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The Value Myth of Social Media

I was reading the post 7 social media truths you can ignore this morning when I was struck by one of the last things mentioned in the post which said, Provide Value.

As soon as I saw that, I had to get this thought out.

Scene 1.

You’ve been dating your significant other for a few months now and have decided to end it. Why?

They’re not bringing enough value to the relationship. Of course that translates better into things like:

  • They were slobs
  • The snored
  • They couldn’t hold a job
  • They cheated

What does that look like in the online world of social media? I unfollow you on Twitter because all you do is tweet out links and you’re not giving me enough value in the relationship.

What did I expect? I’m not sure. A business relationship? Maybe.

I followed you based on what your bio said. Oh wait, I followed you because you followed me. Similar to picking someone up in a bar isn’t it? You looked hot, we didn’t really talk much, mainly because it was so loud and dark; but on the surface you looked promising. So I had no expectations in the first place.

Value or perceived value is so subjective and so hopeful isn’t it? It always is in the beginning.

Shouldn’t the value that we want or expect out of others be commensurate to what we are putting out there? I’m trying, shouldn’t you? Or is it one way, or one sided?

Scene 2.

If I’m on a basketball team and I bust my ass in practice and during games, I should expect that of my teammates right? What if they don’t? Should it bother me? Should I complain? Should I say something to someone? What if we still win? What if each component functioning on its own and in its own way contributes to the sum total of the parts?

Should I demand value from my teammates? If I don’t get it, do I quit? or do I focus on my own game and do what makes me who I am and let it go? Is that selfish? Is it up to me to tell them that they are not bringing enough value? What if that’s the best that they can do?

If I expect value from every relationship or scenario that involves other people and I don’t get it, what am I going to do? I can abide by that mantra in social media, or try to abide by it, but to honestly and genuinely expect it from every relationship that I engage in in social media, is going to render us all sorely disappointed. no two relationships are going to render the same results. That doesn’t mean that it has to suck. Or that you end it.  You can cultivate the good relationships. Just treat the rest of the relationships for what they are. Just people being people.

I am wont to say from time to time that the value you take in social media should be equal to the value that you make. I still believe that and I still tell others that. It’s a good cornerstone. But sometimes I think we focus too much on the Utopian way things need to be in social media instead of the way things just are or will be.

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6 Responses to “The Value Myth of Social Media”


  1. 1 Derek June 2, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    I like your take on this – a good read.

    The only thing I might add is that all that WE can do is add value to the relationships – because you’re right, if we always expect value, we’re probably going to be disappointed. But when we always give good value, getting it back is a nice gift!

    Thanks-

  2. 2 autom June 3, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    thanks for this post Marc – i like it because it explores a not-so-obvious aspect of social media engagement – the para that speaks
    most to me is this:

    « If I expect value from every relationship or scenario that involves other people and I don’t get it, what am I going to do? I can abide by that mantra in social media, or try to abide by it, but to honestly and genuinely expect it from every relationship that I engage in in social media, is going to render us all sorely disappointed. no two relationships are going to render the same results. That doesn’t mean that it has to suck. Or that you end it. You can cultivate the good relationships. Just treat the rest of the relationships for what they are. Just people being people. »

    this should remind us that, at the end of the day, online engagement is no different than the interactions we have offline. people will manifest the same modes of behaviour no matter what environment (not necessarily context) they’re in.

    it would be awfully naive of us to expect social engagement to automatically happen by virtue of the fact that environment exists and allows for such engagement to happen..hence, your reference to “cultivating” rings true– yes, it IS an effort, yes not everyone will respond, which is why, yes, we need to be incredibly creative and persuasive to build incentives for engagement–these are some of the basic building blocks that make for meaningful, successful evolution of thriving social ecosystems in online communities

    thanks again for the thought share, good stuff! cheers – a

  3. 3 marc meyer June 3, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    @Autom, I actualyy tweeted about this earlier with Brian Dresher from USA Today. The definition of Friend does not mean the same today as it did 5 years ago. Thus the definition of relationship is slowly going that route as well. I think some just because we’re online and we see each other in the same network, it must mean that we can be friends and have a relationship immediately. Kind of like Brogan saying that most want to make out before dating.

    Can value “happen” immediately? Perhaps but again, basing all relationships on a need for some perceived ROI might be taking things a bit too far. I agree that to build towards something might take some incredibly creative and persuasive to incentives for engagement, but I’m wondering if that might be the exception and not the rule? Maybe we’d all be better off if we didn’t go in expecting that…

  4. 4 marc meyer June 3, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    @Derek A nice gift indeed is often better if it is unexpected right?


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Marc Meyer is a Digital and Social Media Strategist at DRMG. This is my personal blog where I share observations, thoughts and opinions that are all my own.

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