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Two Weeks of Social Media Hell

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La Porte de l'Enfer - Gates of Hell - Auguste Rodin

A lot can happen in two weeks.

I didn’t post last week. It happens. “Don’t cry for me ArgentGenius” (ok, not so funny Evita reference, but it was stuck in my head and I had to use it). I’m back with twice the thought of one of my normal posts. Are you ready?

In the last two weeks, two events occurred back to back that made me question social media, especially Twitter, a lot. Not to question it in the sense of “I’m going to give it up,” but more in the sense of “where are we heading with it.” What is social media’s purpose and how can we define that purpose without trying to gum up the works with a set of “rules” that are counterintuitive to the theories behind social media itself? We’ve had the ROI discussion ad naseum and I don’t wish to rehash that…I’m looking for a personal answer to my own belief systems.

Week One: Repetitive Uselessness

The first week seemed simple enough, SXSWi was the event and a technological geek wonderland had descended on Austin. I follow a lot of über-nerds and real estate tech folks. I enjoy hearing technology discussions, even when they’re over my head. I thrill in hearing about a new product or service that might somehow apply to me. If I can’t apply it to real estate, I still retain some interest. I love technology, it’s an interest of mine.

I watched the Twitter stream with avid interest in learning, experiencing (even though I wasn’t there), and gleaning a few nuggets here and there. Considering the fact that many of the social media mavens of our time would be in one place, I expected to see great things. I felt like I had been let down.

Considering all the social media brainpower gathered in one place, I thought we’d see a Twitter stream full of bright, inventive, new thinking. Instead, I found myself reading about a lot of lunches, a ton of photo-ops, and a party-hopping list detailed enough to make even a rockstar jealous. I received less value and more fluff than ever before while following a conference. I had to ask myself – where is the substance?

Following conferences via social media has become a great way to experience things without having to be there. Sure, you’ll never get the full effect, but if you’re not able to make it, it’s the next best thing. If the conference is so intertwined with social media, I would expect much more actionable knowledge to come from it, but I just didn’t see enough of it coming out of SXSWi. Several attendees seemed to take offense to such armchair quarterback commentary, but I ask them – where was the open sharing of knowledge that social media seeks to achieve?

Week Two: Fire and Brimstone

Ahh, the second week. How to discuss this without dragging AgentGenius down into the hell that is the health care debate? I don’t wish to talk about right or wrong, costs or savings, Republican or Democrat. I don’t want to get on a soapbox and tell you how you should feel, much less have you get on the pulpit and preach your opinion about it. There are plenty of places to discuss the bill and the hows and whys. Please check your opinions at the door. Our demon coat check will make sure your opinions are returned to you upon leaving this post.

So yes, I’m about to talk about something so heavily wrapped in politics that I’m going to try and avoid politics. This should be fun.

My worry is this. Social media is descending into an AOL chat room like firestorm of hatred and accusatory speech. The worst in human behavior is being let loose. Opinions are a great thing. Opinions filled with venomous rancor are not. I saw words like dumb masses, stupid people, uneducated slobs, and even God hating slung around as if we were fighting each other and not talking about the health care bill. In a sense, I can understand the anger and fervor with which people took their stances, but to call the other side stupid? Have we not let go of the days on the merry-go-round yet?

The childish name calling and flame-war-inducing baiting that is going on sickens me. We are better than this, are we not? When it comes to real estate agents, I would hope for even more (I believe in our industry…blah, blah, blah), yet time and time again, I saw agents from around the country turn into vehement mouthpieces for their respective side. Again I stress; opinions – yes, venomous rancor – no. There is a marked difference in the two.

You should have beliefs and you should truly have a passion for them. You’ll get no argument from me there, but to broad brushstroke the opposing beliefs with commentary of a baseless nature and fling personal attacks and insults of one’s intelligence or religious belief? Seriously?

