Do Commerce and Social Media Principles Conflict?


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Q: Do you think there are fundamental conflicts between the principles and spirit of social media, and doing business/commerce?

Robert: No question. It puzzles me that we haven’t heard more people talking about this. It’s a huge “thing”.

Q: How so?

Robert: Ok. Here’s away to think through this. A starting point. Take a look at the major social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn? On the surface of it, considering the rules and procedures of these platforms, would you say they were set up to support community and communication for individuals so they could interact, or do you think they support or were created with the intent of supporting businesses?

Q: I guess I’d say that given the rules, how people are supposed to invite each other and the general structures, they seem more oriented to the “social” concept, rather than business needs.

Robert: Exactly. Whatever the business needs of the owners, it’s pretty clear these were created to meet genuine person to person social needs. At least originally.

Q: Ok, so how does all this conflict, then?

Robert: To some degree communicating in social media is one-2-one but there’s a capability to go from one-2-many. It’s the latter that attracts businesses. The key word for business is scalability. If a business can communicate with lots of people and do so cheaply or easily that’s what they want. However, the original procedures for getting friends and followers makes this scalability hard for business, because you have to invite one by one, or start breaking rules or the spirit or rules. Same issues for the content you send.

For example, Twitter frowns on sending the same message over again and again, while businesses want to do that to some degree because they realize most people, even followers won’t see each tweet. Twitter does not allow a lot of automation of sending tweets for obvious reasons, but from the perspective of businesses, automation is THE key to scalability.

You’ll find the same or similar issues on other platforms. There are some tough conundrums here.

  • Social media has attracted so many individuals because of its spirit, fun and usefulness, but they are NOT there to be “commerced at”.
  • In order for these platforms to work out as businesses they have to produce revenue, and the only way to do that is somehow to cater to the needs of businesses, at least enough so that businesses will spend their ad and promotional money by giving it to Facebook, Twitter…whatever the platform. The only other option for survival is a fee based service. Can you imagine a fee based Twitter?
  • By catering to business, one creates a fundamental conflict. Both the goals and effective methods relevant to business are simply not the same as those by regular users.

Q: So, can you summarize the issue, or issues for business?

Robert: Yes. Almost every business has to deal with how to reach the most people with the right message and in the most effective, cost efficient way. If you use scalable methods, you start to use social media as any other one way communication approach — a broadcast medium. If you don’t use scalable methods you work one person by one person, and that’s resource intensive. How you balance of the two is probably doing to determine how successful you are, but the truth is we simply don’t know enough about how to make it all work yet.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Robert Bacal
Robert began his career as an educator and trainer at the age of twenty (which is over 30 years ago!), as a teaching assistant at Concordia University. Since then he as trained teachers for the college and high school level, taught at several universities and trained thousands of employees and managers in customer service, conflict management and performance appraisal and performance management skills.


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