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#PR Rant: Has Social Media Lost Its Relevance?
By: Gerard E. Mayers
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With all the buzz recently about Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, and Pinterest (as well as YouTube and some other sites) in the media, has social media “tanked” for flacks to use to advance their clients?

Honestly I do not know. However, international keynote speaker and New York Times–best selling author Joel Comm (who also considers himself to be a social media expert) recently posted a rather provoking and potentially controversial article titled I Am Leaving Social Media on... yes... a social media site. The article recently appeared on LinkedIn.

I read his piece and, quite frankly, I am not sure if he is serious when he says he is leaving social media or is being snarky. Perhaps he is being a little bit of both?

Anyway, in a somewhat long quote from his posting, here are some reasons why he says he is “leaving social media.” Oddly enough, some of them actually do make sense.

1) The social media space is controlled by a few major players who are after one thing… your data. Facebook, Twitter, Google, LinkedIn and Pinterest are all about numbers. How many people can they get to provide as much personal information as possible so they can sell you more stuff by releasing personal information to third party advertisers? We are all commodities to be marketed to. Facebook can put privacy controls on their site, but who are they kidding? They know way more about you than they would ever want to admit publicly.

2) While some conversation takes place on the social sites, there is more noise than ever before. Twitter is littered with fake accounts and bots. LinkedIn users who you never met plead for endorsements of their products or services which you never heard about previously. Facebook is an endless parade of feel-good sayings and photos of cats. Millions of posts, shares and tweets go out each hour, but the ratio of posting to listening continues to broaden. In the words of Pink Floyd, “Is there anybody out there?”

3) Social media has made it incredibly easy to be rude to other people. Insults, put-downs, and outright meanness has become a staple of the social culture. Whether the discussion centers around politics, religion, sports, entertainment, lifestyle or any other subject, people have been desensitized to basic human kindness just because they can’t see or hear the people at their keyboards on the other end of the fiber cable.

4) Other people have endangered their future careers or relationships by playing out their personal drama on social sites. Are we so far gone that there is no thought of the kind of information we share publicly without concern for how that information may come back to haunt us in the future? It seems to me that discernment is a quality severely lacking in the social space.

5) From a business perspective, everyone, their grandmother and their dog is now a “social media expert.” There is NO value in the label any longer. It is now synonymous with “I haz a twitter account.” I use the phrase on some of my pages just because I know that people will search for the term. But I choose to refer to myself as a “New Media Marketing Strategist.”

6) Spam spam spam spam spam. So many are using social sites as little more than billboards to sell their products or services. This has become so prevalent that the majority of us have become blind to all streams of data, assuming that we are going to be bombarded with advertisements.

All of the above thoughts from Comm are valid, and we as flacks should pay attention to them. But that's not all Comm says in his piece (or rant, if you will). Towards the end of his posting he opines:

Nobody really escapes social media.

The online world has become a meaningful, yet flawed, method for interacting, dialoguing, engaging, debating, sharing and experiencing our world and our relationships with others in real time.

It’s not perfect, but it’s the world we live in. I believe it is possible to disconnect, and the day may come where the negatives of social media truly do outweigh the benefits.

But for now, I feel no different than the five-year old who threatens to “run away from home” and doesn’t get any further than three houses down the street. I’m back. And I’m not going anywhere.

As with many other parts of our lives, we hate social media and we love social media. So, where do you stand? Has social media started to lose is relevance from a business and PR viewpoint? Tell me what you think.....

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About the Author
Gerard E. "Gerry" Mayers writes about PR and other relevant topics for PR professionals. A former PR manager for Sensor Products, Inc. (currently based in Madison, NJ), he lives in Milford, NJ.
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