When the first social network started gathering some clout, I thought my life as a marketer was going to change completely. I believed with fervour in the age of conversation between brands and people. I enjoyed going to conferences and telling brand managers that they could no longer patronise their audiences with TVC served in unskippable formats. Brands would need to change, brands would need to start being democratic, brands and consumers were equal.
At that time I wasn’t even thinking about the impact of social networks on my life as person. I shared vociferously and always, woke up earlier than anyone to be the first to get the scoop of what had been shared by others over night, replied to all comments and thrived as my “community” itself grew.
Fast forward to me today.
My life consists of long meetings where I need to explain that content that we want to create just does not reach people any more. That, actually, we need to make “TVCs”, short, video pieces, playable without any sound and pay for them to make any connection with our consumers. There is no conversation. There is only impressions and the ever dwindling value of the creative product and, here and there, the sense that we have zero control over what happens. Video views are not real, measurements are not validated by an independent source, best practice is defined by what adds value to the shareholders not to the brands.
On a personal side, I have stopped sharing. As people around me moved from being enthusiastic about finding common interests and learning from others to narcissistically droning on about their lives, holidays and kids, I found little value in sharing. Selfies got me more likes than any considered comment I made on an issue of the day. My thoughts were irrelevant. People simply wanted to mark their presence in my “community” by the littlest of gestures: we like your face.
And then the politics and the misinformation kicked in. Slowly, the echo chamber became more and more apparent. At first it was great to always be surrounded by people who agreed with you. But then we went out into the streets to protests the issue of the day and found ourselves a handful of shivering idiots, way less than the “attending” number on the event had suggested we would be. I kept waking up to bad news despite the fact that the whole world seemed to be agreeing with my position. Somewhere in the background the algorithms allowed the idea of expert opinions, considered attitude and even truth to blend into a sea of grey.
Today, I need to re-start living objectively and proactively. I need to start building up strategies that put my clients’ brand first and give them back control over their data, their voice and their stories. I also need to start thinking of ways to make my opinions matter in the real world. All this means that I need to go out of social networks and see what else is out there and try to build ecosystems that rely on more than the oligopolistic power of a handful of platforms.