Don’t worry. This isn’t going to be another article on social media. Like you, I am starting to feel like we have come dangerously close to beating that horse senseless.
And it’s not another article on spam. Spam is not exactly breaking news. Dating back centuries, even before the cross-directory or the Omaha Steaks catalog, we had firmly established ourselves as an annoying, opportunistic species.
I suspect entrepreneurial Oog liked to draw pictures of his flint inventory on all of the other guys’ cave walls when they weren’t looking. I bet he even sent out calendar magnets on the off chance that when someone got a hankering for fire, they would think of him.
Ancient Egypt? It was just one big pyramid scheme.
Nope, this isn’t about social media or spam. It is about social media and spam. Just when you thought it was safe to make friends again, our primal instincts are kicking in, and the evildoers are about to ruin it for everyone.
They already ruined my e-mail. Remember that productivity tool that was going to revolutionize the way I conduct business? Now, it is just a vehicle to drip and query and update me on new product enhancements to death. I read recently that 90 percent of all e-mails sent worldwide are spam. What the author didn’t say is that they are all addressed to me.
Steve Madden (of the "really cute shoes" Maddens) must think I make it a habit to show up to my listing appointments barefoot, so much so in fact, that I find myself pushing the delete key a couple dozen times a day in his honor. And it’s not just the retailers like Steve and his buddies at Endless.com (of the "I purchased a purse from them for my daughter three years ago" Endless.coms) that are contributing to the logjam.
Agents and agent vendors are the worst, but then you already knew that.
This is all old news. E-mail is so Tuesday. We have moved on to social media: that new and exciting frontier of communication and engagement.
Have you ever watched a flock of geese, quite orderly at first, flying toward the beach and minding their own business, when suddenly some wise guy at the front decides to change course and head toward Nebraska? If so, you know what happens next.
Suddenly, everyone has a craving for corn-fed beef, and they, too, adjust their headings. The one in front is a thought leader, and the ones immediately behind are open to innovation, knowing a good idea when they see it. It’s all the guys bringing up the rear you need to watch out for; they have something to sell.
My husband is a little behind the social media curve. He just recently discovered a cool online site. It’s magic, and it’s happy. It’s called Facebook. OK, Facebook isn’t so new, but it’s new to him.
Many briskets ago, one of our teenage squatters created a page for him. His page had been collecting cyber-dust until recently when one of his old high-school buddies ("old" being the operative) found him and befriended him. And that’s where the magic part started.
"You’ll never guess who I heard from today!" he cried. They had barely begun exchanging Facebook pleasantries when word got out. He didn’t know how, but pretty soon more acquaintances from his days of yore were popping in to reconnect. Enter more magic, until pretty soon he was having a big ol’ high-school reunion.
Now, he has a dizzying friend count numbering 20 or so, and he looks forward to checking his page almost daily for special, personal updates from his social network. This made him happy. …CONTINUED
Oh, the naivete of youth. It is refreshing yet at the same time slightly sad, because eventually that innocence is lost. My husband, Steve, lost his yesterday when he realized that the personal updates he had been enjoying weren’t so personal at all — they weren’t intended just for him.
"I’m stressed out!" yelled my youngest daughter as she breezed through the front door of her very full-service hotel on the way to her Presidential Suite.
Steve heard her, but having just learned how to upload photos onto his page, he was otherwise indisposed. Within seconds, he saw the status update from his "friend."
"I’m stressed out!" it said. And assuming she was still speaking directly to him (a fact we only later learned), he posted his response. "Maybe it’s self-induced," he wrote.
Then, I believe, he went on to add something about the importance of time management, establishing priorities, and cleaning one’s room.
"Dad yelled at me on my Facebook!" she screamed as she flew down the stairs.
"He did what?" I managed through my laughter-induced tears.
"She wrote a comment on my page!" he defended. "I was only responding."
"It’s not e-mail, Dad. Everyone can see it!" chastised Daughter No. 2.
And with a look that suggested someone had just told him there really is no tooth fairy, he stood silently, processing this new information. Nothing personal, but it wasn’t personal.
This caused me to revisit my own underutilized, nearly orphaned Facebook page and long for a do-over. My friend count is pathetically underwhelming compared to the people who collect friends and followers like ticket stubs, but it is overwhelmingly messed up to me, and I’ve created my own monster.
What I now have is shy of 300 people telling me about their latest blog posts on Gila Bend market trends or their new REO (bank-owned) listings. I probably really know about three dozen of them.
It has become a giant, impersonal billboard for the national real estate community and if a true friend ever does venture there with a status update, I wouldn’t know it because they would be buried beneath 200 messages about upcoming open houses in cities I’ve never heard of. Like Omaha.
"Hi Vincent," began the e-mail in my inbox. It was from a person who apparently had really enjoyed my blog. The person had enjoyed it so much, in fact, that he wanted to provide guest posts — with a link to his own site, of course.
"Who’s Vincent?" asked Steve. Beats the heck out of me, but it’s just an e-mail, after all. We have been conditioned to drip marketing, to mail-merged calls to action, to spam. …CONTINUED
Twitter, on the other hand, that’s where the real business is being done. That’s where it is personal.
Take the direct message I received this week. Remember, "direct" means it was intended just for me. How special!
"WOW! You’re following my tweets on Twitter! How cool is that? I’ll return the favor and follow you, too!" it read. The only problem is that this person followed me first, and it was I who had simply returned the favor. I had been auto-tweeted, spammed, and suddenly I was feeling a little like my husband had when he discovered it wasn’t about him.
In yet another moment of weakness, I returned the follow-favor to a real estate agent I had never heard of because he happened to work in my city. Instantly, magically, I received a special, direct message.
"Thanks for following me. Let me know if you have any real estate questions," the agent said. Um, yes, I have a real estate question: What in the hell do you think you are accomplishing here?
And if auto-responders are not enough, it seems the bulk direct message is becoming quite the rage. It is the new e-mail blast, but it is an impersonal, even offensive, wolf in friendly "tweep’s" (a person who uses Twitter) clothing.
The latest direct communication of this ilk included a link to an article with the simple message, "I thought you might enjoy this!" Only it wasn’t an article even remotely related to anything in which I had previously expressed interest. I confess I followed the link, so I suppose it worked — this time. But, the author might as well have addressed it to "Vincent."
To cap it off, a new trend has reached a crescendo for me — the faux follower. I am getting several e-mail notifications an hour (and I am not exaggerating here) from bots posing as people. This week, they are mostly selling pornography. Last week, it was dietary supplements.
Do I ignore them and run the risk that an actual, real customer from my neighborhood will check out my Twitter account to find that I am the new darling of webcam-toting voyeurs everywhere or wonder if I have been strapping on the old feed bag a little too often?
Do I spend my days blocking my new fans as they file in or should I be setting aside time to zap them in bulk? Maybe I should just ignore them.
And that’s what I will do. I will ignore them, like I have learned to ignore most of my e-mail and most of my Facebook "friends." This makes me wonder if it is possible that social media as a marketing strategy won’t burn itself out because of misuse and abuse.
The lead ducks tell us we are supposed to be connecting with and talking to each other. Instead, I just see a lot of people just talking. And when we start to realize that no one is really speaking to us, we might stop listening.
What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.