Why Social Media is a Fad

When you hear the term, social media, what do you think about? If you say proper nouns like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Twitter, you’ve proven social media is a fad.

But if you refer to proven best practices like responding to customer inquiries, learning from consumer review, crowdsourcing your employees, boosting product sales, or sharing data, you’re on the right path toward definition.

“The technology gets interesting when it gets boring,” commented Stephen Collins in response to a thought-provoking question by Craig Thomler yesterday. Hyping social media is a fad. Using social media is not. “At that point, we can start focusing on what we’re doing and with who.”

Thomler and Michael Rubin share statistics about a recent video making the rounds that illustrates why social media is the latest impetus for a technological revolution:

Ken Burbary writes about the decline of direct marketing and the increase of digital marketing and advertising. “Social media, however, has a meteoric rise, with no signs of slowing down. Ignoring this fact because you personally believe it is wrong isn’t advisable. The rest of the world is moving ahead. Don’t get left behind due to ignorance.”

But wait. If my extrapolation of Collins’ comment is on target, then Burbary is off target. Is it not fad-worthy to embrace social media because everyone else is doing it?

Should it matter that individuals and organizations are “moving ahead” with social media–or that they are using the tools in innovative ways? Anyone can create a Facebook account and write status updates, but how many use Facebook for business and generate sales from it?

Don’t confuse the tool with the hype about the tool. Don’t define social media with the names that everyone knows.

Oprah may be credited for leveraging 1 million fans to join Twitter–but when she tweets three times in August, Oprah on Twitter is a fad.


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  1. says

    History supports your statement. Let’s substitute “social media” for a few other technologies that were considered fads by some:
    – “Hyping [cell phones] is a fad. Using [cell phones] is not.”
    – “Hyping [personal computers] is a fad. Using [personal computers] is not.”
    – “Hyping [the web] is a fad. Using [the web] is not.”
    Yup, sounds good.
    .-= New from Kevin Sablan: Roundup: Social risks, OC elite, LA map and women journalists =-.

  2. says

    Yes, I like this article… social media is merely fad if we are doing it for the sake of doing it… ;-) We need to focus on the relationship building and that’s a key for sustaining result.

    I will share this article with my readers… cheers… ;-)
    .-= New from Simple Strategy: Jump On Mobile App if You Have NOT =-.

  3. says

    Sometimes I wonder if sending less tweets gives those tweets more attention. Not that three in a month is a good number, but for the people who send 10 – 20 a day about how they ate this, or they are going to that concert, vs. the person that sends maybe 5 informative tweets a day. Would those few tweets be more valuable?

    ~ Kristi
    .-= New from Kikolani: Do You DoFollow? =-.

    • Jason Dunn says

      Robert Fripp (King Crimson guitarist & Gurdjieff student) once said “if one has the opportunity to play 1,000 notes, but chooses to play only 3, that gives tremendous authority to those 3 notes!”

    • Ari Herzog says

      Quality trumps quantity regardless of content or frequency. If Oprah joined Twitter and didn’t announce it, no problem. She did announce it, though; she dedicated at least one TV episode, maybe more, to the tool. Her usage in the spring is different than her usage now. If it was just her, no problem; but she brought fans and other curiosity seekers with her who look to her for emulation.

      I dare to suggest not only is Oprah the poster child for Twitter fad, but her fans are too.

    • says

      Depends on your audience. And your plan or strategy for using Twitter.

      If you’re targeting members of the majority who follow 50-100 people or less, fewer tweets is advantageous.

      If your audience is Twitter Power-Users who follow 500-1000s of people, you might want to make as many informative (and a few less informative) posts in a day to maintain your presence on their Twitter stream.

  4. says

    A good point about Oprah and twitter. Personally, twitter doesn’t make sense to me, unless you are posting specials that will expire. I just can’t get draw into it, it seems like a fad. True social networking is having a presence across a wide variety of sites specifically geared towards what you are trying to accomplish I think.
    .-= New from Charles Richey: Las Vegas Property Auctions – Deal or No Deal? =-.

  5. says


    Wow! Even if you didn’t include a link to me, I would heartily recommend people read this post. You’re absolutely smack dab on target.

    This is the line that just kills me every time I read it. Not only is it an absolute trusim, but I really wish I had written it myself:

    Don’t confuse the tool with the hype about the tool. Don’t define social media with the names that everyone knows.
    (Suggestion to anyone reading this who works ‘in the business': print out these last two lines in 120-pt type and hang it up next to your monitor so you see it every day. Seriously, this could be a mantra.)

