Maybe stop telling me to “join the conversation” on social media

Please stop telling me to "join the conversation"

At the broadest level, I’d say I’m a pretty social media-savvy person. I don’t really use Vine and barely share to Instagram, but I do all the other major shit — and I’ve done it as a job for a few companies along the way too. I generally understand the medium and the idea behind it. I even write about it sometimes.

Been thinking recently about how social media marketing — which has a whole host of other problems around tracking and revenue ties — tends to structure their plea for you to like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter/Instagram/etc. as “… join the conversation.”

I’d say “join the conversation” is No. 1, and 1A or No. 2 is “… don’t miss out” (which plays on the broader idea of FOMO). In reality, none of this matters that much. Organic reach is declining to the point where something your brand posts might be seen by about 6% of the people who’ve “liked” your page. Facebook is def. a pay-to-play space. Don’t even get me started on Twitter; the shelf life of a tweet over there has been tagged as 18 minutes, but often it feels like 18 seconds is more realistic.

So maybe the approach to getting someone to like your page or follow you doesn’t matter that much, but still … it’s interesting how brands are always telling me to “join the conversation.” Maybe I don’t want to. 

Think about this: we live in a time period where everyone is super fucking busy all the time. Managers don’t even feel like they have the time to respect their employees (pretty basic human emotional condition, no?). Everyone’s drowning in daily deliverables.

So … who has the time to join a conversation with Clorox or Time Magazine or some other brand?

Also, the term “join a conversation” makes me want to punch myself in the nuts for a second reason: most brands on social media aren’t a conversation. They tend to share links and content — content marketing is all the rage, baby! — and about 3/4 of the time, they have “neutral” interactions. It’s not really about organic dialogue, usually. It’s about up-selling or chasing likes.

Personal sidebar here: I ran an education vertical on social (God, that sentence made me sound like a d-bag) for PBS in 2011 or so. I used to have FB posts like, “What does ‘education’ mean to you?” They would create an actual conversation — 200 comments, etc. sometimes — and I ultimately got reprimanded and told, “Maybe that’s not what we should be doing in that space…” Basically, my boss was benchmarking to competitors. That’s always a sound strategy, right?

So no, I don’t want to join the conversation. I don’t want to click a button and see 10 percent of your posts and have you sell me stuff. I don’t want you to send me to a website that’s not transparent at all.

I want to have an actual conversation around the things I care about and the reasons I clicked your button. Is that too much to ask?

Ted Bauer