Social media is dead long live social media

I know an ad man. He’s surprisingly hesitant to be quoted for an ad man. So I’ll just call him Ad Man.

Las night I was talking with him about advertising. Cos he’s smart, when he said: ‘Social media is dead,’ I listened. And I thought about it.

I’m in a weird position. I’m old enough to have been around when the internet first happened in SA. Even, I’m a proud (m)IRC* kid.

At the same time I’m immersed enough in the internet every day to know that I’ve done my best work when my 11-year-old niece likes something I’ve posted on Instagram.

I exist in a slightly weird nether-space. But I like the insider/outsider perspective it gives me.

Anyway so then I started thinking about Ad Man saying how social media is dead in a different way. Not in the sense that user numbers are dropping (international stats suggest differently) but in the sense that social media platforms are being used lethargically at best. By humans and by brands.

‘Ads only work if they’re emotive,’ I said to Ad Man.

‘Yes,’ he agreed, about to put my thoughts better than I could.

‘People want ideas. Not sunsets. The most successful people in social media use their platforms as Windows to their worlds. Nobody wants a bad view.’

So, if Ad Man is right and social media as we know it is dead or dying, what’s alive?

The conversation I had with Ad Man last night was alive. It was driven by ideas and it all happened on Whatsapp.

We’re both manic multi-taskers so sometimes we used voice notes. At other times our messages were text-based. If I’d wanted to I could’ve sent him a quick screengrab to illustrate a point. I could’ve sent him a link in seconds.

I could’ve sent him a video of me circle headbanging (emotive because hilarious and tragic; illustrative because expressing the idea that social is old, man, practically as old as metal).

The point is: Whatsapp was the easiest and most convenient platform we had at our disposal to connect and to share ideas we care about.

Social media may not really be dead. Sorry Ad Man. But as we know it it’s going to grow and change at a pace we can’t begin to imagine. And it’s hard to say where it’s going.

But thanks to anonymous Ad Man, I’ve invented the Whatsapp measure of social media success. Bottom line: is your social media bringing people closer together and making it easy to share ideas?

If not, it fails the Whatsapp test. Change your medium or message. Your social media might be dead.

*For those of you who don’t know, ‘Internet Relay Chat’ was the first thing that let kids like me talk to other kids like me all over the world. Internet, whoa. It was a crazy place where trout slapping happened amidst the birth of trolling and online sexual harassment. It was also where the beautiful shorthand that is URL (online, see?) English was born.

ASL and what are you wearing.