Does Intent Matter?
I have no idea whether Irina was asking the following question relative to the social web or about life in general, but I’ve thought about this question a great deal in the past and recently as it relates to the use of social media for marketing.
I often ask these questions: Why am I posting this? What’s the motivation? Is it something I feel strongly about or is it something I simply feel will get people to comment on, or retweet or like? And, as Irina also asks, is it even “bad” to simply want to get a reaction from an outside source?
An Argument Against Authenticity
Eric Wittlake writes, “What we really want is something carefully constructed, with enough personality and individuality to look real instead of robotic.” I’m not sure Eric and I share the same definition of authentic. Eric goes on to illustrate what authentic social media behavior would look like, but by my definition he’s not describing authenticity, he’s describing transparency. I think it’s possible to be authentic without exposing every personal or corporate flaw.
Even if social media marketers are not as brazen as Eric describes, their behavior certainly indicates that they’re more concerned with the metrics, the manipulation, the game, than with authentic conversation. There are days when I feel like social media marketers have all read the same blog post about what kinds of questions will get more likes or retweets for their status updates.
“I am going to Germany for seven months,” announced my friend on Facebook, and her confused, concerned and excited friends erupted with a dozen urgent questions. An hour later came the explanation: “It was a cancer awareness meme. Sorry to have put bad info out there.” Well, I feel so much more aware about cancer now, don’t you?
This is just the latest example of how social media marketing has become (or always was) broken–a chase for memes for memes’ sake. Social media marketing is an insular and largely meaningless game where the perceived winner is not the brand that gains awareness, consideration or purchase intent but the one with the most retweets and likes.” – Augie Ray, “Social Media Marketing Is Broken“
Augie quickly points out that it’s not social media’s fault, it’s the marketer’s fault. I agree. And I understand the motivations.
Human Nature And Our Desire For Attention
Who doesn’t? Everyone does this on occasion. We all love the spotlight. But I find myself wondering, often, what happens when this becomes the rule, not the exception. When this becomes the overarching motivation for our updates, whether personal or professional, something is wrong.
Social media marketers know the rules. They understand Facebook’s edgerank formula, for example. They analyze status updates in large numbers and can see the patterns that emerge. They can see what kinds of questions get retweeted, what kinds of status updates get the most likes and responses. On Facebook, for example, if I can post seemingly innocuous non-marketing related updates that get you to respond in mass, I increase my affinity with you and make it more likely that you’ll see my marketing related updates. The introduction of that formula has made it a game. That’s a fact.
“My observation over the last 12 months of online Social Media interaction,” Edward writes,”is of an increasing bias to the positive or silence.” I talked around this a bit in Drunk On Social Media Attention. That is fueled by an absense of authenticity and it ultimately leads to a lack of trust.
I don’t have a definitive answer for you, Irina. But I believe intent does matter. I’m not sure that wanting to get a reaction automatically means you’re not being authentic. I do know that, for me, answering those questions influences my behavior.Why am I posting this? What’s the motivation? Is it something I feel strongly about or is it something I simply feel will get people to comment on, or retweet or like? If I don’t like my intent, I don’t post.
How do you judge whether you’re being authentic or not?
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