Smackdowns, hyperbole and semantics: The world of social media debate

Discourse around social media has become depressing. It’s less about debate and more about mudslinging and hyperbole.

It feels a bit like the Web in 1998, but not in a good way. Everything is new, and things are evolving, with lots of exciting innovation and concomitant impact on society. People and businesses are trying new things, and “experts” are there to provide advice. At the same time, these experts debate amongst themselves about the “right” way to approach social media for businesses. Unfortunately, instead of reasoned debate about the emerging medium, online discourse on the topic seems more like a playground full of screaming, self-important children, hell-bent on proving who’s King of the Jungle Gym.

In my opinion, it’s time to grow up.

Back in 1998, the Web was the Wild West. Everything was new. Territory was unexplored. Opportunity was rampant. There were no established paradigms for graphic design, information architecture, interaction design, or anything else related to online content. It was all good. Or crap, depending. For years, people explored every possible way of slicing, dicing, and designing basic online interactions, and the experiment continues. With that said, many solid design patterns and modes of interaction have been established. The Web has matured, to the point where many basic online interactions have become standardized to the point of invisibility (i.e., people don’t even notice them).

The same is not true when it comes to social media. It’s all still terra incognita, relatively speaking, but many treat it like they are the cartographers, showing the way to the promised land. They know the terms….In fact, they define them. They create geographies. They say who’s smart and who isn’t. It’s a self-appointed coterie of experts, but they’re not all in agreement. They squabble and scuffle over metrics and ROI and certification and titles and actual expertise.

At the end of the day, I think most people miss a really basic point: You have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m sorry, but the discipline of social media is too young to have any established truths. Methodologies and processes are fine…Proselytize away. But to claim you can lead businesses to the promised land with an iron-clad guarantee? Please.

Less hyperbole. Less criticism. More cowbell. Thank you.

  • What is the most dramatic and ironic twist is social media, especially in PR/marketing etc, exists in a socialistic environment. Increasingly interdependent, given to sharing information freely and recognizing others. It is becoming shrouded in the economic realities of capitalism. Open competitors sharing their “secrets” of social success in a open platform then potentially needing each other to garner success for their clients. Odd isn’t it?