In the early 1800s, seeds from the purple loosestrife made their way to the upper Atlantic coast of North America via the ballasts of European sailing vessels. The beautiful purple-flowered weed honed in on the region's thriving wetlands and began to take root as an unwelcome guest -- a predator rather than an adaptor. It spread across the country, overwhelming and suffocating the delicately balanced ecosystem of marshes, clogging waterways, strangling native vegetation and displacing wildlife.
A similar phenomenon has now reached social media. Under the guise of real-time marketing, often called just RTM, the purple loosestrife has arrived. It is killing the promise of brands and customers genuinely communicating with each other. That was the potentially game-changing idea back when social networks like Twitter and Facebook were more often referred to as online communities.
Today the hope and belief that brands would connect with people has in large part given way to brands publishing to them by hijacking social buzz.