I often find the serendipity of coming across a series of articles that seem to echo the same general feeling fascinating. I’m not sure if it’s a cultural exhaustion with social media, or just odd timing, but here are the three that came across my radar in quick succession this morning. We’ll play find the common theme in a minute, but for now, just titles (and links, of course):
From the incomparable Liz Strauss: Klout, my story, and why opting out was my only choice.
From Dan Gershenson at the Personal Branding Blog: Congrats on your 65,000 followers. Now which are real?
From Mark Gibbs at the Consumerology blog of CIO: Web 2.0 Suicide Machine: When you just can’t take any more social media.
It wasn’t a stretch to find these, they were published December 5, December 3, and December 2, respectively.
The common thread here is annoyance. Irritation. Much has been made in the past about the attention crunch (or attention crash). Some dismiss it, saying we replace some items with others, and it all evens out in the end. I used to agree with that sentiment, but I’m not sure I do anymore. The potential impact on the long-term value of social as a commercial communications and marketing tool could be significant.
In reading these three pieces, a few nuggets stand out for me. One, Gershenson points out “According to the latest data from Quantcast, nearly 3 in 4 visits to Twitter are from folks who visit once a month. That’s it.” So three in four visits to Twitter are from individuals who are infrequent users at best. I wasn’t able to find a more updated survey, but a 2009 Harvard Business Review study showed that 90 percent of the content is created by 10 percent of users on Twitter. Twitter users, according to Pew, represent 13 percent of online adults. Twitter is clearly an important social network, but in examining data like this, how much time should be dedicated to Twitter?
Which naturally leads me to Liz Strauss’s post about Klout. Klout’s backbone is Twitter, although they are trying mightily to get users to link all of their other social profiles into their Klout score. Strauss correctly identifies what seems to be an emerging (yet, painfully obvious) conclusion: if you aren’t paying for the product, you ARE the product. So she is opting out of Klout–as have a number of people who I find influential. People like Danny Brown, and Neville Hobson, and others.
How useful is an influence tool when important people pack up and leave? Sure, others will remain, but it’s entirely possible Klout will have more holes than a colander soon. I’ve seen similar rumblings about leaving by friends on Facebook, and I know a few who have quit that social network simply because they are tired of the uphill battle to maintain some semblance of privacy. They are aware they are the product and they are tired of it.
This leads to the Consumerology post. Some of my friends are tired of being the product, others simply seem tired of trying to maintain social presences. I routinely forget about both my LinkedIn account and my Google+ account. Discussion of a Facebook IPO and a possible valuation of $100 billion is stunning, when you consider much of that is based on advertising. Advertising which some never see if they block ads through their browser settings. While I’m not quite ready to go as far as to say it’s the beginning of the end for Facebook, I’ve noticed–as has the author of the Techland piece–that many of my friends post less and less often.
Or, to borrow (and mangle) a phrase from one of the Bard of Avon’s other plays: have we been led to a fool’s paradise in social?