"You bore me with your constant self-promotional drivel."
One of my biggest social media pet peeves is the propensity for some brands (and individuals) on Twitter to use the platform as little more than a channel for blatant self-promotion. In fact, if you were to take a look at any number of luxury brands on Twitter, you would be forgiven for thinking that their strategy (if you can call it that) amounts to one long trickle of self-promotional tweets. Besides being deeply inelegant, I suspect that it is fairly ineffective in terms of longterm community building.
I was therefore intrigued to read an interview with author Margaret Atwood published in The Guardian recently. In the interview, Atwood was asked about her prolific use of Twitter. First, she likened the social media platform to a radio show in which she, the radio host, uses the medium to pass along information about the things she enjoys and social causes she happens to be passionate about. Interestingly, when asked about whether she uses the platform to promote her own work, Atwood had this to say:
"I wouldn't. It becomes boring. I tweet things people have shared in that area – if they've shown me a review, it's a courtesy to acknowledge it by retweeting it. But to say, 'Buy my book'? I don't think that's what it's for any more than at a party you would say, 'I want you to buy my book, that's £12 right now.' But you might say, 'See that woman over there in the purple gown? She just wrote a sensational novel, which I have read.' It's useful for that. And also for, 'Sign this petition, look at this cause. Save More Bees.' I'm very keen on Save More Bees right now."
Lest we forget, Jack Dorsey's original motivation when he founded Twitter was to facilitate communication between emergency medical service workers and Mark Zuckerberg initially designed Facebook to enable socialization between students on campus. So, if you start from the premise that social media was originally conceived of as a tool to enable community building online (as opposed to marketing and commerce), then the idea of following an individual or brand constantly singing their own praises is about as appealing as getting cornered at a cocktail party by a self-absorbed, conceited chatterbox.
Granted, platforms tend to lose sight of their early humanitarian vocation on the road to their IPOs but I think Atwood's insights remain valid for brands whose goals include fostering meaningful engagement with followers and ultimately earning their loyalty. Food for thought?
The Luxe Chronicles