Why Businesses Need to Keep Social Media Social

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While social media began as a social phenomenon, it quickly moved into our business and corporate lives. Whether it is Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or a bevy of other options, there are some very useful ways we can use social media to help our businesses thrive.

However, I have observed a troubling social media trend. It is something I call “media masquerading as social media”. Let me explain.

We are used to the constant presence of media in our lives. Magazine & television advertisements, billboards and flashing coupons at the grocery store are constant reminders that media is vying for our attention. There is a quiet but important premise about media – we understand and accept that companies are trying to get our attention by telling us something! And it is one-way communication.

However, social media operates on a different premise. By definition, social media is about a social exchange between two parties. The term ‘social’ means that communication is not meant to be a one-way exchange. While media is one-way, it is my belief that social media must be two-way. However, I believe that the business use of social media is becoming increasingly one-way. Here are some recent examples from my life which illustrate this point.

  • On a recent Halloween, my daughter created and wore a Pippy Longstocking costume. It turned out wonderful but it ended up looking even more like Wendy from the Wendy’s burger franchise! I snapped a photo and posted it on their Facebook web site to see what they would do. In short, they did nothing at all. This taught me that their social media outlet on Facebook was simply media.
  • A local golf club regularly posts photos to my Instagram account. They are typically pictures of their amazing lunch plates and a description of their weekly special. This week I decided to treat a business guest to lunch on their patio. Below this week’s photo of their lunch special I posted, “I’ll be there tomorrow. What time do you close?” I never received a reply. Once again, this social media feed was merely media.

While I lament this misuse of social media by some organizations, I have also experienced some effective ‘social’ experiences with organizations through their media channels as well.

  • After our recent half-marathon, I snapped a photo of my wife stretching her tired muscles and posted it to Instagram. One of the comments was from a company called GetStrechy. They have an exercise program that could be a very good fit for us based upon my social media post. In contrast, the like by the company that sells marijuana obviously has not taken time to understand my social profile.
  • During a recent layover in Riga, Latvia, we had time to leave the airport and grab dinner in their fantastic Old Town district. While we waited to board our flight from Prague to Riga, I found a restaurant that was highly recommended. I then accessed their Facebook page and sent them a direct message (DM) asking for reservations at 8. When we landed in Riga, my Facebook account pinged with confirmation that our table would be ready. Now that’s media that remembers to be social (great work MILDA!).

Perhaps you view social media differently than I do, but I don’t mind the media aspect of it. That is, as long as it stays social and doesn’t merely become media. I suspect that social media outlets that drift into media-only feeds will have a short shelf-life.


Head ShotJeff Suderman is a futurist, professor, consultant and pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman. Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com


  1. Zaak

    Good post Jeff. Tool Shed Brewing Co. in Calgary is very heavy on the social side of social media. You can tell by their twitter feed as it’s almost entirely interacting with their patrons.

    • Jeff Suderman

      Thanks Zaak! Anyone who wants to check out how social Tool Shed Brewing is can do so by clicking their link!


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