Sometimes it seems like all the reblogging and reposting and retweeting is a bit of a Ponzi scheme: Someone at the top of the pyramid gets a lot of credit, and followers, for being the originator of a post or link, but as the content is passed along, the amount of social currency decreases sharply. By the time the link goes viral, everyone you might have forwarded it to already has seen it.
I'm sure you notice this dynamic if you use social media and follow a specific industry closely. Unless you catch the first posting of something you’ll end up with a big block of reposts. There’s a huge amount of competition to be the first to post a relatively tiny amount of truly interesting content.
It’s gotten to the point where “being first” to post can feel more important than the content actually being that relevant or interesting to your friends or followers. Social media is supposed to be a utility, a way of connecting with people and spreading the word about something quickly. Instead, it’s become a numbers game that’s placing increasing demands on our time just to keep up.
Brands are falling prey to the same trend. On Facebook, for example, there’s a huge amount of pressure to amass sheer numbers of “likes.” And that leads to a lot of ideas that are all about getting Facebook likes and less about doing anything truly valuable for the brand or fascinating for your audience. It may seem like you’re getting more and more followers, but really you’re just leading people down an alley rather than sending them someplace fun.
In a way, what’s happening on Facebook and elsewhere is not that dissimilar from the endless news cycle, where everyone talks about the same thing over and over, and they feel they have to be talking about the same thing at the risk of seeming irrelevant.
It reminds me of how things were six or seven years ago when the primary objective was for brands to collect as many e-mail addresses as possible, with little or no thought as to what they were going to do with their 2 million e-mail addresses once they’d been stockpiled in databases. Going after e-mails was more often than not a serious obstacle to engaging the audience, when for the most part all you were really doing was trying to get an e-mail address in exchange for viewing an ad.
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