For many years - since the dawn of social media time - I've been wary, a lurker even. I created profiles because people recommended it. Then I watched. Every now and then I'd post something. It didn't really intrigue me that much - the lives of others. I didn't feel like I had that much to share with the world. Posting about my morning coffee or world travels seemed trite (though my family and friends loved it...well, at least the travel pictures).
As years went on, I saw my friends thrive and writhe on their social platforms. Some became super users and influencers with thousands of followers. Some rarely got even a thumbs up, after 250 posts! And some of them are masters of the form (here's looking at you @iamflyrobynfly). Many friends got sucked into feeds, family feuds, and full-on public deterioration. Meanwhile, I wondered what I was doing on the edges.
The closest I got to satisfaction from social media was during the MySpace heyday. This was around 2007, before they got purchased by News Corp. and started to die. I kept a blog on MySpace with musings about the music I was writing. A woman came up to me at a show in Washington D.C. and said she found me on MySpace and loved my posts! She enjoyed my words and got inspiration from them. Wow, I thought. There may be more people like her! That was 11 years ago.
Then I founded a company -- Qocreate -- in 2016. Sure, people feel pressure from peers to maintain socials. If you listen to marketers though, companies have no choice. You have to have a presence. A brand. Be out there. Share your wisdom. Show how you're different from everyone else who does the same thing you do day in and day out, always. So - we fired up a couple channels and did some experimenting. Facebook page (Check). LinkedIn page (Check). Twitter (Check). And we started to blog (this is blog post 38, I think...). We created videos, scripted and produced, and posted them. We wrote an eBook and offered it for free. We tweeted and retweeted.
I dove in and gave it the old heave-ho. I found that reaching out to people on social media was more effective than posting things. Give and SOME people give back. But everyone is busy with their own stuff. The exchanges never materialized into relationships, contracts, or revenue.
Maybe we had the market wrong? We applied analytics, reviewed and scrutinized quarterly reports, and humanized marketing language. Impressions, Page views, Sessions, Bounce Rates, Acquisitions, and Conversions don't make any sense. The world of data remains indecipherable unless you immerse yourself in it all day. We did that, and now we know who (real people, not bots or spam) comes to our site, how long they stay, where they go, and why. Some people say you can do this all by yourself. I take my hat off to the person who can.
As a company we did a lot of work. I did my part. I was posting to my own networks, writing blogs, and producing video. Since 2016 we've spent more than $50,000, produced 38 blogs, 8 videos, and published an eBook. We also posted about 300 tweets and hosted a regular Twitter chat. That's a bit of output for a small business like ours.
What did all this work get us? A couple hundred likes, a handful of comments on our posts, and a big bad wall of silence.
During this time, I read and pored over other individual and business accounts. Millions of people and businesses post to the internet, believing they have to produce content. We're told it helps set us apart. Except, we're not all that different. Unless you're a scientist decoding the genome or a programmer building AI, we all do the same thing. We do what we're told and what others recommend. We go to work. We push paper around. We attend meetings. We make some things. Then we sign off and go about life.
But here's the other weird thing for business. A lot of people write or talk about life hacks and efficiency. Improvement and change management carry the day in business conversations. Get better at doing things. And stop doing the unnecessary. Do better with less.
What we found in our industry is that most people don't want to do better with less. We know, because we promoted the less is more approach in private and public sectors. Companies don't want less. They want more. More employees. More revenue (even if it's not profitable). More status. More content. More views and conversions. More. More. More. Lean and scarce makes people feel insecure. Having more makes people feel safe.
Well, I don't want more. I want less. And less means less posting of needless content. Less places for people to find me. Less time wasted throwing stuff against the wall and hoping it sticks. Less complexity, because phone calls and relationships give the greatest returns for services like ours. Less of a reliance on what others Tweet or post or say out loud before really thinking it through. Less avenues to distract.
What all this gives me is more time, which is why I started this business in the first place.
So this is where I say farewell. I find social media can be helpful and fun for many. It can even bolster the voices to those who might not otherwise speak up. But it hasn't given anything to me.
I'm not here to trash the medium. I'm here to say I gave it a try. Of course there will be skeptics who will bash me for not doing it well, or not using the right approach or tactic or help. Well, who cares? Isn't the whole point for this to be social? Cordial? Inviting? It shouldn't be a science. And it shouldn't take a marketing degree to figure out who likes you and why. I know now that it's a very strategic and difficult competition for attention. And competition was never my gig. I shudder when thinking of what would happen to me in a real survival of the fittest scenario.
The Harm(s) I mentioned in the title of this post relate to me. I lost time, attention, confidence, imagination, and creativity to social media. Those same channels took my information and used it to market things to me that I didn't want. They built algorithms to determine what I do and don't seen. They ran A/B experiments to gauge my preferences. Then they used my behavior to develop technologies to manipulate other people.
Artificial intelligence, seamless translation, machine learning, and pattern recognition depend on the social base. I realize leaving social media is a small part of the larger question around privacy and how information is being used (see the Internet, our phones, credit cards, preferred customer accounts, the Internet of Things, etc.). I'm working on minimizing their impact to my life and well-being. Conversely, I realize the benefits of certain technologies to improve the world's standard of living.
So: peace out virtual social world. I'll be writing here on qocreate.com from time to time. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Who knows, maybe I'll even fly out to meet you if it seems like we might be friends.