Extracting Personal Finance Advice from the Social Media Wasteland

August 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Money and Behavior

social_media_WastelandI 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.

As way to distribute or benefit from personal finance advice, I have found social media to be more of a hindrance than a help. There are several reasons for this.

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

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7 Responses to “Extracting Personal Finance Advice from the Social Media Wasteland”
  1. I agree in some ways and disagree in others. There is a lot of noise on Twitter. Something I really enjoy, though, is following journalists that I normally wouldn’t have an opportunity to interact with.

    For instance, I’m a big St. Louis Cardinals fan. Journalists following the St. Louis Cardinals often break news on twitter, believe it or not. Sometimes, I’ll say something in reaction to that news – and sometimes those journalists respond. I’m not sure how much value that adds to my life, but I enjoy it.

    As a source of personal finance advice, I agree that it’s not terribly valuable. I do see articles and sometimes read them that I wouldn’t have read otherwise. I can’t read every blog. I’m pretty selective about what I put in my RSS feed, but several times a week I’ll see a title that jumps out at me that I think is something useful. Sometimes they aren’t. I read a pretty good article by an entrepreneur (someone with a small following that I’d never heard of) about her reflections on why her business failed. I found it very interesting. I never would have read that without twitter.

    I personally thought twitter was dumb before I used it and have since come around a little bit. I don’t know if it’s gained me any readers, but I’d like to think it has (I’m one of the people who posts links to articles – I don’t know how else to use it). We’ll see how much staying power it has when the next big thing comes out. I don’t use facebook for my blog at all, other than putting a link to my site in a personal account. Just my $0.82.

  2. My Journey says:

    I am with you and I am decades younger! What is Twitter? It seems to be filled with just spam and garbage. I never just follow anyone because they are following me; it should be a mutually beneficial relationship.

  3. Rick Beagle says:

    They are both tools for social networking. With an ungodly amount of people using these tools, perhaps it isn’t these services that are the problem, but your approach or even the product?

    Let me give an analogy to provide a bit more insight into my thinking.

    1)If I am interested in a night out with the wife, we generally drive down are street and hit up a local business. We probably have less than fifty or so restaurants in our area (couple of miles in either direction). They of course do the usual things to promote their business and get my money – as an example, a person walking outside with a sign proclaiming the daily specials.

    2)If I am looking in the yellow pages for a restaurant, then the walking sign out front doesn’t help that business get my business.

    Does this mean that the yellow pages are worthless because the tool he is using isn’t effective in that medium? Of course not.

    The reason that those bloggers spam twit is because it works. It may offend your sensibilities -and mine- but just because the tools are different doesn’t mean the medium is a failure.

    Finally a little tough love for you. Honestly it seems as if you aren’t that interested in putting forth the effort and money that would be required to break through the noise on Twitter and Facebook? But you admit that you are indeed getting more fans while doing pretty much nothing much from these products you deem failures?

    Rick Beagle

  4. I played the Twitter game for a long time and eventually got to feeling like I was just showing up for the sake of showing up.

    It’s just not for me.

    But there is some value to it…I have to give it credit where credit is due. If you have a question that needs answering, Twitter is great for that.

  5. MasterPo says:

    Twitter is a time sink. Won’t touch it.

  6. Revanche says:

    It’s good for real-time responses on issues that really aren’t all that important. And for links to the occasional blog post when I’m not motivated enough (or too busy to) open up Google Reader. For the most part, though, it’s just a social connection to other bloggers and the occasional geek personality – not a source of information. Oh, and it’s good for random financial/travel news links that I would not have encountered on a busy day. In general, I don’t get spam from the tweeters I follow, and I certainly don’t follow spammers back.

  7. Damilola says:

    I have been on Facebook since I started graduate school and I just recently joined Twitter. It is true that these services are huge time sinks especially as your knowledge of the service starts to grow.
    However, as a young blogger I am using these media to put out links to new articles that I publish (when I write) and this has been the way in which I wanted to begin building a following.
    I believe as time goes on my interaction with these sites will reduce significantly, but for now it’s a necessary evil.

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