We live in a world where you can pay a stranger $3,000 to “professionally” formulate a social media strategy, post to various social networks and encourage your guests to share on social media.

Now, I’m all for wedding guests sharing their happy memories, but the concept of a marketer selling this as a service is what gets to me. The slow death of social media is a topic that I recently had a chance to explore during a panel I moderated: “Marketers are killing social media. Now what?” The challenge is that the origins of social media have been lost to a new era of social media marketing and promoted content. You can read a great recap of the event here.

I am a social media nerd. I joined Twitter when the service was less than a year old. I remember when getting written up in TechCrunch could crash a website. I remember when Foursquare was just a glimmer in Dodgeball’s eyes.

But I am also guilty of social media’s demise. I have sponsored posts that didn’t need to be sponsored and included #overlylonghashtags in content in an attempt to be witty. I am not a social media saint. But, I am a realist and I am here to offer some assistance on how we can resuscitate social media, but it won’t be easy.

Not quite on life support

Social media has grown in the last decade to the point of being an orgy of promoted content aimed to expose us nonstop to the concept of “brands” that want to “engage” with their “communities.” Let’s just stop that.

Interesting #SaveSocial w/ @kevinurie@ChrisHeuer, @YoliChrisholm & @geekgiant on how mktg is killing social. pic.twitter.com/7IvgpoJx38

— Mike Barbre (@MikeBarbre) March 26, 2014

In order to save social media from itself, we need to pause and emphasize the good content that our brands are capable of producing. People share awesome. People buy what solves a problem. So, when we are trying to get attention and encourage people to pay attention to our goods or services, let’s tell awesome stories.

When we want people to buy our goods and services, we need to provide them with awesome products. This represents a fundamental shift that we need to embrace on our way to saving social media. As one of the panelists noted, this shift is going to take courage. There is an inherent fear in social media strategy that what we do won’t work. We sacrifice creativity at the hands of metrics.

Making the C-suite happy

One topic we explored during the conversation was one that was familiar to social media: how to keep the C-suite happy. What emerged was the realization that it is often middle management that needs to be educated on the risks and potential results of a social media campaign. The middle managers are the ones accountable for budget spend and on the front lines of reports and metrics. They are the first to know when a campaign isn’t working and the first to hear it from their bosses.

Being able to create a social media environment where failures are not only tolerated, but accepted, is vital. Not every tweet or Instagram capture can be a viral hit. One of the core ways to accomplish this is by abolishing the “use it or lose it” mentality of marketing budgets. Having the ability to be creative in real time comes down to having the human and financial resources available to not only recognize an opportunity, but to capitalize on it as well.

We hear of surprise and delight campaigns fairly regularly, yet how many of us have the ability to execute? Is that inability purely due to the lack of budget to buy a piece of personal electronics or for the community manager to ship a sample of a product to a customer?

In today’s world, everybody is an influencer. Every user of any social network is not only a potential customer, but they are also potentially your next vocal advocate. Let’s not let those opportunities die along with social media.