one of these folks who thinks that the planet will
    never be the same because of Twitter. It's just the latest in a very long
    line of communication tools – smoke signals, Pony Express, telegraph, etc.,
    etc..

    Jeff

    Jeff Rutherford
    413 475-0087
    http://www.jeffrutherford.com

    http://www.youtube.com/greeneyedworld

  • ron_miller

    Is this a new look for the blog? I love it. What you say is so true. People who scoff at Twitter don't understand. Look for a post coming up from me on my first thoughts about Twitter, (which really surprised me when I read my own words). Like any other form of communication, Twitter is what you make of it. If you participate, give and take, share good information, let the world know a little about who you are, good things follow. People can and do make real business connections on Twitter all the time. People who scoff at it really haven't taken the time to understand it. Once you get it, it's hard not to think it's a great way to communicate with people.

  • Hi Ron,

    Glad you like the new look. This redesign of my blog – business website
    launched last week.

    It's just interesting to me the vehemence of some of these comments re:
    Twitter. For some reason, it's really striking a negative chord with some
    folks.

    At the same time, I'm not one of these folks who thinks that the planet will
    never be the same because of Twitter. It's just the latest in a very long
    line of communication tools – smoke signals, Pony Express, telegraph, etc.,
    etc..

    Jeff

    Jeff Rutherford
    413 475-0087
    http://www.jeffrutherford.com

    http://www.youtube.com/greeneyedworld

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    This is the new look of the blog? I like it. What you say is so true. People who scoff at Twitter do not understand. Find a post to come to me for my first thoughts on Twitter (which really surprised me when I read my words). Like everything else in the communications, Twitter is what we do. If you participate, give and take, to share good information, let the world know who you are, good. People can and do make serious connections to Twitter all the time. People who make fun does not really have time to figure it out. When you get it, it’s hard not to think it is a good way to communicate with people.
     
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  • I’m out of the office until Tuesday, July 5th. I will respond to your message when I’m back in the office.

    If you need to reach someone in my absence, feel free to contact my colleague Harrison Wise, harrison@wisepublicrelations.com, 212-777-3235.

    Best,

    Jeff Rutherford

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