In an age where content rules, we’ve reached the point of stagnation. Yes, user generated material is still the lifeblood of the internet as we know it, but no longer is content the refreshing, educational, value creator that it once was.
In a 2010 article, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt noted that “Every two days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003.” While user generated content; tweets, pictures, blogs, etc. all add to the excess, the glut of information has continually driven down the level of quality, ultimately resulting in a flood of mediocre content.
However, this onslaught of pedestrian information isn’t simply an intangible talking point. Nearly three years ago, a McKinsey study valued the surplus at $171B, a number that has surely increased since the article’s publication.
Initially, the excess material did very little, it remained dormant, languishing on blogs, many of which had failed to properly manipulate Google’s search algorithms, leaving them uncharted and unseen. Yet, as social media evolved, savvy internet users learned to drive site traffic and optimize content for search, opening the floodgates and drowning the internet in content.
Once the dam had broken, an oversupply of redundant information surfaced as a small group of thought leaders consistently innovated and a mass of “internet gurus” regurgitated their ideas as if they were their own, publishing them on blogs, forums, and social networks, while rarely expanding in any meaningful way.
Today, as internet users frustratedly peruse the web searching for “new” articles, they often find that something published yesterday highlights the exact same information as a piece authored six months prior. Although, this repetition is nothing new, the frequency at which it occurs is unprecedented. Much the same as an influx in the housing market causes property values to plummet, a glut of monotonous content degrades the significance of an original thought.
Since much of this excess comes from people who are far from experts, a majority of user generated material is marginal at best. That being said, the same surplus that erodes innovative thought, is also what makes the social web great. So, as networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn foster open dialogue and act as a forum for unregulated discussion, it is important to remember that in doing so, they are spawning millions of pieces of lackluster content.
It is a viscous cycle. Mediocre content has become an unfortunate necessity. It is unfortunate that the regurgitation of a unique idea by self-proclaimed experts ultimately reduce the worth of an initial notion, but, it is a necessity, as the open, social dialogue created by subpar material, cause the exact same pieces of content to act as springboards, encouraging readers to expand upon their theories. If there is a gap within a hypothesis or an argument is flawed, the uninhibited exchange of ideas will inevitably result in a resolution.
Three days ago, Allison Benedikt published a provocative manifesto, explaining why parents who send their kids to private institutions are “bad people.” While noting her argument wasn’t “quite as outrageous as it might seem”, John Carney, a senior editor at CNBC had an alternate view of the situation. Among several intelligent rebuttals, in his response, Carney explained that “Benedikt’s premise that creating a public school monopoly would improve education is demonstrably wrong. Monopoly education would, like every monopoly known in the history of humanity, produce a poorer quality product at greater cost. Competition improves education.”
The example above not only highlights the open exchange of ideas spurred from content (Allison’s piece was far from mediocre), but John’s argument about monopolization can be adapted as well. To his point, competition fuels both innovation and quality. That being said, if we were to eliminate 85% all user generated content, leaving only what is (mostly) unique thought, competition would drastically decrease. As a result, quality would fall, innovation would slow, and stagnation would ensue, leaving us right back where we started, in a vicious cycle fueled by the unfortunate necessity that is mediocre content.
At the end of the day, the timeless adage still holds true. Regardless of whether the chicken came before the egg or the egg before the chicken, both mediocre content and the innovative ideas they spawn and destroy, are integral pieces of the social lifecycle.
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While many understand that social media is an invaluable marketing tool for businesses, smart entrepreneurs see the true value in social and it has nothing to do with advertising. Here are 3 tools intelligent business owners use to grow their businesses.
“If a man empties his purse into his head no one can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” –Benjamin Franklin
1. Twitter Search
Sure we all know how to use it, but Twitter’s search bar is wildly underutilized. The social network has quickly become the most powerful news and information aggregator in the world. Rather than browsing Inc., Forbes, etc. for news, try searching Twitter to see what you customers / potential customers are saying. Learn from their complaints, wants, wishes, and praise to prevent your business from making the mistakes of those before you.
After taking a look at your customer’s preferences, search your competition, see what they’re doing, what they’re not doing, and what people are saying about them. Taking into account your findings, adjust your marketing strategy accordingly, if they’ve seen success with a contest it might be in your best interest to do a bit of gamification, if they hosted a conference and it was a flop, learn from their mistakes.
2. LinkedIn Answers
LinkedIn Answers provides a forum for users to interact and find solutions to problems of all sorts. If you’re a small business owner LinkedIn Answers is your personal support center. Have an IT issue? Try LinkedIn Answers. Have a question about SEO? Try LinkedIn Answers. Bottom line, you have a question, they (users) have an answer.
To take it a step further, make sure you provide insight and help solve other people’s problems anytime you can. Not only will this ensure your questions are answered in a timely fashion and receive multiple responses, but it will help to establish you / your business as a thought leader and valuable resource within your industry.
3. LinkedIn Groups
Similar to their counterpart (Answers), LinkedIn Groups provide users with the ability to learn, teach, and share information of all kinds. Join groups in your industry and actively participate, share relevant articles, and learn from others. Groups’ real value lies in the fact that they are filled with like-minded people. If you own a hotel and need advice on staffing and payroll you probably don’t want advice from a SEO expert, fortunately your Group is filled with thousands of hospitality professionals, most of which are willing to help in any way they can.
While these are by no means “new” tools, they are certainly underutilized. As “social marketers” we often fall victim to tunnel vision and only look at intrinsic marketing value, however, it is important to remember that social provides an enormous wealth of information and at the end of the day knowledge is the most valuable tool anyone can have.