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Is social media overrated?

Is social media ...

At 6:45am, I woke up, grabbed my iPod off the nightstand, and peered blinkingly into the screen. What would possess an insomniac like me to get lured online at that god-awful hour? Well, I’ve been sucked into the Facebook vortex like everyone else.

It’s like suddenly discovering that you actually like “Jersey Shore”. (No I don’t, really!) It’s that uneasy feeling that spurred Techcrunch columnist Paul Carr to cancel his social media accounts. Carr and founder Gary Vaynerchuk recently butted heads on this topic in Aquent’s latest Webby Debate: Is social media overrated?

Carr rails against Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter as a vacuous wasteland, telling us "there's more to life than feeding the insatiable blood sucking plant of social media". Countering Carr, Vaynerchuk notes that social media truly levels the playing field for many who wouldn’t otherwise have a chance. “It allows people to market what they want in a very different way than we’ve ever seen before. And the cost of entry is zero.”

The two agree firmly on an important point: It does absolutely no good to just spout off online in the hopes of winning big. Businesses need to have a strategy—and they need to stop doing all the talking and listen to what people are saying.

Case in point: Nobody ever heard of Vaynerchuk until he began answering readers’ questions on Summize (which has since been acquired by Twitter). “I earned enormous street cred that way,” he recalls. Today, his brand garners 90,000 daily views, and has become one of the most popular iTunes podcasts in the food category.

Will anyone with a social media presence replicate his success? No. But those that do will likely have a few key things in common. They’ll:

  • have a compelling voice
  • do more than aggregate content and retweet
  • work tirelessly
  • become avid listeners

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