I started my morning in the office today as I always do, with a coffee and a catch-up of Twitter newsfeeds to see what I might have missed in the short period of time that I actually sleep and am away from a screen. There's always a handful of accounts that I make a point of checking, usually of the people who I admire or look up to in the social media world. So I was surprised and a little disappointed to find that seven of them had posted the same headline and link in quick succession. Content curation is nothing new and we see it all the time across all the social platforms, but this morning it did make me wonder where the value is in all of us sharing the same content over and over again.
I remember when I first became interested in social media in around 2008, when tasked with helping develop how social media could be used by utility companies, and every piece of advice available constantly reiterated that around 60% of all content should be curated or shared from a third-party. It didn't sit well with me then as I felt that businesses should be using social media to tell their own story, not someone else's and it still doesn't agree with me now. Yet we're still following the same rules from 8 years ago, still being told by the experts that this is the way social media works.
“The biggest daily challenge of social media is finding enough content to share,” writes Guy Kawasaki in his 2014 book 'The Art of Social Media'. “We call this ‘feeding the content monster'. There are two ways to do this: content creation and content curation". The overwhelming message seems to be that to succeed in social media you have to create as much content as possible and if you can't create it yourself, use content that someone else has already created. For me personally, this raises serious questions over quality and peoples' motivation for using social media platforms. It also reminds me of Jeff Goldblum's line in Jurassic Park; "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, that they didn't stop to think if they should".
We didn't stop to think, in fact we went to the other extreme; creating automated tools to make content curation easier and the practice of regurgitating overused content has become more prolific as a result. We created a monster and because we were too preoccupied with 'feeding the content monster' we didn't stop to think what effect that would have on the platforms we posted on or the audiences we were trying to reach. We didn't stop to think that saturating people's newsfeed in Facebook would indirectly lead to the need for an algorithm to determine which content was useful to audiences. An algorithm that we as social media marketers now roundly denounce for reducing the reach of our business pages. We didn't stop to think that automated tweeting tools would lead to the overwhelming 'noise' on Twitter that we now strive to cut through to reach our intended audience and deliver true value.
We're dealing with a phenomenon called 'content shock' which today is a widely used term, but one which I first heard used by Gary Vaynerchuck when he went on to explain that "99% of people don't market in the year we actually live in". I remember hearing him say it and nodding sagely in agreement, but it didn't really hit me until recently how right he was. We rely on rules for social media which were drawn up over 10 years ago in some cases. In a fast moving and agile environment such as social media, that's the equivalent of the Jurassic period. If the marketers for your business are still relying on content curation and principles from way back in 2006, then they might as well be dinosaurs and your campaigns are essentially extinct.
It's long past time for some new thinking in the social media arena, time to break some rules and start thinking for ourselves. Let's do what works for us, try new things and get back to creating quality experiences and adding value to people's newsfeeds.
What do you think, should we stop feeding the content monster?