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Social Media’s Addictive Personality Kills Business

I was reading a post by Amber Naslund where she lamented the fact that she even had to write a post that seemed to state the obvious that many of the social media “metrics” marketers turn to are mere hollow representations of success. She stated:

The end destination is not for someone to follow your page on Twitter or on Google+. It is not for your employees to fill out their profile on the company social network. It is not to add people’s LinkedIn profiles to your CRM system and call it social. It is not to get people to click the link and read your blog post, believe it or not.

Those are mechanisms that further your business objectives. They’re the supporting goals and tactics that absolutely must tie into the big picture to be worth a salt, and they are not the big picture in and of themselves.

I can understand her frustration. What we all need to remember is though is that most marketers are not taking the time that the social media marketing industry does to truly understand these things. We desperately want them to but they are too busy with ALL of their marketing responsibilities to become an expert in one area such as social media. They may even be afraid to dive in because once you do you realize how big and hairy the whole social media world can be.

Simply said, it ain’t easy.

It’s also why contests as incentives to participation – i.e. “like our page for a chance to win a $500 gift certificate!” or “fill out your company network profile to win a Panera card” – so often end as suddenly as they begin, and cause the “this social media thing doesn’t get any return” comments. You’ll get a flood of participation that gets you excited, until it dies. They’re cheap highs, designed to give you the illusion that you’re heading somewhere with blinding momentum, yet most businesses are still lacking a fundamental vision of where “somewhere” really is.

I added the bold because it was such an interesting choice of words and one that struck me because it was direct, a little shocking and, in the end, absolutely true.

At the end of the day, social media marketers are not superheros (even though there are some that actually call themselves something like it…geesh). In fact, they are just human beings. Add to that, they are human beings under pressure to perform. They seek gratification and relief from that pressure and they need it over and over again. This behavior sounds an awful lot like how someone who is addicted to (insert vice here).

Having said that, I have a question for you. Have you heard of an addiction story that ended well? Have you ever heard of someone who got stuck in an addictive pattern being able to stay there and succeed? You can probably find some instances of that, but they would be outliers. You can’t build a business on outliers.

This addictive process of finding cheap social media highs like number of Likes, or number of followers, or anything else that really is not moving a business forward is going to short circuit the industry’s progress and, even more dangerously, hurt businesses who bought into the addiction.

I liken the social media industry to that of the life of a teenager. Everything looks exciting, especially those things that we are told are not good for us. How many times have parents told kids not to drink alcohol, do drugs, smoke cigarettes or have sex? Millions of times. How many times have those warnings been heeded and trouble was averted? Not enough times. There is a lot of wreckage in life based on decisions that chased cheap highs.

I feel that it is very reasonable to draw a straight and solid line between this behavior we see in immature people as the same behavior that is readily available in an immature market like social media marketing.

OK, so I have diagnosed what I feel is an issue. So what can one do to avoid this addictive path that will ultimately not end well? Here are some quick and probably obvious answers. But remember, quick and obvious answers are offered and ignored A LOT so we have to keep repeating them over and over and over because some folks just won’t listen–just like teenagers. So here we go again.

1. Don’t define social media success by focusing on the mechanisms of social media. Mechanisms are the cheap highs of social media.
2. Be an adult and decide what is REALLY beneficial to a business and use that as the KPI for social media success. Getting high is not even close to experiencing success. In fact, it delays it or it even eliminates the chance of it occurring.
3. Don’t buy the hype! Most people who drink too much don’t find themselves frolicking in beaches with well, toned and tanned cool people all around them. Most end up alone and paranoid and looking like crap. The same thing can happen to a social media effort. You buy into the pretty picture the consultant paints. You pay the fees. You start the engine and the next thing you know you are looking for the closest Social Media Marketer Anonymous meeting. That would be bad.
4. Desperation breeds greater desperation. Most people don’t end their day with a drink because they are happy. They do it to forget how tough things are. Even the ones who act happy are full of it. If you buy their act you are simply setting yourself up for the same fall that awaits everyone.

Sounds dark and ominous doesn’t it? Well, it’s not. Sadly though, cheap highs are everywhere and take on a lot of seemingly innocent forms. What we need to do in the social media marketing space is simply stay vigilant and use common sense.

There is no silver bullet. There is no quick fix. There is no perfect high. It takes hard work, concentration and clean living (in a manner of speaking). Can you do that or will you chase the cheap high?

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