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Putting the "Social" in Social Media


Perhaps you've the seen the signs? Various advertising billboards around town have sprouted-up, attempting to make a connection with a static object and a live social media account. This is a product of Adams Outdoor Advertising Company, and they even have a web site devoted to it. Here they tout one of their more pronounced billboard messages: 'Our first tweet was hand-painted.' They go on to explain how they come to equate their business with that of social media:
Inherently social and used to reach large groups of people to share information, outdoor advertising is not unlike today’s definition of social media. A billboard conversation can stir debate and emotion with its content and physical presence in a community.
Sorry, but I'm not buying it (both literally and figuratively). A static billboard and a tweet or status update within a live social network are two rather different things. In fact, to equate the two would seem to miss the point of what social media is all about, and that is immediacy. It is interaction. It is not staring at a sign and then maybe saying, "Hmm, perhaps I'll talk about this with someone later on." Or, "Maybe I'll give the business a call." No. That is not equivalent to social media.

This brings up another issue, that of not fully utilizing the capabilities and true nature of a social media platform. Spend enough time on, say, Twitter, and you'll notice accounts that are active, yet failing. I've attempted a few that fall within this category, lest someone think that I'm simply pointing fingers. You'll find the account of a political campaign that, yes, publishes tweets, but follows zero people, and interacts with no one. Or the celebrity that basically sends-out tweets as if they were bullhorn messages, yet very rarely interacts with their fans. How is this being "social?"

There is something to be said for the immediacy of a Facebook or a Twitter, of posting something -- be it our own musings or a picture of a kitten in a top hat -- and having folks (some of whom we've never met) respond to it. We can chat, in real time, about a subject. Someone 'follows' us, and we follow them in return. We share our lives (to an extent). In other words: we socialize. Sorry, Adams, but a billboard just doesn't accomplish that.

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