How smart are you about social media and Google?

laptop photo indie art south

Some days, when you find a quick answer to an annoying question, social media is a wonderful thing. Other days, when you get called some pretty bad names on a social media site (or even sillier, get an image of someone’s genitals sent to you), social media seems more of a curse.

Social media giants continue to enjoy financial success, and titans like Google basically control what you see on the Web.

Most indie artists have to rely on social media. How else would you build a supporter list, get the word out about your doings, and stay in touch with that supporter list?

There is an alternative, but it’s not the only viable route. Like it or not, you have to have social media. 

It seems to me that building an actual mailing list is a smart move. If you have your own labels and mailing list, yes, you will pay postage for contact. But an email list shouldn’t be the end all. Keeping a snail mail list of your vendors and clients is a must, in my opinion. Email is effective, but so is getting something in the mail. So I’d keep a snail list of my supporters too if they’re willing to provide you an address.

That said, few people these days, now that privacy (along with Amendment 4 to the Constitution) has been informally nullified, think twice about what they place on a site like Facebook or Twitter. Remember, once something is on the Web, it stays there.  Also remember those social media sites have a proprietary interest in your content. See ‘Terms of Service’ for more on that on any site you participate in.

This week I saw a meme containing a link to a site that, once you input your birthday, tells you what is celebrated on that day. Ah, you were born on Pizza Day! That sort of thing. What users may not know is that a site like this and a meme like this garners information about users, including a key detail like your birthday. Memes like this aren’t just for fun.

Tech is on a huge roll right now and we will continue to see things many of us never envisioned. At present, there’s actually a debate about driverless cars. That’s a concept few of us considered a decade ago.

If you’re a public figure, when you post something to social media, think twice. I see celebrities post statements every day, and many are simply not true. If you’re a household brand, this may not cause you problems—there’s built-in immunity. But if you’re climbing the success ladder, you will likely be held accountable for what you post.

Can you trust social media as a repository for your personal information and beliefs? I’m not sure, because some of these entities talk out of both sides of their mouth.

Google is a perfect example. The company, as Technology Review pointed out some years ago, is known for a tendency to publicly “disparage patent claims.” As is often the case, there’s a difference between rhetoric and deeds. TR said:

“But data from the U.S. Patent & Trademark office shows that Google has been working very, very hard to win more patents on its own ideas. It has accelerated its activity to such a degree that Google inventors—among them founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page—are now winning 10 patents every day the patent office is open, covering everything from automated cars to balloon-based data networks. For comparison, consider that in all of 2003, Google was awarded four patents.”

How you view social media is your own business, but it’s something you should carefully consider. Above all, if you’re indie, brand the hell out of your website URL in an effort to get as much direct traffic as possible. Unless you pony up some pretty hefty advertising money, a big search engine isn’t going to favor you as they do those household brands regardless of what you accomplish or how much talent you have.

Also bear in mind these major social media entities are international. That has necessitated a clampdown on speech in order to satisfy repressive regimes in countries like China. Executives at these companies may offer rhetoric about free expression, but as Microsoft and others have indicated, rhetoric is forgotten when it comes to profit.

(Kay B. Day/Feb. 9, 2018)


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