This morning, I was out for my morning run around the lake. Up ahead, I saw a guy approaching, wearing headphones, smiling, head bouncing with the music. Looked like he was having a great run. Everyone he passed, he shouted, “Hi!”
As he approached me, he shouted, “Hi!” I responded, “Great day isn’t it?” He didn’t respond, and continued on. I was struck by his lack of response and thought about it during the rest of my run. I realized, that he wasn’t interested in engaging me in a conversation, after all, he was wearing headphones, preferring to listen to music. All he wanted to do was shout out and greet people.
The interaction reminded me a lot of what seems to be happening in social media. Everyone talks about the value of social media in establishing communities and having conversations. The reality seems to be more like this guy, there is a lot of shouting, but little intent to listen.
I’m as much at fault as everyone, but it seems that we get consumed with VOLUME—both in quantity of content we put out and how much it is heard. But we aren’t as good at engaging in the conversation.
My friend, Paul Castain, posted a brilliant post on this topic the other day: Content Is King—Are You Freaking Kidding Me? Ironically, it generated a great conversation.
We seem so consumed with generating content and getting seen, we forget to comment and engage people. If the point of social media is to establish community and to stimulate discussion, then we need to balance quantity and volume with engagement. Our content needs to inspire interaction.
As creators of social media content, we have to take time to participate in the conversation, to comment and respond.
Twitter makes it even worse, there are these tools that automatically Tweet certain blogs. The person doing the Tweeting doesn’t even read my stuff any more, their tools just automatically Tweet everything that I publish. It’s always interesting, within about 30 minutes of publishing an article, the same 10-15 people tweet it, in exactly the same format.
I’m flattered they think enough of my stuff that they blindly tweet it, but they have lost all credibility for me in Twitter. I follow people that offer great insight, I know when I read whatever they are talking about, I will get value from it. When I tweet, pointing someone to an article, it’s because I think my audience will get value from the article. Now, when people are by-passing this, automatically tweeting everything that comes from me and others, I tend to think of it as the Twitter equivalent of SPAM (TWAM??).
Will the rush for content, will the rush to creating a lot of visibility, will the tools that allow us to mindlessly publish but not engage just erode the power of social media? How will great stuff stand out in from the mass of junk? How will our voices be heard as the VOLUME keeps getting turned up? Will social media become a giant sinkhole of people shouting “Hello,” but having no intent of listening? What happens when we lose the conversation?