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Your social media faults are not in the tools but in ourselves

Aaron Kim had a great post yesterday on our expectations of what social media tools will do for us. That got me  thinking about how social media wasn’t the first tool that we have such outsized expectations for. For some reason, we expect that tools will help us impose the self-control around our days–maybe even our lives–that we fail to impose on our own. Aaron made several comparisons to e-mail in his post, which brought to mind my own love-hate relationship with e-mail over the years.

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I have been using e-mail longer than most people. Granted, I am old, but even for people my age, it was unusual to be using e-mail in the ’70s. But I was a computer geek and we send e-mail to each other. I was even sending Internet e-mail in 1985, although I don’t remember us calling it the Internet at the time.

At first, e-mail was pure productivity. I only sent and received a few each day and they were relatively important, just as the snail mail letters that they replaced where important. But, over time, a funny thing happened. As the volume of e-mail increased. more and more e-mails were confusing communication or a downright waste of time.

And they began to pile up. And up. And up.

Eventually I had thousands of e-mails in my inbox on a regular basis, and could never find anything and was losing to-dos left and right. Then I started handling e-mails when I got them, clearing them out to do later by storing them in a place I went back to on a regular basis-a to-do list. Gee, now I am getting more done.

And I was using the same e-mail program the whole time. It wasn’t the tool that needed to organize my communication (although perhaps a better tool would have helped me think differently about e-mail). I needed to organize my communication and use e-mail effectively.

I am not sure that we should expect more out of social media. We might need someone to explain how to organize social media just as someone needed to explain how to organize e-mail to me. I’m not sure that the tools will do it for us. I can always find a way to waste time with any tool.

It’s not the social media tool. It’s what you do with the tool.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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