Traversing the Social Media “Button” Decision Tree

Note: Just in case I’m approached by This American Life some time in the future, I’d like to state for the record that the following is a fictional dialog.

It all starts with a simple rating system.    You put something like this on your company site because you want to “solicit user feedback”.   After a few weeks you realize that no one’s providing any ratings.  Not only that but it’s embarrassing to see that only two people voted on a news story.

Now because you work in a corporate environment, nothing can be decided without a meeting…

The Meeting

“No one is clicking on these damn buttons, it’s embarrassing, what do we do?”, you ask.

The room murmurs, no one wants to speak up.  The boss was so adamant about this 5-star system.   Finally the cranky QA guy speaks up, “No one cares about these stars.  After you read a good article, how many times have you stopped and thought.   Wow, I’m going to scroll up to the top of that article and click on 5-stars to help my fellow reader.  No what you want to do is…”

The self-assured jerk that always agrees with the boss butts in, “…Well it sure works for Amazon, doesn’t it?”   He adds a head bobbing smirk for effect.

No one’s buying it ’cause cranky QA guy opened a floodgate.   VP of “whatever it is that they do” addresses smirking jerk directly, “Have I mentioned that I hate it when you interrupt people?   I think what he was trying to say is you want to share things not assign some abstract rating on a subjective five-star scale?”

Social Media Sharing

“Ok, I want to move on to social sharing buttons.    Ok, how about Twitter and Google+?”    Someone interrupts you, “Google+ what’s that?”  Everyone laughs, but then the serious guy in the back who never laughs asks the question, “Does anyone use Google+?  I don’t, it’s a wasteland.”

After much discussion, the group decides two things.   First, Twitter really matters.   Second, even though everyone signed up for Google+ back in July, no one uses it.   Google+ is a geek party.  Half the room votes to keep Google as an option so as not to anger the Google Gods, the other half of the room is trying to build momentum to skip it.

Someone loads up the latest post from Tim O’Reilly on Radar and points to the numbers for Google+.   “See people use Google+.”   You answer, “That’s not a representative site, our audience has no overlap with that site.   Plus this just makes the case that the Google+ audience is mostly technical.”

One of the Marketing bros chimes in, “LinkedIn is a key channel for our outreach efforts.  We leverage it to identify and enable our brand advocates.”

One of the Engineering guys snickers at the use of so much marketing lingo in one sentence, the CTO stares him down with one of those “I should have kept you in the cage” sort of look.   Nobody moves, the Marketing and Engineering teams eye each other with suspicion, the last time Engineering snickered at Marketing there was open warfare.

A More Representative Audience

Someone loads up GigaOM, “Look these guys get crazy traffic from a more representative audience.”   From this site the group concludes that Twitter continues to matter, LinkedIn matters more than Google+, and Google+ is probably just an enormous waste of time.  In spite of this conclusion, the group still concludes that not including Google will somehow negatively affect search engine rankings.   The marketing analytics team’s SEO guy starts going on and on about some algorithm long enough to put some people to sleep.

The summer intern looks as if he’s been formulating the following sentence for the entire meeting.   As he delivers the statement, his colleagues are silently cheering him on like parents of a small child taking his first step.  “Let’s just skip Google then, why not?  People my age don’t use it, we use Facebook.”    With the Facebook comment he walks into a trap only to be devoured by…

…a no-nonsense accountant. “No, Facebook isn’t for business.”

Inter-generational Warfare Over Facebook

Sensing that the Summer intern is no match for the accountant, the “just out of college” designer backs him up.   “LinkedIn is for old people, I thought we were trying to shift our demographics.  Isn’t that why I’ve been asked to touch up everyone’s headshots to make them look younger.”   Someone gasps, a couple of people make noises of feigned astonishment.

The Art Director stands up for this, “We are applying some wrinkle cream to the bio headshots.   I apologize if this is a shock to anyone.”   Having gained the attention of the room, he places his support squarely behind no one, “I look forward to implementing whatever decision we ultimately make with respect to this…”

Accountant man interrupts the politicking, “Face. Book. Isn’t. for. Business.”

Summer intern has just realized that he has nothing to lose, it isn’t like he’s getting paid: “Facebook isn’t for your business, but I do my business all the time.”

Accountant man guffaws, “Kid, you don’t know real business…”

Summer intern, “I’m good friends with the founders of”.

Accountant man both amused and taken aback, “What in samhell is that?  a travelling, Silicon Valley circus act?  No let me guess it’s a social metrics startup that just got $5 million in Series A funding.   The world’s going haywire, but that doesn’t change the fact that Facebook isn’t for business.    For me Facebook is for people from high school I never, ever want to see again.”

Summer intern, “You are sort of a jerk, aren’t you?”   Summer intern is quickly escorted out of the building.

Well, what about Facebook?

Mr. Quiet software architect tries to focus the group by loading a new site.  “Let’s see what the Huffington Post does with social sharing buttons, maybe there’s something there?  Some empirical data.”

Instead of providing data to bring the conversation to a close, the sharing buttons on the Huffington Post open an entirely new line of discussion focused on Comments and Email that wasn’t related to the question at hand.

“Forget email sharing and comment threads, what do these numbers tell us?”, you ask.

“That Google+ still doesn’t matter and Facebook might matter even less.”, Mr. Accountant is feeling combative and victorious.

You reply, “We’ll see.  While I agree that Facebook isn’t for business, I don’t appreciate that you had a fight with the intern.    That kid was doing good work, thanks for screwing that all up.”   Mr. Accountant looks a bit ruffled, but no worse for the struggle.

“Ok, decision made.   Twitter and Google+.    If the Marketing team wants to run some A/B tests adding in Facebook, I’m willing to be convinced with real data.”

What’s that Robot? 

Just when you thought it was over, the VP of serious executive stuff has a troubled face on.  She’s getting ready to dive in for the kill.  “What about that cute little robot alien?  He’s cute. Do we need to send content to the alien?”

 The Engineering team checked out of this meeting minutes ago as Engineering teams are wont to do when conclusions become obvious.    Most of them had already started to bang away at laptops when they heard Ms. VP of serious stuff mention a robot alien.

“Um, you mean Reddit…” said one of the super-bearded engineers speaking over a MacBook covered with angry pink unicorn stickers.   “Oh, Reddit is the coolest site on the…”

One of the Engineering Managers steps in, “….Reddit is a site about algorithms and compilers.    I’m pretty sure you don’t want to target it for marketing, it’s a pretty small audience.”

Bearded engineer realizes the wisdom of protecting Reddit from the Marketing department half way through the statement and blurts out,  “Yeah, Reddit’s about arcane sorting algorithms.”

In his eagerness, he’s gone too far.   Someone from marketing wrote “Check out on a legal pad.”   It’s a forgone conclusion that employees will be required to support some “Reddit initiative in a few months”.