I’m Done Calling It Social "Media"

This is a follow up to yesterday’s post about Morton’s use of twitter. As Aaron and Angela both correctly point out in the comments, this sort of behavior devalues Twitter as a communication tool. I want to stop referring to Twitter and like-tools as “media” because media doesn’t even begin to cover what it does.

Here’s the thing, comparing online communication tools using a term that has nothing to do with two-way communication automatically invites people, in this case marketing people, to view the tool in the same way they view radio, print and television, as a place to get a message out to people who will consume the message.

As @michaelramm pointed out to me today on Twitter, yes you can use Twitter to pass along information to a large group of people, but it’s also much more than that. It’s also a terrific networking tool, allowing people to connect and share information and ideas on a one-to-one basis. That’s the thing that differentiates not just Twitter, but the internet as a whole. It’s not just about consuming information, it’s a true marketplace. It’s a large, never ending, networking event, if you like.

Let’s take that metaphor and understand why all these “retweet to win a prize” gimmicks are just that, gimmicky. Let’s say we are all at one large networking event, where you have to option to make as many connections as you can, and speak with all of them simultaneously. Sure, the event has sponsers, and you’ll probably have to listen to a few words from each of them. Some of the folks in attendance are also working in sales, and want the opportunity to talk to you about their product. You, of course, have the option to say no, that product isn’t really a fit for me, and you each move on. Certainly the people you have made connections with may find a product, or person that can be useful for you, so they pass along that information, doing great word of mouth marketing because they have had a good experience.

All of these things go on at networking events, and online, everyday. I have no problem with any of it. However, do you ever see anyone walking around a networking event and starting every conversation with “I’m trying to win a contest, so let me mention the name of a company you dont care at all about, just because they might give me a prize!”

You wouldn’t stand for it. It’s bad form on two fronts, one for the company in question, the other for the person doing the retweeting.

The company in question isn’t asking people they have a relationship with to help spread the word about their product based on their own good experience, they are asking people who know nothing about them, to talk about them online in exchange for “payment” in the form of contest entries. It tells me that you aren’t generating enough word of mouth, so you’re resporting to a gimmick. It makes me wonder why you have to resort to this instead of encouraging people to talk about their own experience with you. Maybe it’s because no one actually has had a good experience? On top of that, you’re asking people to annoy their friends, is annoyance really the way you want me to remember your name? Surely a company like Morton’s doesn’t need to resort to this, and surely a company like Fahlgren Mortine, who in my interctions with folks who work there do actually seem to get social networking sites like Twitter, can do better.

The second, and more aggravating, front for me are all the people who continue to go along with this kind of thing, which I will explain in more detail in the next post.

Tags: Twitter, MortonsColumbus, FahlgrenMortine, Networking

Similar Posts


  1. Mike, I’m sorry you are so frustrated about the #MVDAY Twitter contest. We appreciate you sharing your feedback and will consider your views when planning future promotions and contests. For example, we’ll likely set a cap on future Twitter campaigns so that there’s less repetitive noise in the Twitterstream.

    Twitter habits vary, and perhaps some folks have taken the contest to the extreme. Clearly, any Twitter user who does that is running the risk of losing followers. That said, many local Tweeps are having a good time with the contest and showing creativity and flair with their Tweets. It’s not all just “clutter.”

    We never intended to anger anyone, merely to provide a fun opportunity for people to win a very cool prize by doing what they already like to do. The folks at Morton’s Columbus look forward to forging relationships on Twitter and, once the contest is over, future communications from the @Mortons_Cols Twitter account will be based around grilling tips, recipes, news about upcoming events and more.

  2. Lara, thanks for coming by and engaging in the topic. I do appreciate and respect that.

    In terms of my specific problem, not that I didn’t spend paragraphs above describing it, but it boils down to looking at the campaign and realizing that it’s asking people to behave in a way they would never behave in any other venue. To take it to the “real life” example, at any event where they were sponsoring, or had a booth, you would never ask people to walk around the rest of the conference talking about your company in order to win a prize. No one would look kindly on that. You might run a contest where people simply entered by giving you their business card. (On Twitter, would that be followers?). The marketing relationship is between the individual and the company, there’s no request to drag any and everyone into the interaction. Just because Twitter is “new” doesn’t mean those sort of rules shouldn’t apply. That’s the fundamental issue to me, not the number of times someone does it, that I see it or how “creative” it may be. (Though certainly the near constant Morton’s tweets by some individuals has pushed me to do some unfollowing)

    To some extent that’s why I’m more aggravated with the twitter users who do the “retweeting” or whatever the case may be. None of these people would email all their friends, call all their friends, or treat them in person the same way. For some reason the “ease” of twittering, and perhaps the “It’s just 140 characters” nature of it causes many to not think about how it comes across to their followers, not to mention people who are skeptical about the use of Twitter as a networking tool. I already spend so much time trying to overcome the “I don’t care about what you had for lunch” anti-twitter attitude by talking about the personal connection and comparing it to the things you talk to people you know in meatspace, this sort of behavior is completely indefensible in that context. It’s not personal, it’s not informative, and it’s not even entertaining. It’s the equivalent, like I said, of someone walking up to you and saying “I want a prize!”

    Would Morton’s really encourage their customers to do that?

  3. I can see where you’re coming from. I guess I can’t think of a real-world example that mirrors this contest exactly – Twitter is so unique, there’s not much like it anywhere else. What about radio stations giving out bumper stickers with their station ID and you have to drive around with that on your car in order to potentially win a prize? Perhaps some people are incredibly annoyed by those bumper stickers, who knows.

    I wouldn’t recommend that Morton’s or any company do a Twitter contest like this as a long-term/ongoing strategy, but as a one-time contest I still can’t see the harm. I have a feeling that the lucky person who wins will ultimately see it as worth potentially annoying or even losing a few followers.

    Like you though, I have definitely had marketing campaigns rub me the wrong way. For example, I can’t stand those initiatives where you give up ten friends’ email addresses in exchange for some kind of prize/gift. To me, that is like selling out your friends. I think that’s way worse than temporarily Tweeting contest entries ad nauseum. But that’s just me!

  4. See I think this may be the problem, I don’t think Twitter is unique. The technology behind it is to some degree, though it’s really a mesh of other existing technologies put together in a new and interesting way, but the at it’s core it’s a communications tool. I don’t find it all that unique in that sense. More powerful, yes, but not altogether different. Thus, I think the same rules of appropriate ways to communicate carry over into the twittersphere, and since I can’t think of any other communications channel where this would be appropriate, I don’t understand why people feel it is here.

    BTW, your example of a car with a bumper sticker is pretty good, but I would go with a t-shirt as my example because the communication is personal, and interactive. You don’t really interact with a random car on the road. That being said, even if a friend wore a radio station t-shirt, it’s a passive communication, not an active one. You see the shirt, and that’s it. It isn’t constantly being pointed out to you.

    Of course, obviously other people feel differently, but I doubt they would if this practice grows very much.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.