“But, I never said…”

Of course most will read this and comment how they did tweet useful things from SXSWi or would never say those things during the health care debate. For many of you, I know this to be true. This isn’t a one-on-one attack against the readers and writers at AgentGenius, but it is an assault on those that (wittingly or not) destroy the social media ideas of openness, discussion, and free thinking. Social media can bring out the worst in people, much like Myspace, AOK chat rooms, and IRC have in the past. Is this where we want it to go? Or do we believe that there is more to life than brand-sponsored parties and political-bashing? Social media is what you make it…what you put out there today, becomes your path for tomorrow – what will it be for you?

photo of Auguste Rodin’s La Porte de l’Enfer (Gates of Hell) courtesy of Screwtape

Matt is a former PA-based rockstar turned real estate agent with RE/MAX Access in San Antonio, TX. He was asked to join AgentGenius to provide a look at the successes and trials of being a newer agent. His consumer-based outlook on the real estate business has helped him see things from both sides. He is married to a wonderful woman from England who makes him use the word "rubbish."

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25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. nanette labastida

    March 23, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    i can imagine from the outside it would be hard to filter any actual info from sxswi – the social stuff was actually very fun & kinda useful from here, the social world expanded when you couldn’t be at every event, or to find out the event you wanted to get to asap, where the good networking friend making was happing .
    there were a lot of tweets from the talks and panels, was helpful knowing the individual hashtag.
    SXSWi is such a frenzy of fast paced activity, i think the best information will be found in people’s blogs/wrap ups of the event. when they have had time to soak in and process and organize all the insane stuff going on.
    or it was just a big party
    but connections were made and that counts.

    • Justin Boland

      March 23, 2010 at 4:32 pm

      “i think the best information will be found in people’s blogs/wrap ups of the event. when they have had time to soak in and process and organize all the insane stuff going on.”

      Amen.

      Synthesis takes a little time. The immediacy of “remote viewing” an event like SXSW is more of a novelty than it is useful. This week there’s already been a few excellent reads from post-SXSW bloggers — I especially dug Umair Haque’s latest.

      The SXSW chatter is mostly just noise, though. TED is exactly the same way. Seeing people’s 140 character impressions is barely interesting, but once the videos of the actual talks go up, that’s a much more meaningful kind of “Access.”

  2. Joe Loomer

    March 23, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    “I thought we’d see a Twitter stream full of bright, inventive, new thinking…”

    Did I misunderstand, Matt, or where you seriously hoping to get deep insight into what where most likely in-depth subjects via a 140 character twitter micro-blog? I think Nanette hit this on the head – if the blogging stream is not refreshed and vibrant post-convention with the relevant knowledge revealed in a more comprehensive way, then it apparently was a party break and not worth the attendance fee.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

  3. Melanie Wyne

    March 23, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Matt,

    Great post. IMHO social media is a lot like politics. If its done right, it is a democracy. You have the option to choose who you follow/friend/link and who you don’t. People are who they are in life and in social media. There is plenty of good stuff out there and interesting people producing useful/thoughtful content. And if interesting content is not your thing…you can find out what someone had for breakfast. You choose. If you don’t want to read their stuff unfollow/unfriend/de-link. (You can even mute someone for a period of time. That’s what I did during SXSW.) The best part is you can do it instantly.You don’t have to wait around for the next election.

  4. Duke Long

    March 23, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    Matt,
    Copy of a (ironic) tweet of mine from this week.
    I think twitter has peaked…going back to the street!!! #CRE
    9:43 PM Mar 20th via TweetDeck

  5. Michael Bertoldi

    March 23, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    I guess I can see your concern, but I agree with you when you say social media is what you make it. A lot of my own social media practice has come from a brand standpoint, but from a personal perspective, I don’t follow that many people. I especially don’t bother with those who bash someone else’s personal beliefs or political party. If that comes on my radar, and again, and again, I unfollow.

    My twitter use is mostly for business and professional growth. I follow people like you and other real estate agents or I follow a circle of social media and marketing experts because that’s my field. I don’t use it for chit chat very much and to me, if you’re bashing a political stance, it’s chit chat. I tend to use facebook more for friends I actually know or have met.

    I recently went to Social Fresh, a social media conference with some pretty big names in the social media realm. I found it pretty interesting, learned a little, and was motivated a lot. Sometimes you may not learn all that much, but it’s somewhat of a refresher and motivates you to go back home and put what you learned – or were reminded that you know – into practice.

