Friday, March 16, 2012

The Queen of Social Media Fights Fetishization

Arianna Huffington has written a very interesting and timely column for Huffington Post where she warns against "fetishization" of social media, where nothing matters besides catching up with the latest tweet, whatever it happens to be.

The title is a bit pompous - "Virality Uber Alles: Whatthe Fetishization of Social Media Is Costing Us All" - but it is a good read that makes you think for a minute of Marshall McLuhan. She is of course not against social media per se, but she cautions against falling in love with the tool, instead of using it to do good:

The media world's fetishization of social media has reached idol-worshipping proportions. Media conference agendas are filled with panels devoted to social media and how to use social tools to amplify coverage, but you rarely see one discussing what that coverage should actually be about. As Wadah Khanfar, former Director General of Al Jazeera, told our editors when he visited our newsroom last week, "The lack of contextualization and prioritization in the U.S. media makes it harder to know what the most important story is at any given time."
Our media culture is locked in the Perpetual Now, constantly chasing ephemeral scoops that last only seconds and that most often don't matter in the first place, even for the brief moment that they're "exclusive." 

These days every company is hungry to embrace social media and virality, even if they're not exactly sure what that means, and even if they're not prepared to really deal with it once they've achieved it.

Or as Sheryl Sandberg put it, "What it means to be social is if you want to talk to me, you have to listen to me as well." A lot of brands want to be social, but they don't want to listen, because much of what they're hearing is quite simply not to their liking, and, just as in relationships in the offline world, engaging with your customers or your readers in a transparent and authentic way is not all sweetness and light. So simply issuing a statement saying you're committed to listening isn't the same thing as listening. And as in any human relationship, there is a dark side to intimacy.

So, the road to social media hell is paved with well-intended hashtags -- as well as disingenuous or inauthentic ones.

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