Is Social Media Really Social? From Google Plus to Facebook to Twitter, the Vocal Minority Dominate


What I’m about to write will offend anyone drinking the social media Kool Aid, and yes I drank it sporadically, but let’s get real.

Is social media really social, when a vocal minority of 10% dominate the conversation? Listen to this video and let me share a viewpoint that comes from building an educational social network since 1995, and in the spirit of discussion, not right and wrong….

Google Plus to Facebook – What You Are is

What You Post, and Only 10% Participate

When you read about social media, it’s always from a small group of primarily male contributors who have become sort of social media rock stars. These folks get all the comments and all the likes, almost regardless of what they post…

I’m not bitter against these folks, like all celebrities they have earned their juice and respect, and deserve it.  Yet there is a stagnant feel to much of social media, because the same experts are talking about it, and the same people are just following them and agreeing with what they say, almost afraid to challenge the status quo.

What’s ironic is that this status quo is mostly saying the same thing and things are changing dramatically, and like most Internet generations, I’m not sure they understand the next thing coming…most become stuck in what they do, like Internet 1.0 marketers who still do the same thing and complain the business won’t scale, because they won’t adapt to social media.

The fact is, 10% of people create most of the content, likes, comments, etc. in social media. Think of it like a party you go to, and 10% of the people are talking, and the rest are milling around, lurking and listening.

Is it social media if they don’t talk, interact, and get involved? Or is it just another form of broadcasting, one way and asynchronous, and we just call it social because the tools help connect people to the 10%?

I don’t know or claim to know the answer here, I just know when 10% create content, the rest are just watching….and that’s not much different than TV, except a bit more interactive.

And yes those people could participate, but the fact is they don’t. This is why I find the whole idea of social media depends on vibrant communities.

For example, I love Namesake, which has a much higher rate of people participate than an average community, and the discussions are far more interesting, live, and vibrant. Yet even there, we all wonder why anyone would lurk, and lurkers still dominate.

Explicit Social Media Is Just Part of the Equation

What we call social media is mostly explicit, meaning it takes an action by the user to create activity. From adding a friend manually to posting a photo, tagging it correctly, and blogging about it, these take time…and a bit of creativity.

Since most people are not necessarily creative, they lurk and watch. Combine that with the herding mentality of the social media crowd – which sometimes is like a weird high school clique where everyone wants to look and sound hip, though it doesn’t seem like you understand from the outside what that look/sound of hip is…

By measuring social media value through explicit means, you eliminate the 90% who are just doing…these folks take photos, might tweet here or there, but on a consistent basis it’s just either not in their DNA or in their desire to put the product of their creativity out for the onslaught of social media opinions.

It doesn’t take laws or rules to create suppression of opinion; the power of the crowd, of the herd mentality, is more powerful than any rule. And right now in its early days, social media is ruled by a few who did alot to develop it, but may be standing in the way of it’s growth.

Implicit Social Media is the Future

For all the hot air about Color.com, it’s idea of implicit social media is one of the most revolutionary statements I’ve heard.

Let’s say you are at a concert, with your smartphone and the Color app; you take a photo and post it. That’s it, everything else – your location, identity, everything is separate except for you and that photo.

Someone in proximity to that photo, ie at the concert, see it and that connects you. You don’t have to approve them, you don’t have to do anything, proximity creates the bond, and your photo is shared.

It goes way beyond this simple example, but here the object of creation, the usage of social media, develops the implicit social graph. You don’t have to log in, post it, etc. etc.

You take  a photo and share it; those interested see it, and the photo is your connection, and your network grows because both of you are at a concert, which says much more about who and what you are – music has that kind of bonding and predictable behavior – than you having to fill out a profile.

Can social media move beyond the current limits of streams, walls, posts, comments, likes, and move into true interactivity, where our own actions will create connections implicitly?

I think so, if we use the data to serve the user first, then the advertiser, and that’s where I think social media is really not social.

The data still serves the network and advertisers first, then the user, and in that disorder lies the problem with social media.

It’s not social, it’s broadcasting in a different name…what do you think?