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Social Media is dead

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Let me count the ways.

First of all, social media these days is whatever most people do online. To someone like me, it was about blogging and social bookmarking, with upstarts like Facebook and Twitter playing a secondary role. To most people these are social media with an assortment of web apps that involve interactions and scale to high heaven. Where is the line between the web and social media for most people? Once they are on Facebook and/or Twitter, it blurs beyond definition.

Secondly, social media, whatever it means to different people, at its most fundamental level is the combination of the internet architecture (i.e. a distributed network) with technology that enables individuals to publish and distribute online without the need to code and without a prior permission from an institutional authority. This, in the long run, will be as impactful as the printing press. (That said, with the rise of the super-platforms, individuals online are herded into silos, their autonomy and privacy taking a beating. But that is a different rant.)

All this has little to do with media, advertising, marketing and PR. Other than undermining them. Watching people from these industries discuss and pontificate on how to ‘do’ – read use, abuse, benefit from, exploit etc – social media is like listening to producers of leather harness for horses, carriage drivers and stable owners talk about cars and how they are going to use them blasted machines. After all, it’s all about transport. Right?!

So once more, with feeling. Social Media is dead as a driver for change. It was killed by the very people it meant to change. Ironically, just like the barbarians at the gates of Rome, they didn’t mean to kill it, they just wanted to have a part of it. But without changing themselves.

The good news is that those people (and their business models) will, eventually, be extinct. It just won’t be Social Media that does it.

Nothing to see here, move along…

Note: This rant was ‘inspired’ by one too many social media event, namely Social Media Reality Check at LSE, organised by POLIS and PRNewswire. Yep, dear reader, PRNewswire. Should have been a sufficient warning!

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15 Responses to “Social Media is dead”


  1. John
    on Mar 5th, 2010
    @ 11:35 am

    Ignore the social media “experts” and their pontifications. The world is being changed – maybe not as much as you would wish, but it is changing.


  2. Adriana
    on Mar 5th, 2010
    @ 11:48 am

    John, this is not at all about social media experts and their pontifications. It’s about the other lot.


  3. Adam Schorr
    on Mar 5th, 2010
    @ 12:53 pm

    Adriana:

    I’m not sure I get your point. Yes, to the big companies, social media is merely a vehicle for them to attain their objectives as opposed to a vehicle for liberating people from, among other things, corporate influence. But the fact remains that many people want big companies and brands to engage them through social media (and not by shouting at them via one-way messaging). The companies that try to force their own agenda through a medium that has a resistant culture to hierarchicalism are finding a fairly frosty reception. Those that are ready to deal with their consumers as peers, will do much better.

    Why is social media dead?


  4. Daniel
    on Mar 5th, 2010
    @ 14:13 pm

    Just because the “other lot” is adapting to the changing world (isn’t that changing themselves in a way?) doesn’t mean that the ‘movement’ itself is dead. It just means it won’t serve the purpose of annihilating them overnight, which isn’t a bad thing.

    I don’t think they will ever disappear, but they will continue to change. Social media is just part of the change that will lead to the obsolescence of their current methods.

    Why kill the bad guys if you can convert them to being good guys? Lay down the path and they will follow. Show them that there are better ways of achieving what they really want (and that what they really want is not always what they think they want).

    And remember that if anyone is in a position to pull it off, you are.


  5. Adriana
    on Mar 5th, 2010
    @ 14:24 pm

    Daniel, thank you for your kind words. A couple of points still. :)

    1. I don’t think the ‘other lot’ is adapting to the changing world. Hence Social media as an agent of change being dead. It’s ran out of steam, got co-opted, sold out – take your pick.
    2. I don’t think that there is any ‘movement’ – just waves of people discovering the nebulous ’social media’, to the point that it makes no sense to talk of social media anymore

    I am not suggesting killing anyone. Just observing what I see. I am not interested in social media anymore and haven’t been for some time. There are other areas far more dynamic and disruptive that have potential to do what social media failed to do.

    This post just spells out what I have known for some time. Showing ‘the bad guys’ (whoever you mean by that) better ways is not for me. I’d rather find ways for individuals to do more and more things that we can’t do now. Yet.


  6. Mark Dykeman
    on Mar 5th, 2010
    @ 16:18 pm

    If I understand your argument correctly, you are saying that social media is dead because “old” media is trying to move in and take it over whilst applying their own tried and true models, practices, etc.

    To me, that’s like saying a pool is dead because there’s a bunch of loud fiesty swimmers somewhere between the shallow and deep ends splashing, making noise, and annoying the crap out of the other swimmers. Which, from one point of view, does make a bit of sense. But only a little.

