The year of Twitter: Is there such a thing as too much talk about social media?


The Global Language Monitor, which examines language usage across the world, recently ranked “Twitter” as the top word in the English language for 2009 — meaning it out-ranked “Obama,” “H1N1,” “stimulus,” and “vampire” to take #1.

While this seems a bit surprising with everything that’s gone on this year, it’s not shocking. Social media came to the forefront of interest and attention, and every traditional media outlet jumped in the ring to break that minute’s social media trend story and to get a piece of the pie themselves by connecting with their readers via social networks.

Not that we’re complaining — we’ve gotten to see the social media craze first-hand with our client CheapTweet.  Launched just before Black Friday in 2008, CheapTweet couldn’t have been better positioned for what 2009 had in store: an aggregator that pulls deals from Twitter and creates a community around finding the best possible deals for every shopping need.  Social media darling Twitter? Check. Saving money in a recession? Check. We worked with CheapTweet to formulate the message and get the word out, and the site was featured as a holiday shopping must-see on MSNBC less than two weeks later. That followed in 2009 with hits including InStyle, Parents, New York Times, CNN, TechCrunch, Internet Retailer and tons more — and thankfully, CheapTweet’s message and product were strong enough to roll over the competitors that popped up along the way. Cyber Monday (yesterday) brought the company’s heaviest traffic to date.

If it weren’t for the brilliance of the CheapTweet idea, it surely would not have been easy to get the kind of coverage it did this year. Still, I can’t help but feel like the hits weren’t terribly hard-earned. Sure, we wanted every word of every press release and pitch to be perfect, and we wanted to target exactly the right people — but as long as we could get their attention, all we really had to say was “Twitter” and “saving money” for ears to perk up.

Now enough about my anecdotal tangent — what I really want to talk about here is social media marketing. As we’ve all seen one too many times, every 12th person you encounter on Twitter is a self-proclaimed social media “guru” or “expert.” I’m not here to lay out guidelines for how to spot the real experts. I’m more interested in the fact that never before have I seen so much talk dedicated to something in the marketing/media field. Sure, it’s a natural evolution of engaging online, and I realize the importance of knowing how social media works and the benefits it can have for my clients and my “personal brand” (ah, I said it.)

Still, sometimes when I see the phrase “social media,” I want to scream. “I get it! It’s important, it’s here to stay! It can make a difference in my marketing efforts!”  Top 10 mistakes not to make in social media. Top 15 ways you can integrate social media into your PR plan. How social media can help you find a job. It never ends!

I know that, working in PR and marketing communications, it’s my job to stay on top of all the latest best practices and theories in order to make sure we’re doing the best and most effective work for our clients — and personally, I’m a big advocate of social media. I use Twitter and Facebook more than I’d like to admit. But lately, I’ve been wondering — will we always talk about it this much? Will it always be this ubiquitous, or will it eventually become a core component of our strategies as deserving of conversation as all the other parts? I am a huge fan of the work of Brian Solis, Deirdre Breakenridge, Todd Defren, Paul Gillin, Chris Brogan and tons of other true experts that are paving the way for integrating components of social media marketing into our everyday practices. But just because social media marketing is at the pinnacle of its popularity doesn’t mean I want to read the 500 articles that are published every day on what I’m doing wrong and how to do it better. I am a bit of a masochist then, with a separate column in my Tweetdeck for Social Media/PR folks, a subscription to the Social Media SmartBrief and an RSS feed full of it, because I know I at least have to stay aware. And it’s a goal of mine personally and for my colleagues at Ketner Group to interact more with these experts in the blogosphere, not just on Twitter.

That being said, am I the only one who can’t help but cringe sometimes when I see the latest buzz about social media?

0 thoughts on “The year of Twitter: Is there such a thing as too much talk about social media?

  • @myerman here….

    Hmmm, to me, the social media topic chatter on social media makes about as much sense as the constant journalismism you see about the demise of newspapers (as newspaper headlines), or about as much sense as watching a bunch of movies about how to make movies.

    It’s become too much of a self-referential echo chamber, too meta, too something–we’ll move on at some point (hopefully very soon) as we start tackling the next big thing — what is it all *good for*?

    Can you get more business/sales/leads/whatever on SM? Okay, great–show me. And don’t be a generalist about it, tell me how I, a blah blah consultant in the foobar vertical industry, can make money.

