Scott Stratten is the president of UnMarketing, an Oakville, Ont.-based agency. He is an expert in viral, social and authentic marketing, which he calls “Un-Marketing.”
He’s also the author of several books, including Unmarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging and QR Codes Kill Kittens. This is an excerpt from his upcoming book, UnSelling: The New Customer Experience, due out Sept 29, 2014.
The term social is a pretty basic one. It means the interaction between people. That’s it. Remember when you fled to the basement during family gatherings and your mom would come downstairs and ask you to come up and “be social”?
That’s all I’ve ever asked of people who use social media: Just be social.
Come up for a bit, show your face, and talk to the company that’s come to visit.
I’ve been screaming out against automation and scheduling in social since 2008. I’ve been singing the same song for more than six years, which is how I assume Lynyrd Skynyrd feels like every time people yell out “Freebird!” from the crowd—only slightly less cool.
Success in social has always been simple. If you wanted to use social media, just show up and be social.
Somewhere along the way, we made it okay to have a presence online without actually being present. On Twitter, for example, we went from a site filled with people there because they wanted to connect with other like-minded users to people there because they “had to.” With more and more users, the possibility of profiting from connections changed the very nature of what made the site great. Now Twitter was too big to ignore. We had to get our message, our content and our products in front of all those eyes. It was time to scale it, grow it, blast it.
Along came scheduling software, and I screamed about how bad it was for Twitter. People screamed back, and it was a party!
Then the hybrid schedulers came out. They were a kinder, gentler scheduler.
“Yes,” they’d say, “we schedule, but we also have notifications set up, so if someone replies to the scheduled tweet, we see it, and reply! Ta-da! Automated engagement! Take that, Stratten!”
This was where the last nail in the coffin happened for me on Twitter in my hopes it would ever go back to a wonderful place to network. You see, the problem with this fantasy of scheduling yet listening for your name is the exact thing that is bringing down social media. You’re only listening when someone calls your name. Social, especially Twitter, cannot survive on selfish social practices. Social is give and take: I listen to you; you listen to me. It’s not just about replying. It’s about replying and connecting when the original message wasn’t directed only at you.
You can’t just sit in the basement and wait for people to call your name to engage. You need to be replying to conversations that aren’t just about you.
Twitter is imploding as a conversational site. Brands listen only for their name, and people automate Facebook and Instagram posts, because heck, the world needs to see your smoothie pics—and they need to see them on every platform possible. I’ve seen a lot of the big players on Twitter fall into this trap. And one of the worst culprits was me.
Yep. Yours truly, the preacher of the conversation, the most popular Canadian if it wasn’t for Bieber on Twitter. I realized I had become exactly what I hated. I preached on stage and in previous books that Twitter was a conversation, not a dictation, trumpeting my “80% of my tweets are replies!” to everyone who would listen…but there was a catch.
I’ve tweeted more than 100,000 times, meaning 80,000+ have been replies, but there were two types: active replies and reactive replies. Active replies were what I did in the beginning: seeking out tweets in the main feed of others and replying to them. They weren’t directed at me specifically, just 140 characters put out into the cyber system, yearning for a reply. That’s how Twitter was built. Someone tweeted something, and we replied! Reactive replies are what I did once I became “popular.” I looked only at my “@ replies” column, and replied to only those that spoke directly to me.
My intentions were good, for the most part. I didn’t want to miss a tweet someone directed at me. I had written multiple books about being social, and I’d be dammed if I was going to miss a tweet from a reader, since half the time they’d send me a tweet to see if I would walk my talk, like I was some sort of dancing monkey on the pier working for nickels. I didn’t check my following feed, because I was busy! Sheesh! But that’s the problem. Have you ever met that person at a function who talked only about themselves? Ya, that’s me. And you. And anyone who replies only when replied to.
I still don’t understand scheduling tweets at all. I know your justifications for it: You have multiple accounts, you have something that has to go out, and you may be busy, blah, blah. But I ask you this: What is so important that it must go out at a specific time but not important enough for you to be there to send it?
Social works only when we interact with one another. The downfall of social is real and it’s happening, and that’s sad that I, and some of you, weren’t listening to hear it when it started. Let’s turn it around.
Excerpted with permission of the publisher, Wiley, from UnSelling: The New Customer Experience by Scott Stratten and Alison Kramer. Copyright (c) 2014 by Scott Stratten. All rights reserved. This book is available at all bookstores and online booksellers.