Can Social Media really be called Social any longer, is Social Media broken beyond all repair? Almost since its launch, people have been observing the “Echo Chamber” effect of Twitter. There have been studies that only 20% of the users are actually producing original content, the other 80% are simply reposting that content. Some have even gone so far as to claim that this “reposting” is in fact Content Curation. I think this is a very loose interpretation of any definition of content curation – if indeed such an activity really exists. What most people seem to refer to as content curation is in fact content aggregation. Content aggregation is the process of finding, culling and republishing other people’s work to make your content seem interesting.
Why Social Media is Broken
Don’t get me wrong I use content aggregation as a strategy in marketing communications – I don’t consider it curation though. I use services like Paper.li to produce aggregated content that is then republished. I also aggregate content for my weekly newsletter “Did You See..?” (feel free to sign up). Some people would call this curation because I collect specific content – Digital, Mobile and Social Media marketing news, and then republish that. I disagree with it being called curation, because it misses one important factor – cataloging. Curation has to have a sorting/searching function for it to be curation. Can you imagine a Library that simply housed books with no way to find them, you just had to walk around until you found something interesting?
So back to why Social Media is broken. Its broken because it is no longer truly social. It is competitive and at times almost combative in nature, its all about being heard above the general clamor for attention. Evidence of this is in any one of the expert posts on how to get “retweeted”, “reshared”, or increase your “whatever” score, they will all tell you the same thing – share good content. They have strategies on where to find this good content – Alltop, Pulse, Taptu or any of the other feed based sites will make you popular. How many of us complain about seeing the same posts over and over again when something becomes popular? But how many of us also share the same things that we have already seen? We know that the people we are sharing with, for the most part, are reading the same sources as us, but we share nonetheless. Occasionally, and increasingly rarely, do I see original comments posted with these shares. And that is where social is broken.
Lack of Thought Broke Social Media
The technology we use has made it too easy to share things. No longer do you have to use services like Evernote to “bookmark” a webpage and then remember to share it. Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and every other social network has a widget for that. Want to share a funny cat picture no problem, want to share an article about the Wall Street Occupation, one click and done. The problem with that approach is that there is nothing of you in the share. There is nothing personal and therefore nothing social. I have no problem seeing the same content repeated but without the context of why you are sharing it becomes noise.
In the next few months Google Plus will open it’s doors publicly to businesses. This could quite possibly be the worst thing to happen to the platform in its short life. Google has been running a beta with select businesses to work out how the Google Plus business pages should work – there are two distinct problems with this approach. Firstly, the businesses they selected to work with have social media departments run by early adopters – obviously or they wouldn’t even know about Google Plus, secondly the noise that these pages will introduce won’t come from the businesses, it will come from the wannabe influencers who feel that by repeating posts from their “favorite” brand they will get “noticed”.
If Social Is Broken How Do We Fix It?
This is a huge question and I quite obviously don’t have the definitive answer, I do however have a few opinions for what they are worth. Firstly, think of sharing content like sending an email. When you click send most email software warns you if there is nothing in the body of the email – something along the lines of “The body of this email is empty. Do you really want to send?” Imagine if we could have a share function that did that – “this content has been shared xxx,xxxx,xxx times in the past 24 hours, the comment field is empty are you sure you want to share it?” Or perhaps a filtering system that only shows you new posts on Facebook, G+ etc if there is a new comment attached by the person sharing.
As it stands, there is very little about Social Media that is truly Social. It is a collection of Media and broadcast media at that. In the general rush to be noticed we are all guilty of compounding the problem. In fear of being ignored, forgotten or left behind we pump out content – other peoples content, through our social channels in an attempt to be relevant and meaningful. Social Media is supposedly bringing the death of journalism, but if that is the case why is so much of what is shared on social sites culled from news, magazine and journal websites? Not only culled but shared without comment?
Perhaps the new mantra of the social web should be “Think before you Share”.
If Social Media is Broken how would you fix it?