    From a stream point of view, I try to tweet “nuggets” from the speakers. If I think something was a good point, I’ll tweet it. Hopefully you’ll read it and say “good point.” Then, it might stick with you. Kind of like a good quote. All you’ve got to do is figure out how to use it.

    Just my two cents…

  6. Matthew Rathbun

    March 24, 2010 at 6:53 am

    Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re better than this…

    When Twitter was new there was a sense of civility for most. The groups were small and you were trying to voice an opinion while being sensitive your your small following. Now that it’s larger, any opinion will find a backer. Once most people feel they have support from at least one person – than they feel they are justified and the comments and feedback escalates.

    I think this applies to comment streams too. We’ve all become a bit too familiar with each other.

  7. Gregg Collum

    March 24, 2010 at 7:10 am

    I understand your comments on the social media side of things.I have started to utilize and come into some understanding about the importance of SM. I also agree about not personally attacking someones personal beliefs or affiliations.

    But what I have discovered in my years of travel and my tenure as a military man, is that there are way too many people out there trying to be politically correct. There are way too many “wandering generalities instead of meaningful specifics”. If someone CHOOSES to express themselves in a way that may be offensive to someone else, so be it. I may not agree with the way it was written BUT I applaud them for their guts to express themselves in what is still a free speech country. I fought for that persons right to be a jerk or offensive.

    I have Russian friends who were jailed for 10 years in the former Soviet Union for writing about democracy, free speech etc.

    The words you saw/read maybe from people that are so angered about what is happening to his/her country that they don’t know a more eloquent way of expressing themselves. I too am mad as hell about what is happening to MY COUNTRY.

    Your final comment in quotations –“but it is an assault on those that (wittingly or not) destroy the social media ideas of openness, discussion, and free thinking.” — They are not destroying SM ideology (if one exists) but simply expressing themselves. Those people right or wrong in their writings still have the right to rant as they see fit.

    FREE SPEECH IS STILL FREE SPEECH. If I don’t like what I read or subscribe to– I move on.

  8. Jason Keath

    March 24, 2010 at 8:23 am

    SXSWi is the super barcamp of social media conferences. Meaning there is little currating of content quality, nor guidance of topics. It is best served for the quality niche topics covered and the networking. Want the hard details of the business? Go to a smaller more focused conference.

    • Benn Rosales

      March 24, 2010 at 11:19 am

      Uh, no it isn’t. It’s a technology conference/music/film conference with sm is ONE of hundreds of topics being discussed at the same time. As someone that lives in Austin and is in Tech, and has attended numerous SXSW conferences, I would leave Austin and never return if it ever became a giant barcamp for social media egos.

  9. Dan Connolly

    March 24, 2010 at 11:18 am

    I agree that free speech is incredibly important and I think that we forget about the unfollow option. If you don’t like the tone of the comments, unfollow! When I find a poster who likes to resort to name calling etc to make a point, I just don’t read their posts or engage in the conversation.

    It’s like the woman’s bumper sticker that says: “Life is too short to dance with ugly men”

  10. Benn Rosales

    March 24, 2010 at 11:47 am

    Here’s the thing about SXSW Matt:

    Folks in my stream all realized even we were being flooded with goings on during SXSW – so I like most stopped tweeting unless we were focused locally.

    If you haven’t attended SXSWi it’s really really large, but the sessions are incredibly intimate, seating is mostly 75 to 120 unless it’s a keynote.

    The greenroom for SXSW only holds 40 people, and that would include panels as well, but that’s about how many sessions are occuring at any given time – I did not enjoy the greenroom, no food.

    There are breakfasts, brunches, lunches, and evening parties all day long, every day- this is where most of the online chatter is coming from.

    In the sessions, because some of what you’re hearing is dry out of context if you’re not a software engineer, or a mega company getting a lecture on the virtues of privacy, a tweet contextually may fly over your head because it’s not digested and articulated with all aspects supporting it.