    But seriously, we all know that social media won’t die until the Web and the Internet die. I just think your argument is too simple and too focused on trying to make a particular point.


  7. Tim Musgrove
    on Mar 5th, 2010
    @ 19:44 pm

    This is a post that one has to know how to read.

    I take it that the “is Dead” predicate here has a sense similar to that of Nietzsche’s “God is Dead,” whereby he was not making a theological statement, but an anthropological statement. N meant to say that God was no more the predominate concept in society by which “man” defined his upward- or forward-moving ambition. Instead, concepts such as “The People” and “Progress” etc had taken that definitive role — according to Neitzsche. (He knew full well that churches and synagogues would go on indefinitely, and all his best expositors agree that he was not talking about God objectively at all.)

    Likewise the statement “Social Media is Dead” in this post, I take it, is not a market segment assessment, not a prediction that Facebook and Twitter apps will fade. Rather it is a pronouncement that the once high-minded purpose of social media is hopelessly lost. If we want to empower the user, it won’t be so-called social media that does it. There is a strong case to be made here.

    Indeed this is a post written “for all and for none”.


  8. mfmoline
    on Mar 5th, 2010
    @ 20:11 pm

    Don’t worry – they’ll find something else to kill. ;)


  9. Gabe Chomic
    on Mar 5th, 2010
    @ 20:17 pm

    Well-put, Adriana.

    Surprised at the confusion in your comments. My interpretation of what you say is that of social media as a defined ‘item’ (institution/entity/force/initiative/movement/catalyst) being co-opted by the mainstream of humanity and its limited technical interaction, combined with static agents (bureaucracies/companies/basically defined institutions in the academic sense.)

    In that sense, it is dead. In the sense others are thinking, that it remains something that individuals/corporates/etc have to think of, it is not. It just is no longer social media – its what is part of the interweb. Driving forces will – or will not – co-opt it and utilize to reinforce status quo or catalyze change.

    In a sense, the whole term social media is a misnomer isn’t it… being social on the web does not in itself make it ‘media’ in the corporate sense. Perhaps one great root is the failure of our language to recognize that the term media has become synonymous with far, far too much?

    By the way, A) I had no idea I was going to write that and B) I never write like that. I blame your post.


  10. Alex Romanovich
    on Mar 6th, 2010
    @ 12:31 pm

    I may agree with your thesis, however, I also think that this can be said about other marketing channels and general communications vehicles as well. Indeed, Social Media, as a medium, is nothing new at all. We’ve been ’socializing and communicating’ for thousands of years, and adapting to different forms of communications for just as long. Sign language, for example, has been used for the disabled, but also had other uses, such as military and sports. Again, adaptation is key. What we are seeing is exactly that – further development and adaptation of the medium we are so used to by now – internet. However, it is also changing the way we communicate – we are more open, more willing, and more accepting. We are experimenting with different technologies, new channels of client acquisition, and new methods of customer service. Again, Social Media is the catalyst to all of it. So, instead, I think ‘Social Media’ is just beginning, and will take different forms, engage different value chains, and bring new ways we interact as businesses and individuals.


  11. Gordon Rae
    on Mar 7th, 2010
    @ 17:30 pm

    I’m having difficulty with the “…is dead” metaphor. I’ve read your piece three times and all the things you write about are thriving and abundant. What is it that used to be alive, and isn’t anymore?

    I can see allusions to hopes that you had and changes you wanted to see, and maybe there are things you used to believe and don’t believe anymore. But I would describe those as changes that haven’t happened yet, or have happened somewhere, but not elsewhere.

    I see you describe this as a rant inspired bt a seminar at LSE. I’d like to read more about that and your responses to it.


  12. Proclaiming things “Dead” is dead :: 10,000 Words :: where journalism and technology meet
    on Nov 18th, 2010
    @ 16:00 pm

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  13. Online Media Marketing
    on Nov 19th, 2010
    @ 20:26 pm

    Social media has truly evolved. They are not just merely for connecting with other people. They have also extend to as far as using it to entice people to advertise and many more.


  14. Adriana
    on Nov 20th, 2010
    @ 23:16 pm

    Well, you just confirmed everything I said. Social media, at least at the start, was about disrupting marketing and advertising. If people from media industry see social media as something for their purposes, then it has failed. That has been my point all along.


  15. Proclaiming things "Dead" is dead - 10000Words
    on Nov 29th, 2010
    @ 21:58 pm

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