The Perils of Social Advertising

7 Mar

At first glance, social networks such as Facebook are made for advertising, a chance to tell others about what you’re doing, but, really, it’s for networking, not advertising, a subtly different thing. Advertising is essentially a one-way street in which you tell others something; networking is a two-way communication, feeding both ways, and not just in the sense that you can each tell each other things, but in that the people you are communicating with can feedback, ask questions, comment, etc – and, indeed, can communicate with each other. This doubtless has its advantages, if you’re suited to it, with the time, the social skills and the technical knowhow to use it to its full. If however, like me, those elements aren’t your best traits, you may well find communicating through a social network is a rather fraught process.
There are a few innate issues with social media that can catch the less socially adroit of us out. It is a very much an immediate forum. Of course, it is possible to knock out a blog post on the fly and hit ‘post’ and have it online before you’ve really thought about it, but it’s not innate to the format. Yes, you can check a Facebook comment before you post it, but such a comment is more like, well, a comment, something throwaway, whereas a blog post is more like a lecture and, as a result, encourages more attention, reading and rewriting to get it right. It’s not immediate, in the way a social network is, and less prone to the sort of ‘shoot first, think later’ or poorly-worded errors of judgement a quickly-fired-off Facebook post is.
That immediacy also works the other way around. Many blog posts may be reactions to something else (whether the comments on another person’s blog, a news story or a review), but there is no pressure for an immediate response, and they are usually written purely out of choice rather than as a response to a question or comment appearing in your feed. Again, you’re not (usually) posting a quick comment, but something more substantial, and can take your time to build your argument and choose the best words. On Facebook, there is a pressure to respond quickly and briefly to other people’s posts – indeed, I’ve found you can be attacked for a tardy response and that other people may weigh-in in your absence, aggravating a situation. But, as the old saying runs, “Act in haste, repent at leisure,” especially when you’re reply is a quick sound-bite rather than a reasoned response.
Another problem is that social networking is a dialogue, not a monologue. (Of course, you can ignore comments, but that rudeness will cause a whole set of other problems, and, unlike moderating the comments on your blog, comments and questions can be seen by everyone from the moment they are up, with all the embarrassment and potential for other people to wade in that entails.) People will ask questions and make suggestions and criticise you and that leads us to another issue.
We all know that writing comes without subtext; the nuances of tone, posture and expression that can help you navigate other people’s feelings. We know this and, yet, perhaps because emoticons give a false sense of flagging emotion, people often seem to forget this when commenting. Indeed, social media is a lot more like having a conversation, only without the benefit of being able to assess someone’s feelings before you speak or immediately upon commenting, which would allow a chance to apologise or clarify before harm is done.
In such a way, I recently reacted testily to what, with hindsight, I’m sure was a sincerely-intended request, because the request was presented baldly, without any please, thanks or other such indication, and seemed snarky at the time. Naturally, my testy reply doubtless seemed ruder than intended and things began to degenerate from there. At least, I had the sense to see where the conversation was going and shut it down, albeit belatedly and, for all I know, potentially causing further offence, rather than bumbling on as I very nearly did. With a little more awareness, I could have avoided blundering in the first place.
Had the query come in an email in response to something on here or my website, I wouldn’t have answered immediately. I would have given it some thought, choosing the best words and how to frame them. Knowing that I was in a testy mood, I would have deferred responding until I was feeling less so. And, had my response been unsatisfactory, they could have tackled me on it in a further email without it becoming a public spat or dragging other people in.
Which, on the whole, leaves me feeling disinclined to promote myself as much on Facebook as I have in the past. A quick post, intended as a heads-up can lead to unfortunate consequences if you don’t provide the information people want, fail to respond to queries or make a bad decision when responding. Better, perhaps, to reduce the flow of information and ensure that a few well-timed posts go out when you’re able to properly respond and provide all the details people might want. Hopefully, that will prove less annoying and stressful for everyone, including me.


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