    The sessions I attended were high level, not much of the same ol mumbo jumbo you hear from so called gurus, but numbers and stats that dont make much of a tweet.

    Unfortunately, for those that tried to tweet sessions probably missed a good portion of the real content because they felt they knew everything already and could tweet it without really pondering the ramifications of the data being presented- this is the saddest part of the conf.

    If I had my way, the entire conf center would be blacked out from tweeting all together and really force so-called thought leaders to go home an really digest and vet the information they’re hearing, otherwise, they’re just publishing hearsay with stolen context and facts.

    I didn’t attend sxsw to be seen or heard, I went to learn, and discern. sorry, that’s what the parties are for, but even then, I really just went for the free beer.

  11. Real Estate SEO Tim O'

    March 24, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Disappointing? Have you read any of the social media books? Pretty light weight I must say.
    So to see these leaders in a room and get anything else is not a surprise to me.
    But I am a Social Media heretic. It has its place, not just as big as everyone is making it.
    To expect people to behave any differently than anywhere else on passionate issues is silly. As mentioned before you have a just a few words you are allowed to say so how intelligent can they be? Whether discussing politics or the media itself.

  12. Missy

    March 24, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    Matthew, my favorite place to be on any debate night or election night is Twitter. Why? I love the fast pace of the comments, from both sides. Yes, some folks get vile, but that is America.

    If I am on a trending topic than most are not my followers or I them. So I just watch, and RT when someone has a cool tweet.

  13. Helen Young

    February 27, 2012 at 10:13 am

    I have to agree with Missy! Twitter all the way. 🙂

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Social Media

Why Trump’s lawsuit against social media still matters

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Former President Trump snagged headlines for suing every large social media platform, and it has gone quiet, but it still deeply matters.

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It was splashed across headlines everywhere in July: Former President Trump filed a lawsuit against social media platforms that he claims unrightfully banned him during and after the fallout of the January 6th capitol riots. The headlines ran for about a week or so and then fell off the radar as other, fresher, just-as-juicy news headlines captured the media’s eye.

Many of us were left wondering what that was all about and if anything ever became of it. For even more of us, it probably passed out of our minds completely. Lack of public awareness for these things is common after the initial media blitz fades.

Lawsuits like these in the US can take months, if not years between newsworthy milestones. The most recent news I could find as of this publishing is from August 24, 2021, on Yahoo! News from the Washington Examiner discussing the Trump camp’s request for a preliminary injunction in the lawsuit.

This particular suit shouldn’t be left to fade from memory in the shadows though, and here’s why:

In the past few years, world powers have been reigning in regulations on social media and internet commerce. The US is actually a little behind the curve. Trump may have unwittingly given us a source of momentum to get with the times.

In the European Union, they have the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), widely acknowledged to be one of the toughest and most thorough privacy laws in the world, a bold title. China just passed its own pair of laws in the past four months: The Data Security Law, which took effect on Sept. 1, and The Personal Information Law, set to take effect November 1st. The pair is poised to give the GDPR a run for its money for that title.

Meanwhile, in the US, Congress has been occupied with other things and, while there are five bills that took aim at tech monopoly currently on the table and a few CEOs had to answer some questions, little actual movement or progress has been made on making similar privacy protections a thing in the United States.

Trump’s lawsuit, while labeled by many as a toothless public relations move, may actually create momentum needed to push regulation of tech and social media forward in the US. The merits of the case are weak and ultimately the legislation that would give it teeth doesn’t exist yet.

You can’t hold tech companies accountable to a standard that doesn’t properly exist in law.

However, high profile attention and someone willing to continue to make noise and bring attention back to the subject, one of Trump’s strongest talents, could be “just what the doctor ordered” to inspire Congress to make internet user rights and data privacy a priority in the US, finally.

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Even solopreneurs are doing live commerce online – it’s not just QVC’s game anymore

(SOCIAL MEDIA) When you think of watching a show and buying things in real time, it invokes thoughts of QVC, but social media video has changed all that.

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After the year everyone has had, one wouldn’t be remiss in thinking that humanity wants a break from live streaming. They would, however, be wrong: Live online commerce – a method of conversion first normalized in China – is the next evolution of the ubiquitous e-commerce experience, which means it’s something you’ll want on your radar.

