Southern Maine Social Media FirmThere must be something wrong with me. The whole world is gaga over social media. But I just don’t get it. And neither do my clients.

I understand the concept and the value in today’s world of search rankings. But you’ve lost me on how it benefits me as a person or as a business.

It robs me of valuable time.

Take Twitter, for example. I set up an account for one of my clients a couple of years ago, devoting daily attention to creating inspired tweets, including hashtags and links to bolster response. I added a Twitter widget to the client’s homepage to bring these choice words of wisdom to his captive audience, if they failed to find them elsewhere.

While I told myself that such an effort was responsible for additional backlinks, new customer visits and added popularity for my client’s brand, I really have no proof of that other than one link listed in our Google Analytics account. Eventually, I ran out of steam and focused on other aspects of his marketing.

Concurrently, I had also set up Twitter accounts for my own business to represent a number of different services, as well as for one of my lawyer clients who always gives me free rein over everything involved with marketing. Again, lots of creative effort with not much to show for it, other than the website widget and a link for each in Google Analytics.

Last week, I noticed that Twitter was reaching out to me… in Japanese! Uh, oh. I revisited my main Twitter account to find that someone had hacked into my account and was sending out tweets about weight loss under my name. Upon receiving a second email from Twitter today, again in Japanese, I checked my Twitter settings to find that the time zone was set to Quito, Ecuador, which is actually the same as my New York time, but does not explain the Japanese connection. My language is set to English. Something is rotten in Denmark.

After having explored my options in Twitter’s help pages, I basically went round in circles to end up where I began: nowhere. No surprise there.

What I do acknowledge, however, is that when I receive an email from Twitter introducing a new follower, something entices me to click through to learn who the person is, if not obviously spam. Not only do I explore their Twitter account, but I often go to their website as well. Usually they are service providers of one kind or another attempting to sell me something. At that point, the exploration ends. So much for Twitter’s value for me or for them. But if reaching someone more open to spending money, Twitter may be an effective liaison.

The Facebook Connection: Monopolizing the Internet

So, what about Facebook, in all its infamy? With Google’s recent affirmations that social media now plays a huge role in our search rankings based on how many “like” votes we receive, continuing to shun Facebook, as I have been for a long time, is now inadvisable. In fact, I informed each of my clients of its importance as well, recommending that we set up accounts and link from their websites. I further advised our adding the social endorsement buttons to their websites to try to encourage favorable votes. While all told me to proceed, they each reiterated their personal dislike for the whole scenario. I couldn’t agree more.

I tend to draw my opinion from how annoying each social site is based on email interruptions. Facebook by far is the most obnoxious, constantly sending me emails that I have “notifications” or “7 friend requests” or that someone “added friends I may know.” Of course, since I manage up to five client websites with Facebook accounts, my emails are multiplied by that number.

First of all, the “notifications” or “activity on the account” are primarily posts that people add every time they click on a “like” button out in cyberspace, which sends graphics, text and links to each of their friends’ Facebook accounts. Since my clients and I don’t know any of these “friends,” nor do we share in any of their often insipid interests, I fail to see what filling up our accounts with endless references to their endorsed material has to do with us or our lives, especially repeatedly all day long! The whole thing seems ridiculous.

I suppose if we were using the Facebook account as it was intended, to reconnect with lifelong friends with whom we had lost touch over the years, maybe it would make more sense. But for us in business, that is a stretch.

The Facebook Effect: A Wall of Confusion

My adult son had sent me a “friend” request last year to which I responded through a private email that I was afraid to have any activity on Facebook whatsoever because I was so protective of my Google profile. As a business person, I told him, I was fearful that something negative may pop up to ruin the reputation I had worked so long and hard to build and would be impossible to eradicate, if he knew anything about search results. Also, curious about his Facebook activity, I told him that his Facebook account was not accessible because he had not addressed his privacy settings. With visions of risque behavior dancing in my head, I found out that he had no activity whatsoever but was innocently inviting me, his mother, to share in his life through a Facebook connection. With email as our only communication in recent years, I felt awful but had to stick to my guns. My concerns are valid and he agreed he was naive, as well as overwhelmed with all the Facebook privacy options. So, never mind. (What kind of mother rejects her son’s request to be friends? Someday I hope to come to my senses. Maybe.)

My negative opinion of Facebook was further confirmed recently when I decided to buy shares on its opening day on the stock market, since I passed up Google when it was priced around $80 per share, and now trades near $650. Similarly, I passed up LinkedIn which continues to rise with the best of the momentum stocks. As a Mac lover and user for many years, I did buy Apple at $110 (with a modest 50 shares, just in case it tanked) and we all know what happened there. Had I not sold it twenty years ago after having bought 100 shares in the $30 range, I’d be a bit happier but I can’t complain. Apple is a peach!

But about Facebook I will complain. I paid a whopping $40 per share and quickly bailed out a couple of days later at $30. Having been through the dot-com bust, losing a fortune on Internet stocks, I am not one to buy and sell so quickly, but tend to hold forever with hopes that there may be a bounce back if held long enough. Not this time for Facebook, I decided. I should have known better, and did, but gambled and lost. Serves me right for ignoring my long-established disgust for the company.

Google’s Role In Promoting This Insanity

What gets me is that every TV and radio commercial for products of every variety says, “Find us on Facebook.” Why? The reason is obvious. Everyone is looking for the almighty “like” votes so important to Google. I repeat: I find this ridiculous.

And what about buying followers? On Twitter, or Facebook, or wherever. What kind of world is this? Beyond ridiculous, it is preposterous.

LinkedIn, on the other hand, I do not find as offensive. Its emails are updates about business people I actually know. My profile is true with dates and facts for my entire career unlike what I know of Facebook: a fairy tale people invent about themselves.

As a newcomer to Google+, so far its advantages have outweighed its problems. Like Facebook, I get constant emails about someone “sharing” something with me, again from people I do not know. But having an affiliation with Google+ has made my photo and contact information much more visible to anyone searching for me, my business or related material, which makes it worthwhile.

The Other Side of the Story

Probably if my clients seriously considered my suggestion that we use Facebook as a way to promote certain special offers, we would all find more satisfaction with its function. But, I have to admit that chasing after a world of strangers to be “friends” with a business they may not know or have any need only increases the likelihood of irritating someone, or worse, making them leery. That’s the last thing a business wants to do! Yet, ironically, that is exactly what many of today’s businesses are doing.

In my opinion, the chief social media problems for businesses are:

1. a lack of time to create suitable content and communicate with “friends”;

2. an aversion to revealing a personal side of the business;

3. a fear of offending followers by constantly imposing on their email.

In addition, Facebook does not categorize its world of users in any way that allows a business to reach out to them through a targeted search, i.e., just sports car drivers, for instance. I believe this was done purposely so that you would need to advertise on Facebook to reach appropriate candidates. Twitter allows you to search by category but does not allow you to follow all with one click. To do so would be a grueling manual process taking lots of precious time. No wonder the spamming services are getting rich!

The bottom line is with more effort to add creative, engaging and meaningful content to our social platforms on a daily (if not hourly!) basis while getting personally involved with responding to any and all posts generated by our “friends,” we small businesses would probably find better reason to join the crowd of today’s social media addicts.

But given the amount of time needed to simply run a business and earn enough to pay our many expenses, I just don’t see this as realistic. If we can find a clone (or robot) who will work for free at doing only the non-stop social media job, then social media for business may have a fighting chance at success.

By Marilyn Bontempo