Why does marketing seem to ruin every new communication tool? President Obama is in hot water today with the Twitterverse for sending repeated tweets urging that followers put pressure on their legislators over the budget impasse. Mashable reports his account lost 36,000+ followers. As more and more people flock to Twitter (yes, pun definitely intended) the fundamental idea that people could interact in 140 characters has been lost. Instead, we’re inundated with blast tweets designed to push products and services, and, in this case, win an election.
First came junk mail delivered by the US Postal Service, so we developed industry databases so we could be removed from the mailing lists.
Almost forgotten is former First Lady, Ladybird Johnson’s campaign to control the proliferation of highway billboards back in the 1960s.
Then telemarketers moved onto our phone lines, so we developed the National Do Not Call Registry.
Then came email and internet spam, so the techies developed anti-spam filters.
Now it’s social media’s turn.
Every single day I am spammed on Twitter with people sending me @ messages who follow no one, have no followers, yet have already sent out hundreds of tweets. Then there’s the tweets with nothing more than a link and crammed with hashtags that have no relevance to the link itself, and the tweeter that sends out the same tweet pushing their company every hour on the hour.
Enough already! If you walked up to someone you’d never met, would you instantly start pushing your product or services without even saying, “hello?” Of all the companies or public figures I’ve run into online through social media, I can name a grand total of three – three – that have interacted with me as a customer as social media was intended to be: Cision (@Cision), the Chicago Tribune’s Col. Tribune (@Col. Tribune on Twitter), and opera singer and Britian’s Got Talent winner Paul Potts. The rest? Forget it.
If everyone is talking, where’s the conversation? The constant din from marketers defeats the purpose. Instead of engaging customers, it’s driving us further away. We’re tuning out just as fast as we can. I can spot a robo-tweet miles away, and am becoming ruthless in blocking and marking spammers with Twitter so (hopefully) they can be removed. But as time goes by it only gets worse.
Just because you can utilize a communication tool, it doesn’t mean you should. As Deidre Breckenridge says in her latest book, it’s time we put “the public back into public relations.”
If we don’t rein ourselves in, we’re going to ruin yet another communication tool. Tweeter ID, anyone?