Chinese company, Alibaba first live streamed on an e-commerce site in 2016, allowing buyers to watch, interact with, and buy from sellers from the comfort of their homes. In 2020, that same strategy netted Alibaba $7.5 billion in presale revenue – and it only took 30 minutes, according to McKinsey Digital.

But, though western audiences have proven a desire to be just as involved with sellers during the buying process, live commerce hasn’t taken off here the way it has elsewhere. If e-commerce merchants want to maximize their returns in the next few years, that needs to change.

McKinsey Digital points out a couple of different benefits for organizations using live commerce, the main one being an influx in traffic. Live streaming events break the buying experience mold, and consumers love being surprised. You can expect that prospective buyers who wouldn’t necessarily visit your store under normal circumstances would find value in attending a live event.

Live events also keep people on your site for longer, resulting in richer conversion opportunities.

The sense of urgency inherent in in-person shopping doesn’t always translate to online markets, but having a stream showing decreasing inventory or limited-availability items being sold inspires people to act expeditiously rather than sitting on a loaded cart–something that can kill an e-commerce conversion as quickly as it starts one.

There are a ton of different ways to incorporate live events into your e-commerce campaigns. Virtual auctions are popular, as are markets in which individual sellers take buyers through inventory. However, the live event could be tangentially related–or even just something impressive running in parallel with the sale–and still bring in a swell of revenue.

Screen fatigue is real, and there isn’t a true substitute for a brick-and-mortar experience when done correctly. But if you have an e-commerce shop that isn’t utilizing some form of live entertainment–even just to bring in new buyers–you’re going to want to try this strategy soon.

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Social Media

LinkedIn is nixing Stories this month (LinkedIn had Stories!?)

(SOCIAL MEDIA) LinkedIn tried to be like the cool kids and launched “Stories,” but the video feature is being shelved and “reimagined.” Ok.

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linkedin stories

Creating the next big thing is essential for social networks to stay relevant, continue growing, and avoid shutting down. Sometimes, this leads to businesses trying to ride along with the success of another app’s latest feature and creating their cloned version. While the logic of recreating something already working makes sense, the results aren’t universal.

This time around, LinkedIn is saying goodbye to its short-lived Snapchat-like video product, Stories. In a company post, LinkedIn says it’s removing its Stories experience by the end of September.

Why is LinkedIn retiring Stories?

According to a post by Senior Director of Product at LinkedIn Liz Li, “[LinkedIn] introduced Stories last year as a fun and casual way to share quick video updates.”

After some testing and feedback, they learned this is not what users wanted. Seems like they could have beta tested with users and heard the same thing, but I digress.

“In developing Stories, we assumed people wouldn’t want informal videos attached to their profile, and that ephemerality would reduce barriers that people feel about posting. Turns out, you want to create lasting videos that tell your professional story in a more personal way and that showcase both your personality and expertise,” said Li.

What does this mean for users?

Starting on September 30, 2021, users will no longer be able to create Stories for Pages. If you’ve already planned to have an image or video ads run in-between Stories, they will now appear on the LinkedIn feed instead. For those who used Campaign Manager to promote or sponsor a Story directly from your Page, the company says “these paid Stories will not appear in the LinkedIn feed”, and the user will need to recreate the ad in Campaign Manager.

What’s next for LinkedIn?

According to Li, LinkedIn is taking what it learned from its finding to “evolve the Stories format into a reimagined video experience across LinkedIn that’s even richer and more conversational.” It plans on doing so by using mixed media and the creative tools of Stories.

“As we reimagine what is next, we’re focusing on how we can provide you with a short-form, rich interactive video format that is unique to our platform and that better helps you reach and engage your audiences on LinkedIn. We’re always excited to try out new things and learn as we go, and will continue to share updates along the way,” the company said.

Although Stories didn’t work well for LinkedIn as they hoped, one thing is for sure. LinkedIn isn’t giving up on some form of interactive video, and we can only hope they “reimagine” something unique that keeps users coming back for more.

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