Most of the content I consume on the social web is so bad, it makes me want to throw in the towel and go back to bed.
When I say “bad,” I’m not referring to typos, grammatical errors or technical glitches, but overall editorial quality. Things like top ten lists with only seven points listed (because the author just couldn’t think of any more) or provocatively titled posts that end up being hot air and link bait.
I wrote about this kind of content back in 2011, and theorized that, eventually, it would die out.
I’d like to officially apologize and say that I was wrong.
Crappy content has not only not died, it has flourished and continues to get read, retweeted and passed around faster than a bad cold in an overcrowded preschool classroom.
I think there are two reasons behind this…
1. A lack of time/interest in reading.
Folks don’t read very much and they are inundated with content each day. To manage the disconnect, many identify pre-approved content sources or content aggregators – individuals, tribes, groups and sites where they can go to get “good content.” Once they’ve vetted the source, I think they then feel comfortable passing along every piece of content that gets posted there (whether they’ve read the content, or not.)
2. A lack of skill in measuring.
Many companies still measure wonky, soft social media metrics, not really tied to business objectives. Who cares if the content they posted made their customers upset? If it got 72 hits that day — a 10% increase over the prior post — it’s a SUCCESS! All of the attention is on the short term payoff and not the long term goal.
This is the way of the world right now, and perhaps the future of social media.
And, if that’s so, I wonder if there is a role for content providers like me in this reality.
In comparison, I am a social media dinosaur.
I personally vet every piece of content that I share in every social channel. And, I put a lot of thought into the content I create. Because of these two things, I know I cannot compete with people who automate their participation and syndicate a stream of (hopefully) acceptable content 24/7.
But, I still feel like there is some value to be found in my approach, which can be best summed up in this little story from writer Loren Eiseley…
“While wandering a deserted beach at dawn, stagnant in my work, I saw a man in the distance bending and throwing as he walked the endless stretch toward me. As he came near, I could see that he was throwing starfish, abandoned on the sand by the tide, back into the sea. When he was close enough I asked him why he was working so hard at this strange task. He said that the sun would dry the starfish and they would die. I said to him that I thought he was foolish. There were thousands of starfish on miles and miles of beach. One man alone could never make a difference. He smiled as he picked up the next starfish. Hurling it far into the sea he said, “It makes a difference for this one.” I abandoned my writing and spent the morning throwing starfish.”
I am that man on the beach, throwing stuff into the abyss each day because I think it is worthy of saving. Every thing I tweet, post or share, I think, “It makes a difference for this one.”
Even if crappy content is cooler, easier and the ticket to more fame, I still want to believe that what I’m doing matters. This may make me provincial, idealistic, and yes, even a bit precious, but it’s who I am and how I’ve chosen to do business.
I will always throw starfish, even if I’m standing on the beach alone.
How about you?