We’re all pretty much in agreement that social media has been commandeered by marketers, and that brands now have the upper hand. I’ve got promoted Tweets in my stream, invitations to join brand communities on G+, and special offers from brands in my Facebook feed. Not to mention the constant spewing forth of often-ignorant political opinion on every side of every issue.
Every day I ask myself, “how much time do I want to waste on all this?”
And every day I am brought back to the origins of social media, and how it was in the glory days of 2006 and 7, when Twitter and Facebook were manageable, and Google+ was an embryo.
This morning I looked at my Facebook feed. A man I know only from Twitter and blogging, although I’ve since met him at conferences, has lost his grandfather. Condolences pour in. In his feed, I see the names of other people I know, like @queenofspain, who has tweeted and blogged her own fight to “kick lupus' ass,” and who I have actually come to love by following her heroism. I’ve actually traveled to conferences where she appeared just to give her a hug.
On G+ I see a brilliant diagram from my friends in London +Thomas Power and + Bob Barker, whom I met in person four years ago in Half Moon Bay – through +Louis Gray and +Robert Scoble. And how did I meet Louis and Robert? Through their blogs, at first. Robert’s blog announced that he was moving to Half Moon Bay, where I had just bought a house. We reached out to each other, and have become close friends. I watch for news of his autistic son, and try to share information with him and Maryam.
And then there are my niece and nephew, young people living a continent away from me, whose lives I see almost daily and whom I can talk to with my keyboard.
Every once in a while Arabic tweets come through my stream, because I met @karabeesh and @jamalon, two startups in Amman, and can stay in touch through Twitter. Being able to stay in touch with the wonderful Jordanians I met on my trip is a gift that social media has given me and brands can’t take away.
So for me, the ROI of social media is different. It’s not about the money. Quite the contrary. It’s about the relationships, the knowledge, and the understanding that comes from meeting a much wider group of people than I would ever have met otherwise, and sharing their extraordinary lives.
And believe me: there are many extraordinary lives on Twitter and Facebook – some obviously so, like the ones @andycarvin tweets about, and some not so obviously, like my step-grandson at NAU who is an amazing young poet.
So think twice before you delete your Facebook account, call Twitter a waste of time, or dismiss Google+ as “just another social network we don’t need.” It’s way more complicated than that.