    You inspired me to write a complementary post — an homage, really — and I would love to hear what you think. Social media may or may not be a fad, but I do believe we’re finally past the stage of having to explain the basic truths of why it matters.

    People really do get it — thanks to people like you and even Oprah.

    .-= New from Michael E. Rubin, Empower MediaMarketing: Four noble truths of social media =-.

    • Ari Herzog says

      Thanks for the homage, but you’d be surprised how many (and who) lack those basic truths of understanding. The road is long and we’re only at the beginning.

  6. says

    Another way to look at it:

    When we speak of other types of media (radio, television), we don’t define them by specific brands. We don’t say “tv is nbc”.

    It’s the same challenge children have when they learn a new concept: they over-generalize. It’s only later when we start to understand the nuance that we can differentiate the specific example from the concept.
    .-= New from Andrea Hill: By: Christian =-.

  7. says

    Excellent video, and pretty amazing statistics. It’s amazing how fast the world has accelerated technologically in the past 150 years, especially the last 20.

  8. Martin Sullivan says

    To true. What was the name of that social networking site before Facebook? … Oh yeah, MySpace. ;oP


    In that order.

  9. says

    As long as the target audiences of companies continue to use social media, it will continue to be a relevant and important channel for businesses to communicate with customers.

    I think you’re jumping the gun with this, Ari. Consumers and customers inform the choices of marketers, not the other way around. If people stop using Twitter, but start using some other network, then marketers will flock to that. The cycle repeats itself over and over.

    Social media is an invaluable tool for people to connect to, and keep up with, people who are thousands of miles away. Until something better is created, social media will continue to be the leader. It will continue to attract more and more users. And these users will be someone’s customer. And so the companies will continue to go where their customers are.

    Social media has existed for 10 years. Each year it evolves into something new. Just because marketers are getting cabin fever, does not mean the core users – who are NOT marketers – are, too.
    .-= New from Ben LaMothe: Q&A: Susana Cristalli, Community Manager for Qype Italia =-.

    • Ari Herzog says

      There is no denial social media is relevant and there is no denial consumers inform marketers. The decision for a company to use Skype because it is Skype or because someone else is using Skype proves Skype is a fad. Using Skype, though, because it enables face to face conversations at a cheaper rate than VOIP video teleconferencing systems proves Skype is not a fad.

      To make an analogy, if you needed to hire a gardener you would not insist the candidate only knows how to hold a rake — because you can hold that rake. But the gardener may know gardening techniques with that rake that you do not know, and that is why you would hire that person.

      • says

        Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Last.fm and others are the platforms of communication that you’re talking about. The communication is ongoing, but the platform can’t be circumvented.

        The above sites are not fads because the actions that you’re describing as being key, all happen on, are facilitated by, and are accelerated with these platforms.

        Customer service and the varied cultures of the social platforms have broken down a lot of walls between the customer and the business. But all of these things are broken down with the help of the platform. Without the platform, you have nothing.

        These sites can’t be fads because without them, we would be back at square one. We would not have the same level of conversational closeness that now defines what “good customer service is.”

        A platform can’t be a fad if it facilitates the action that is required to provide the end result. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and everyone else all provide that, at a macro and micro level.

        • Ari Herzog says

          A platform can’t be a fad if it facilitates the action that is required to provide the end result.

          I disagree. Blogging is an action, no different than providing customer service. WordPress and Drupal are not actions; they are platforms. But because the same blog can be powered by either platform, the action is the same regardless of the platform. Thus, the platform is a fad. It’s logic 101, no?

          • says

            WordPress has essentially reached the point of non-displacement. It’s an industry standard in blogging. Ergo, it is not a fad.

  10. says

    Some social media is here to stay while others are simply fads. Facebook and LinkedIn are good ideas and will stick around. Twitter users will have tweeted their last tweets in about 3 years. Digg will dig itself underground and StumbleUpon will stumble greatly.

    Of course, that’s just my opinion…and I am not Tweeter.

    I am so much of a non-Tweeter that I was going to start a site called Twidiot.com that simply posts the 10 stupidest tweets each day…but, alas, some beat me to the punch :)

    (Ah, I just checked and the Twidiot.com domain expired 4 days ago and has not been renewed. Unfortunately, I am too busy, but it’s there if someone wants it, it’s there!)