Saturday, January 16, 2010

Blah, blah, blah

A funny thing happened over the holiday break. I became less social.

I’m not talking about traditional social activities…I spent plenty of time with family and friends, doing my part in the annual eat-drink-and-be-merry season. What I didn’t do was make a whole lot of effort to keep up with social media.

Ordinarily, I’m all over it. I scan more than a dozen newsletters each day, both for my own personal edification and to spot interesting articles to share with friends and followers. I review my Google Reader feed, where I track around 60 news feeds and blogs. I keep up with the twitterverse in TweetDeck – at least with the people and keywords in which I’m most interested – and in HootSuite, where I manage multiple accounts. I link, I friend, I digg, I blog. Every day. All of that, plus my “real” job.

Over the break, when I did check in, I found myself punching the Mark As Read button, rather than actually reading. My updates were fewer, and further in between. I actually unfollowed a couple of hundred tweeters, finding myself tired of sifting through that which is mundane, self-serving or duplicative. I hid a bunch of Facebook fan pages that barraged me with updates that bordered on spam.

I trimmed the “blah, blah, blah.”

What I noticed along the way was that others seemed to be doing the same thing. Twitter seems to have flat-lined since mid-November, according to Quantcast, and in my non-scientific observation, even my closely-followed tweeters have become notably less prolific. As January begins to roll towards February, the post-holiday uptick I expected just hasn’t occurred.

Perhaps in this season of resolutions and reevaluation, we’re taking a closer look at the value of all this effort. We’re feeling overwhelmed by it all, calling to mind one of my favorite social media management analogies: it’s like trying to take a sip of water from a fire hose. How many are admitting, as my friend Barry did in a recent post, “I still don’t know what I’m doing, or why.”

I’m not deluded, though. Social media is here to stay. It has changed, and will continue to change, the way we communicate and the way we go to market. But I’m wondering if we have come to – or are nearing -- a turning point in social media…a period of constriction and selectivity as the novelty of social media begins to wear off and each of us begins to establish personal “value screens” for messaging we’ll allow in.

Ironically, social media itself is predicting this. With frequency now, the ubiquitous “10 Steps to Success in Social Media” posts now include advice to quit the relentless counting of fans, followers and subscribers. For marketers, that means worrying less about how many people are listening, and more about whether the RIGHT people are listening. For the rest of us, we’ll keep that which enlightens, enriches, entertains and educates, and get rid of the blah, blah, blah.

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