I am still amazed at how many people, even in the social media business, don't get social media. I'm not going to provide examples as it is not my intention here to embarrass anyone but the misunderstanding seems especially pronounced with traditional media and people with marketing, advertising and pr backgrounds. I've seen a number of campaigns and even articles on how to do social media that have the same problems as traditional advertising.
So once more with feeling: Social media is social, that means there is an ongoing conversation with give and take, not simply a top down, one directional announcement. It is about telling the truth about what you are selling or promoting and hoping that it resonates with others who will pass on the message. It is not about manipulating people or telling them to pass on your message because you said so. Search engine optimization and other such tricks are fine as long as you have something of substance for people to search for.
I run a number of groups (for example) that are all opt in. Sometimes the number of people goes up, and sometimes it goes down. I am always pleased when the numbers go up, even by one, and never worry when the numbers go down. If people leave then they weren't part of the 'audience' I was after anyway.
I do my best to promote people and things and ideas that I support. I firmly believe in the power of social media to change the world and to empower individuals. I believe that social media can create a climate where the best ideas and the best talent rise to the top even without big money or big names behind them. I fear though that those who take the traditional advertising (cynical) approach to social media will cause people to turn away and destroy what could have been a golden opportunity for society.