First published April 10, 2014 in Mediapost’s Search Insider
Everybody should have a voice – I get that. Thank goodness that the web and social media have democratized publication. Because of that, the power to say what’s on our mind is just a click away. From this power, great things have and will continue to come – the overthrow of tyrants, the quest for truth, freedom from oppression. I’m pretty sure those are all good things. Important things.
But I’m also pretty sure the signal to noise ratio in social media content is infinitesimal – verging on undetectable. For every post that moves humanity incrementally forward, there are thousands that drive us over the brink into mind numbing mediocrity.
For example, Justin Bieber has 51 million followers, and has tweeted 26,508 times. That, in case you’re wondering, has produced 1.35 trillion “Bieberisms,” or 193 little Bieber-tweets for every man, woman and child on planet Earth. Here’s one of his finest: “Put your heart into everything you do”. Perhaps the Biebs would be better served by using his head a little bit too. But no matter, he tweets on, sharing his special brand of wisdom. No wonder over 70% of all tweets never get read.
And, for God’s sake – stop hashtagging everything! First of all, it only belongs on Twitter and Instagram. It’s not a universal punctuation mark. And it doesn’t belong in front of every word of your post! If you’re writing about something that falls under a topic category that people actually care about – then by all means slip a hashtag in there. For example:
“Witnessing special forces retaking capital building in Kiev – #ukrainecrisis”
“Just discovered key gene in early detection of Alzheimer’s – #alzheimerresearch”
See how it works? You’re adding key content to a topic that people care about and may actually be searching for on Twitter. This is how not to use hashtags:
“Off to a funeral #selfie #zebra #sunglasses #bling #hairdown #polo #countrygirl #aero #dodge #ram #cute”
All I can say is #shoot #me.
The other problem is that with this diarrheic explosion of content flooding online, it becomes impossible to sift through all of it to find things that are truly important. Generally, most content filters use one of two criteria – recency or popularity. Recency is fine if you’re looking for breaking news. It’s a clearly understood parameter. Popularity, however, has some issues. The theory here is that the wisdom of crowds can be relied on to push the best content to the top. But that’s not really how the wisdom of crowds works. Just because something is popular doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good. And it certainly doesn’t mean it’s important. All too often, it just means that it panders to the lowest common denominator. Do we really want that to be our filtering criteria? Should Kanye West and Keeping Up with the Kardashians mark our cultural high water mark?
One last rant. “Epic” is not the right adjective to apply to concert tickets, Saturday nights at the club, bowls of chili or, when incorrectly combined with the verb “fail”, your company’s Christmas party. According to this post,
“the word epic should only be used to describe two or three things, ever. In fact, here’s a comprehensive list of all things epic: 1. Oceans 2. Lengthy Narratives 3. The Cosmos.”
Feel free to retweet if you wish. Or not. No one will read it anyway.