Extracting Personal Finance Advice from the Social Media Wasteland
I have been a user of Facebook and Twitter for most of the past year. My primary motivation was to join other bloggers who saw social media as a convenient way to spread their brand, attract more readers, and make more money.
I’m not feeling it.
Let’s start with the biggest wasteland of all: Twitter. The only personal finance information that you can effectively communicate in 140 words or less are links to real personal finance articles that may contain useful information. And that’s what most personal finance bloggers publish on Twitter. They assume we don’t know (and never learn) about their sites or news feeds. As a result, they continue to barrage their “followers” with links to their most recent blog posts. To spread the love and seek reciprocation, they retweet links to posts tweeted by other bloggers. On and on it goes. Soon, it all becomes noise. It reaches a crescendo on “follow” Fridays, when everyone engages in mass promotion of other bloggers, encouraging us to read their tweets without giving us one reason to do so.
Part of the bloggers back of tricks is to gain “followers.” Having lots of Twitter followers is seen as a badge of blogger success. I gain several new followers every day by doing nothing. How? Other Twitter bloggers find my name and follow me in hopes I will follow them back. Clever. Generally that’s not gonna happen. If I’m interested in what they have to say, I will read their blogs, not their endless tweets promoting their blogs.
There is an even larger set of “money” writers on Twitter: Those promoting stuff to sell. They are after the ultimate impulse shoppers who will stare at Twitter deal alerts all day long until they finally whip out the credit card in response. That’s one of the reasons that Twitter has grown from 1 million to 44 million users in a year. Twitter is like the Home Shopping Network without the faked enthusiasm of photogenic sales people.
In short, if you are on Twitter to learn about personal finance or save money, don’t waste your time. (And you can really waste your time on Twitter.) Find the bloggers you like, subscribe to their feeds, and read at your leisure. Or take that Twitter time and read a good personal finance book.
If you don’t yet think that Twitter is a wasteland, just wait until the Twitter owners start monetizing the service. Then it will evolve into that other land of social media chaos known as Facebook.
Facebook is both better and worse than Twitter as a source of personal finance advice. It’s better in that you can read entire personal finance articles that bloggers may post, usually duplicating what has been published on their blogs. It’s worse in that Facebook is now all about capturing users inside Facebook and throwing ads in their faces. A lot of the advertising is disguised inside endless games, surveys, polls, etc. that users are encouraged to try and share with their friends. The Facebook technology uses information captured by those bonus features to customize the ads that users see. It’s all very effective marketing and, to me, very annoying.
The biggest problem with social media for a lot of users is its negative impact on personal productivity. I know folks who are supposed to be working, going to school, etc. When I look back at the end of the day or early in the morning (when I get on) and see their level of social media activity, I wonder if they are doing any work at all. It’s just a huge time suck for many people. That can’t be good if you are trying to improve yourself or your finances. There are just so many more productive things you can be doing with your time.
I know that Mr. ToughMoneyLove will promptly be labeled by many as an old school contrarian on this issue. So be it. But this is not a knee jerk reaction by someone who took a brief look at social media and fled in fear and ignorance. This has been a year-long thoughtful experiment.
I don’t know what I will do in the future with social media. I will probably lurk around Twitter now and then because I am curious as to what the service will do to start making money. As for Facebook, I have connected with some friends and family so I will likely maintain some level of participation on a personal level. But the personal finance stuff – I’ve turned all of that noise down to zero. There is nothing for me on Facebook in that department.
What has been your experience with social media as a source of useful information?
Photo credit: TwojStary