Are You Contributing to Social Media's Ugly Side?

Social media has an ugly side that you may not know you're contributing to. 

I recently read an article by Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media about the 3 things they don't tell you about social media.

I want to elaborate on Andy's article.

His writing does cover a this but with a snarky slant that I found a little difficult to understand—and I'm fluent in both snark and sarcasm. 

I wanted to spell my antidotes out for you without needing a snark translator since these are things that small businesses need to know about social media. 

 Are you contributing to social media's dark side? 

Andy's Dark Truth #1: People Share Without Reading

This is true.

A salacious headline will get shared faster than the speed of light (speed of light statistic not confirmed). This practice has recently changed the world in significant ways.

I guarantee that you've seen this happen on your timelines.

As a matter of fact, you may have accidentally done this yourself; over-zealously sharing a compelling title that matches a point of view that you agree with. 

This kind of share is a very easy way to "stay involved" and "support others."

But you're not actually staying involved or supporting someone when you do it without actually reading their content.

It's SO easy to assume that article matches your beliefs. Except they don't always deliver.

 Stephen Colbert and kittens

The blog post could be confessing that a steady diet of juicy baby kittens is the key to eternal youth—and you would have just endorsed it. 

Of course you would instantly backtrack and say "Whoa, that was a mistake, no one would endorse eating baby kittens! Sorry about that, fanbase."

But in the same breath with that apology you're also admitting to them that you share information with out validating for them first.

Can you imagine if your doctors did this?

Bad, internet. Bad. 

People do this with the best of intentions. People WANT to support others as colleauges, friends, and fans. I get it. It's just irresponsible. 

Antidote #1: Read before you share

Read the article first. I know, it's really a mind blowing revelation. But we've turned into a society that chooses not to read first. That's not cool.

When you comment or share... write something that has some kind of engagement cue so others know what to do.

Take a moment to ask a relevant question or call a post out to a relevant crowd of people.

Social media is supposed to be social—get back to those roots.

[BONUS]: You learn things this way. I'm not being snarky in the least. There's a trend (which I'm sure you've all noticed) that people write for readers who scan. It's a necessary evil.

But there are also authors who write to educate you (like those at Orbit Media). You can learn a staggering amount of information if you just invest a little time in reading. 

Andy's Dark Truth #2: A lot of Social Media is Automated

People know that to get a good size following you have to ask for follows and shares. 

 Getting social media follows the easy way

But growing a good sized following it's a total snoozefest. And it's time consuming.

There are shiny tempting auto-follow tools that you can set up to ask someone you followed, to follow you back.  

If you ask me, it's kind of a gross practice and fairly insincere (Andy's got a lot to say about it here).

People abuse auto-follow tools to rack up huge numbers of followers to make them seem popular and legit.

There are rules against it that can result in your account being suspended. 

Confused about what auto-following or buying followers is? Hootsuite did some undercover auto-follow work for you and you can read more about their experience here.

It's an enlightening read for those who are curious but also don't want to chance getting their account suspended. The tale of auto-commenting is hilariously awkward.

If you hadn't caught on yet, you'll start to recognize auto-follow spam comments on your own posts.

Why do people do this? Shortcuts.

Hacking a long-game system always sounds good in theory but it never pays out in the end.  

Isn't that kind of insincerity one of the most annoying thing about the internet (aside from humble brags and trolls)?     

Antidote #2: There is no shortcut for authenticity

Follow people who you genuinely are interested in or feel that you can learn from. If you follow people in your target market use it as a place to understand their pains . 

Reach out when someone experiences a problem and help solve it. Or have a human reaction to it other than an emoji.

Do this without the expectation of them becoming a customer or partner. 

People will follow back. Because they're people. Anything other than a person is useless.

[BONUS]: There's a downloadable PDF at the end of Hootsuite's article on how to get a huge organic Instagram following. 

Andy's Dark Secret #3: Social Media is Completely Optional

It's true.

You don't REALLY need social media. (You also don't REALLY need a car to get by in life—but they sure make things easier.)

Antidote #3: Set it and forget it

This will be the only time I tell you this, and I'll be honest, I probably wouldn't have agreed with Andy until I read his article (see Antidote #1). 

 Bad social media

If the thought of being on social media makes your skin crawl and you just can't make yourself feel human—then you're better off just setting up your account and notifying people how to reach you via your website (or your preferred point of contact).

Why bother going through the process if you aren't going to use it? 

In a word, "Rankings."

Andy says, "Social media profiles often rank high in search engines." 

When you claim your name on that network you get SEO cred even if you aren't active on it. And if you ever do decide to go ahead with social media, it's all set up and ready to go.

I've done with Projected Design. I still accept presentation work, but I don't have the time to write for it and I hate looking like I might have closed my business without taking the site down.

I think this is a great option. 

[BONUS]: Just having a "gone fishin'" presence frees you from the guilt that you HAVE to do something on social media. And we all know that small business owners have some level of I-HAVE-to-do-the-soical-medias. Free your self.

Real results require being a real person 

It's that simple. No one ever said simple was easy. If it was everyone would do it.

@@Stand out, be real. Be you. Take your time. This isn't a race.@@ 

Will social media help your small business? Absolutely. If you do it right social media can help you establish credibility, a brand voice, and help you engage with your people.

But if you can't do it right, you're better off not doing it at all.

Definitely go over and read Orbit Media's original article 3 Things They Don't Tell You About Social Media. Not only is it a great read but you'll learn some nitty gritty things that I didn't touch on here. 

But whatever you do... don't just click-n-share. 


Know any other sketchy practices to stay away from? 

I'd love to hear them. 

Leave a comment below, or reach me on Twitter @igcdesign.


If you liked this article, you might also be interested in:

Have any questions? 

IN GOOD COMPANY DESIGN is a design shop that helps small & local businesses grow through recharged branding and easy-to-use Squarespace websites launched in 2-weeks.

Get hand-in-hand guidance and working with your dream clients today.


Cindy Caughey

In Good Company Design, Barnstable, MA