    Can I make more friends, meet new people, yada yada? Great, show me. Okay, I can meet new people but it’s not good for dating? Okay, great.

    I think that’s starting to emerge. But yeah, I agree, too much social media in social media. 🙂

  • It’s become too much of a self-referential echo chamber, too meta, too something–we’ll move on at some point (hopefully very soon) as we start tackling the next big thing — what is it all *good for*?

    Exactly the words I was looking for, Tom! I’m sure this is a controversial topic, too, as so many people take pride in being at the bleeding edge of this movement. It just seems that sometimes it’s too much, too often.

  • I pray for the day when we can stop talking about “oooh, Twitter” and get more advanced and while I create content frequently on advanced social media applications because I’m in a role of educating others, I STILL get the question of “what’s Twitter?” when I’m all the way at the finish line talking about geomapping. I get calls from my parents asking technical questions and it feels like I’m a Macarena professional sometimes.

    THAT SAID, I’m sure the world felt this way when the phone came out. “Have you heard about the telephone?” “Ah yes, you can ring me at #34 and my mother can be ringed by dialing #10.” It takes the entire globe adopting and taking a technology for granted that talk of the shiny new toy ceases.

  • Interesting question, Valerie. I definitely cringe, but it’s for a slightly different reason. I work for a company up in Sioux Falls, SD called Deep Bench. Shockingly, Sioux Falls isn’t home to an abundance of early adopters, but I’m fortunate to have a boss who keeps his eyes on the horizon as far as what’s coming in the future.

    The reason I cringe when I hear all this talk about social media now is because, being somewhat on the forefront of SM here in Sioux Falls, we had been encouraging clients to incorporate those tools into their marketing/PR strategies long before “Oprah was on Twitter.” At that time, it was nearly impossible to convince business owners and other clients that social media had value.

    Unfortunately, since this transition period you’re talking about has taken place, it seems that everybody in this region (and the country in general) “does” social media. This means that they set up a Twitter account and tell clients to “tweet about stuff.” And these are clients to whom, a year ago, we had pitched entire strategies and plans so they could effectively get value from social media (not just “do Twitter”). Of course, back then Oprah and Ashton Kutcher weren’t tweeting and nobody but marketing/PR people and open-minded organizations/companies knew what it was.

    So…to sum up this rant, what makes me cringe is that we see awful examples of people using the tools of social media rather than building out a well-rounded and purposeful overall strategy that happens to incorporate the appropriate tools. Social media as a buzzword/trend type of thing just means bad decisions can be made even more visible when it really doesn’t have to be that way.

    A bad use of tools rather than a strong strategy is what makes me cringe. Hopefully any/all of that was coherent. If not, people can tweet to their networks that I’m a total idiot. @mikebilleter if you want to make sure you spell it right.

    Great post, Valerie!

  • Great to get your perspectives, Lani & Mike, as you are both definitely what I would consider “experts” in this space if they do truly exist. 🙂

    Lani, good point in comparing to the telephone. Even TIME Magazine went so far as to say “Twitter will change the way we live” on its cover this summer. And I think the people worth their salt in marketing and social media know that, when it comes to Twitter as a tool for our efforts, it’s just that: A TOOL. It happens to work very well for some business efforts right now, but the real “stickiness” of it is not Twitter itself, but the fact that technology has caught up with our real-time, everywhere-at-once culture. Just like Todd Defren talks about at PR-Squared today, it shouldn’t be all about the shiny new toy.

    Mike, I can certainly understand your particular frustrations with it. Especially being where you are geographically, you and Deep Bench were way ahead of the game. Even in Austin it’s been hard for us, since we were telling our clients over a year ago, “You need to be looking at this, here’s a strategy outline we’ve put together for you” — and they just didn’t get the importance of it. Then flash forward 8 months later and we get emails saying “I keep hearing about this Twitter thing and how important it is. Why aren’t we doing it?” (face to palm) Now, it certainly is frustrating that there are so many later adopters that seem to be jumping on the wagon simply because it is “so hot right now” and not because they know the long-term importance of it and have developed a strategic plan instead of just diving in and shouting canned messages at large “audiences” instead of engaging with relevant people like a human.

    Thanks for your feedback!

  • Me and a friend were just chatting about this a couple of days ago. We rarely agree on any subject, so we just decided that I was right and so was he…but he was wrong (andyou are right!).

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