Monday, April 21, 2014

Hearing the light from the window

A Monkee has taught me plenty about Facebook. And how we're viewing the social media juggernaut all wrong.

We use it for product publicity. Or as an online chronicle of our everyday musings. And, we're missing the point. Facebook isn't a journal. It's not about news. It's about sifting information about you and selling it to Purveyors of Other Stuff.

In exchange for allowing us to post recipes or fuzzy smartphone photos, Facebook sifts and parses our comments for clues about us. As we share our opinions or lunch menus, Facebook neatly packages that information and re-sells it to marketers.

Maybe Facebook is a useful mechanism for public relations professionals who want their clients' views and products shared. On its own, Facebook isn't an all-inclusive PR strategy. Those "which rock musician are you" quizzes tend to muck up the sharing process. Your posts are arbitrarily ranked by Facebook's software, meaning they may not show up in your friends' feeds.

Michael Nesmith, Bufffalo, NY.
 Photo: (c) David Kassnoff, 2012.
I'm a fan of people who've figured this out. Especially entertainment legends who've invented new media, and then moved on to do other things.

Take Michael Nesmith, the 70-something year-old musician, entrepreneur, and filmmaker whom you might recall as a member of the Monkees. Mr. Nesmith invented MTV. He is also on Facebook. But you need to look quickly, because he's never there for very long.

Nesmith occasionally posts about his experiences on the road, touring as a solo act or as 1/3 of the remaining Monkees. When he posts, he delves into a topic and chews it thoroughly. A Nesmith post reads like a letter from a friend, not a short text or e-mail. They are a great read.

And, about 24 hours later, they're gone. He takes them down. So I can't share a link to one.

Nesmith gets it. He knows that anything he leaves on Facebook isn't ephemeral. It's there to be mined, dissected, analyzed, and re-sold to a marketer looking for data. And while he's a skilled communicator, he doesn't wish to "share" more than is necessary.

Nesmith's example may be worth following. Content I posted in 2009 is, frankly, a bit stale.

Should you house-clean your Facebook account? That's a personal decision. At minimum, you'd be wise to review your previous week's posts with fresh eyes, and purge anything that discloses more information than you'd like a marketer to possess.

Meanwhile, here's one of my favorite Nesmith compositions. (Listen closely, and you'll find the inspiration for the title of this blog post.)