Let’s face it; Social Media, however you define it at the moment, has a bit of a “Wild West” feel to it…with peer pressure forcing everyone to sign up for Facebook and Twitter’s adoption “S” curve making Google’s look glacial, things have that feel of happening very fast – and with a myriad of players shifting the market around, people are grappling with how to get their arms around it all. Amidst all this, a lot of crazy statements, rules of thumb, and just plain weird events seem to be occurring. If you don’t know what Coconut Headphones are, check out the background in my recent posting on Top 10 Coconut Headphone Moments in SEO  (or just think in terms of tinfoil hats). Here are some things I’ve heard over the last 6 months which either can’t be substantiated, are ridiculous, or struck me as just plain bizarre.
10. “Our speaker, a social media expert, is…”
The trend is so hot that anyone who can spell “social media” is now dubbing themselves an expert  (including some that probably can’t). In reaction to this, some are taking the equally silly position that if you’ve not been in social media for years, you’re not an expert – what if you’ve been doing this for five years, but you’ve been doing it wrong for five years(!). The only way you can tell a tree is by its fruit – when evaluating an “expert”, you should find out what campaigns have they put together, what were their results, and what have they learned from them. BTW, now that I’ve written this posting, I’m not just a social media expert; I’m a “post-social-media expert”. Keep an eye on my postings though; I’m working hard to position myself as a “neo-social-media pioneer” seven years from now.
9. “The IAB hopes that all players in the Social Media space will coalesce around these metrics to encourage growth through consistency…”
The IAB, back in March, released its definitions for Social Media Ad Metrics . A number of people clearly worked very hard on this document and these definitions. A mere six months later, this document is rapidly becoming out of date (try searching it for the word ‘followers’). One metric it mentions, “Number of Links to Conversation Relevant Posts on the Site”, may no longer have as much significance because Twitter recently started marking links with “nofollow” . “But wait!!!”…you may say…“Didn’t Matt Cutts confirm a few months ago that ‘nofollow’ may, or may not actually be, ‘followed’?” (some great confirmation there, huh?) Anyway, you get the idea – things are moving around so fast it’s difficult to get it to hold still long enough even to define metrics around it.
8. China is India’s India – is Twitter Google’s Google?
It’s ironic that Microsoft spent much of its corporate career strategizing against IBM, the only company Bill Gates perceived as having the resources to threaten them (IBM was the largest software company in the world, I think they’ve been #2 for a long time now). Google appears to be going down the same path of being preoccupied, but in their case with Microsoft (arguably the only company with the cashflow to support the infrastructure critical to keeping in the search game against Google). But just as Google came out of nowhere to threaten Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook seem to be coming out of the left field that is social media – disturbing the game and keeping all of this interesting.
7. Fake Martina Sirtis on Twitter.
I am a huge Trekkie, and when I got on Twitter, I started following LeVar Burton, Brent Spiner, and Wil Wheaton . Eventually I noticed Wil was following Martina Sirtis, so I followed her, and diligently read her tweets on what she had for breakfast, when she had to head out for Pilates – really insightful stuff. A few weeks later, Wil (now ‘Verified’ by Twitter) fessed up that he had totally made up Martina’s profile himself (I think he said he was trying to “shame her into using Twitter”). It looks like Wil is still following Brent Spiner (not Verified), but oddly is not following LeVar Burton (Verified) now; I hope everything is OK on that front (LeVar appears to be following Wil though).
6. “This new startup is a social networking site for [doctors/lawyers/families/elderly/….]”
Fortunately, due to the economic downturn, the collapse of VC funding availability, and startups going into TechCrunch’s deadpool  left and right, we’re not seeing many of these announcements anymore. If you’ve got entrepreneurial blood in your veins though, take heart – I don’t think anyone has done a social networking site for lumberjacks yet.
5. People breaking up on Facebook.
I know people who have found out their girlfriends have broken up with them by noticing they’ve been “de-friended” on Facebook. Some of these folks are old enough to remember seeing moon landings live on TV – is this really supposed to be progress?
4. “New startup provides real-time social media search”
Real-time search is interesting from a news standpoint (I’ve searched Twitter after LA quakes to see if anyone else felt it), but its value is highly overblown, and there are way too many startups chasing this problem. Didn’t anyone notice when Twitter bought Summize? Does the world really need OneRiot, SocialMention, TweetMeme, TweetTabs, and Scoopler when you can now just search Twitter on Twitter itself?
3. Studies that put a dollar amount on workers time wasted on social networking.
There have been a number of these studies published over the last year, but what none of them do is to put a dollar amount on how much less companies are losing because their workers are making fewer personal phone calls, or how much more companies are making because their sales people are finding or communicating with prospects via a social networking site. This reminds me of when people talk about data center efficiency  in terms of energy used or carbon produced, while ignoring all the driving and flying around to obtain information which is being displaced by people who instead are using data center resources to support their searching or videoconferencing efforts. Or when people talk about how “green” electric cars are going to be without realizing that the electricity might actually have to come from somewhere!
2. Being told by my teenager that I have inappropriate followers on Twitter.
OK, I admit it, I only go into Twitter about twice a week or so – now that there is a lot of spam going on, going in daily is becoming essential. My son recently started following me, and he said “Whoah, Dad – some of your followers are really inappropriate”. I went in there and about fell out of my chair – obviously a couple of spammers had started following me, and their icons, names, and profiles were not safe for work, home, or just about anything else! Aren’t I supposed to be the one telling my teenage son he has inappropriate followers and to get his act together?!?
1. People seem to think Twitter is something new.
Kudos to Twitter for making it so focused and easy, but this type of thing has been around for decades; IRC chat rooms, Compuserve Forums…but the original was Dartmouth’s Time Sharing System ’s chat feature created back in the 1960’s, created by the co-inventors of BASIC, Thomas Kurtz  and John Kemeny  (who also worked on the bomb under Richard Feynman, as one of the human components of Feynman’s early punch-card-based dataflow computer made up of multiple IBM tabulators). I had the pleasure of taking classes from both gentlemen back in the 80’s, and one of my classmates asked Professor Kurtz what he thought of the Chat feature they had created, because many Dartmouth students at the time were spending a lot of time using it. Kurtz responded “we thought people would use it for very scholarly discussion and debate on a wide variety of important academic issues, but as it turned out, people just use it because they want to get a date”. Truer words were never spoken.
- The Messianic Character of Google Instant  - September 15, 2010
- Why Carly Simon Was Waiting For Me Last Night  - August 23, 2010
- Question Authority  - May 11, 2010
- A Real-Time Improvement to Google Real-Time Search?  - December 15, 2009
- Google Insights for Search: Holiday Season Could Be Rough  - November 24, 2009
- How Google’s Content Network Is Like John D. Rockefeller  - September 22, 2009
- Top 10 Coconut Headphone Moments in Social Media  - September 1, 2009
- Viral Intellectual Property In The Yahoo/Microsoft Deal?  - August 12, 2009
- Top 10 Coconut Headphone Moments in SEM  - July 15, 2009
- Top 10 Coconut Headphone Moments in SEO  - May 27, 2009