My company spent last week in New York and had dozens, if not hundreds, of interesting conversations regarding social business design. One theme that Armano and I kept coming back to was signal vs. noise. How does someone rise above the huddled masses in today’s social media world? Quite frankly, it’s a lot tougher now than it was four or five years ago.
How have things changed?
For starters, there are a lot of blogs out there today – which makes it very difficult to get noticed.
- Technorati reported 133 million blogs indexed in late 2008, up from 4 million in late 2004.
- Even Ad Age’s Power 150 has expanded to over 1,000 blogs.
- A rising tide lifts all boats – and the ones at the top rise higher than the others. The numbers on Mack’s list have gotten bigger week by week, but the usual suspects remain on the list.
Fragmentation of channels and attention has increased as well – just look for evidence that blogging is dead, replaced by tweets, real-time friendfeeds, and lifestreaming.
The global economic meltdown happened, driving two outcomes:
- More people with more time on their hands found something free and potentially useful to do.
- People who still had jobs prioritized direct value creation and focused efforts on proprietary content.
Along the way, perhaps caused by a combination of the factors above, the culture of social media changed.
- People have been stretched thin, failed to scale, and are close to burn out.
- Attention (e.g. links, retweets, comments) functions as currency in the socialsphere. The influentials started to realize that their money was more valuable than others. To retain value, many influentials have become stingy with their pocketbooks.
- On the other side of the coin, many participants are unashamed to beg for handouts. Messages public and private that ask “link to me,” “pls RT,” and “comments appreciated” now come from complete strangers.
Perhaps this is just social media fulfilling its own self-prophesy. These channels thrive on niche focus, thus it’s an anomaly to rise above the masses.
If not – then how can someone rise above the fray today?