This post is about an observation and more specifically a combination of observations that keep raising some questions in my mind and challenging my thought process.
Have you ever read one of the many countless articles about how to succeed in social media? Have you ever noticed that “content is king” is a recurring slogan? Have you ever thought that in “social media”, the “social” part has become more important than the “media” one? Have you ever realised that people (the social part) talk (on the media) mainly about themselves (the content), their problems (still content) and what interests them (content again)?
What follows is not a demonstration but just my own reflection which you may strongly disagree with but, hey! Let’s talk about “you” instead of “me”. “You” – if there is nothing more important than you focusing on yourself and what you want, what about this energy you spend to prove to the entire social world that you are worth it, that you are worth being read, that you are worth being known and “recognised”?
The Me-Myth and the social media autobiography
If you are reading this post, you are more than likely to have your two feet planted in the digital marketing world. Ok, so take a step back from there for a second and think about the entire “Ego-boost” or “Ego-system” that the social media world is currently building, because of all of us are really thinking about “me”, “me”, “me” – hoping that someone will be interested in “me”, “me”, “me”.
If you’re thinking I’m going too far, think twice:
- Intel created “The Museum of Me” that allows me to create and explore a visual archive of my social life
- Social Memories is a Facebook application that makes a book out of all my Facebook activities
- Pastpost tells me every morning what happened to me on the same day last year
- LinkedIn Connection Timeline shows me the evolutions of all my connections
- Google has just released its new tool “Me on the Web” for online reputation management
- Flavors.me will tell you everything you need to know about me – my virtual hub card
- About.me speaks for itself, I guess…
Your social media capital, influence and popularity
I am not even raising the question of who (except yourself) is going to be interested in the above content. However, the thing is when we all start to talk about ourselves at the same time, all the time, in the same places, it gets a bit noisy, and “the content that is supposedly king” becomes harder to find. So how will all those people find all of your very important content? That’s ok, because the social media world thinks of everything and provides you with some tools to show the world that among all the screaming of “me” “me” “me” – you actually are worth reading.
- Klout (freshly integrated by about.me) is the standard for deciding your influence based on your Twitter and LinkedIn data
- Empire Avenue is the social stock market where you can grow your online capital
- The Social List provided by The Sunday Times “calculates your worth” based on your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare profiles
- LinkedIn makes you an “expert” when your answers get voted as “best answers”
- PeerIndex helps you to understand your social capital
- MBlast finds the most influential voices on any topic and tells you where your voice ranks
- Traackr finds the influencers who matter the most to you. Etc…
Social media narcissism
You’re starting to get the picture I guess. But let’s continue by talking about some of the vocabulary used in the industry. There are the “three F’s” that Brian Solis calls the new ROI for marketers: that’s Fans, Friends, Followers. Three words that too many people continue use as their main metrics and targets when it comes to measuring social media ROI. Three words that illustrate perfectly the “Ego-System” that we walk along online. To go where? To gain that special status of “guru”, “influencer” or “thought leader”. Sound familiar?
But here is the mistake. Google “social media ego-something” and you’ll realise you’re looking for the wrong word. People who have written about the phenomenon before talked about “social media narcissism”. You may think that I’m going too far again on this one but here is how Michael Maccoby, anthropologist and psychoanalyst, wrote about Narcissistic Leader in the January-February 2000 Harvard Business Review: The strengths of the Narcissistic Leader are his/her great vision and scores of ‘followers’. The weaknesses are that he or she is sensitive to criticisms, ‘poor listeners’ and has a lack of empathy and ‘an intense desire to compete’. I’ll let you come to your own analysis on this one but please, simply note that this was written way before Facebook and Twitter became ubiquitous.
Evolution or regression?
So what, you ask? Sorry, I don’t have the answer to that one. I warned you, this is not a demonstration, just some observations for you to consider and think about. But to wrap it up based on Clare W. Graves‘ value system, “my” point of view is the following: we are definitely in an ego-self-centic environment (Value 3 – empire, my powerful self or value 5 – my strategic self) in which we desperately want to be heard, get some attention and recognition. This is true for individuals (personal branding) but for companies as well. As Steve Rubel mentioned, I also believe that “we are entering the validation area”. The issue I see here is that the notion of “validation” is external, it is given by others and as you let it happen, you come to depend on others’ judgements, lose a bit of self-confidence and then from external validation, start to believe that you must be right all the time.
But why is validation so important today? Because if you are a company, you’ll generate some leads, sell more of your services and/or products, and if you are an individual, you’ll increase your social ripples and people will share what you say. Wonderful, because that would be the ultimate sign that you are heard and accepted by others “like you” and“similar to you” and this will increase that sense of belonging that makes you feel so good. Remember that it was not such a long time ago that one of the most popular marketer wrote a book called “Tribes”. The thing here where the story ends is that according Clare W. Graves system and in regards to what has just been described; we are back to value 2 (tribe orientated). But that’s already saying too much.
People are just interesting
The environment may have changed, the technology evolved, but I am sorry to say, we have not. Because now that we can, we are all talking at the same time and except for companies and marketing people (take this as a broad scope), nobody is really listening and one of the reasons is that it is hard to. There is just a huge amount of information available and not enough time. I guess I am curious to see what’s going to happen next. What’s certain is that social media is an amazing playground that is going to last and a gold mine for those who actually enjoy listening to what other people have to say. In the end, it’s all about the people, isn’t it?