I saw this Tweet that reminded me of how deeply in the echo chamber I am. I had forgotten that most people haven’t spent 5+ years in the trenches of social media advertising and might not consider that most brand accounts (and many of the people “present” on these platforms) are fully scheduled, automated, and only looked at once a day.

This is why most social sites, Twitter especially, has always felt like “shouting into the void” for me. You’re pushing content out to a bunch of bots, automated posts, and the occasional bored/drunk scroller. Not exactly a captive audience for expressing yourself and a big challenge for building truly engaged communities.

That moment when you start to wonder if the average user realizes most other users are just robots shouting into the void.

I recently deleted my personal social accounts (as best I could), leaving only brand accounts and the Facebook account I never use (but am hog-tied into keeping in order to manage my business accounts).

I always thrashed against automating my personal accounts as I would a business presence but it took too much time and mental energy to keep them alive (among thousands of other strikes against the platform, but that’s a tune for another day), so I got rid of what I could.

There are two types of people on most social sites–the consumers and the creators.

There is some overlap, most consumers create a bit of their own personal content to share, and even the busiest creator will get caught up scrolling sometimes…but the basic use case for these two people is vastly different.

The consumer spends more time scrolling and consuming other people’s content when they’re on social. They post sometimes to show off their life to their friends and family, but it’s personal and human and they’re loading it in right from the app as it happens (or later in the “latergram” style). They spend real time engaging and hanging out on the platform. This is the type of content social media sites claim they are built for and full of.

The creator uses social media like it’s their job (and it might be). They are using marketing strategies and tactics to share curated, smart content that grows their personal brand, or promotes their business. They’re scheduling content in advance so they always seem active. That activity, while it may look personal/human and off the cuff, is considered and planned. Their feed may look similarly full of family and their lifestyle, their tweets just as funny and random, but they may only spend a short amount of time each day actually engaging on the platform and even then it’s often through a content management software that hides feeds and distractions.

What many business owners don’t realize (especially when hiring a social media manager) is just how much time and planning it takes to have a fully active, engaged, presence on social media. It’s a TON of work. From creating content to scheduling it, to finding time each day to respond to comments and messages.

The reason people like Gary Vaynerchuk can be so productive and still constantly active on social is his enormous team of interns & minions who handle the editing, posting, captions, interactions, replies etc…It takes a literal village of people to stay that active. And yes, there is a case for this but at what cost?

My business accounts run along the social media marketers playbook–batch content and check in on a regular interval so I look responsive. I run Rag Magazine’s online presence this way (thanks Buffer) and it’s the only way I can stay present.

I’m the human behind Rag, and I’m writing the content, but because I am the only person bringing this publication to life I have to automate a ton to keep up with it at all. On a platform like Instagram promoting real human interactions is this actually cool?

It feels shitty when I automate everything, but as I bootstrap this project I don’t have time to write everything, shoot photos, design the magazine in Indesign, and constantly be talking to people on social media. I want to be there to connect with people but it’s so damn time-consuming and these platforms are designed to distract me from doing the work that matters to get this mag to print.

Is everyone automating now and we’re all just pretending to be there, engaging, and putting ourselves out there “authentically”. Or maybe I’m the only one who is chronically fed up with being on screens all the time and no one else minds spending 3 hours a day on social media. Platforms have really cracked down on the follow bots, thank goodness, but did that change all that much?

Is there even another option for being found as a grassroots or indie project? (Don’t say Kickstarter, if you want to say Kickstarter lmk and I’ll share why this is a farce)

Marketing & business culture has become so entrenched in social media marketing & branding it feels like we have to be on social to be relevant. I don’t know if that’s the case but I sure hope not. Honestly, I was hoping Bill (Loundy, the tweeter extraordinaire above from Readup) was going to be the one to prove the marketers wrong, the hero I needed to show me you could launch a startup without social media.

But now, Bills tweeting, he’s blogging on Medium, he’s back in the saddle and firing at the horizon like a social media cowboy and I’m reeling a little bit. Maybe it’s too soon to change the game, maybe we need a new alternative to be found first…maybe I should just stop caring, bite the bullet, and go back to social advertising because I am damn good at it.

I think I knew the score when I left my LinkedIn, Medium, and business accounts active so I could still leverage my following there.

This is how the “unplugged” creator manages all of this

Here’s the automated marketer’s playbook. If you’re fed up with this nonsense (I sure am), know the mindset of a creator every time you log on.

It’s like this: Untether from being a consumer, stop scrolling, mute everything that will fill your feed with distractions. Look at the platform as what it is, a tool to be seen, and use it as such. Automate your presence by scheduling content, and use hacks to make it so you never see your newsfeed (it will save you hours of your life to never get trapped in that whirlpool of updates). Hire someone to write a batch of content you can use as the baseline content. Use stock photos whenever possible to fill in your dreamy, aspirational feed.  Spend more time on strategy, and less time on the platforms themselves. 

If you’re running with this playbook I want you to check in with yourself, are you doing work that matters? Is your work being seen in the way it needs to be seen? Are you finding the right people? These platforms exist to make money off of your efforts and time. So if you’re going to sell your soul, make sure you’re getting your money’s worth. Track your ROI, be ruthless.

If this feels wrong, bail. Try other methods, see if direct mail still works (because for sure the USPS needs a hand), or do the hard work of using true peer to peer outreach.

And when you figure out some dreamy new way to connect and be found, tell me! We can keep it on the DL but please, I need to know this isn’t just “the way things are” now. I know that can’t be the case.

Marketing is ripe for disruption right now. I don’t know what the future looks like but I know there are too many businesses who feel like they should be on social, or have to be, and that’s a sign there’s space for other options. Whatever they may be.


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