More about Social Media

Yes, I know my last post was about social media. Yes, this one will repeat some of what was said last time. Yes, I know the odds of connections from my social media sites actually reading this are about one in fifty if I’m lucky. I’ve accepted all that and so should you.

Social Media isn’t very social. It’s a criticism that the traditional media has been quick to point out at times. Sure they do it because they’re angry and old; standing on their front yard in their bathrobe shaking their fist at things they don’t fully understand (I’m looking at you Vanity Fair and The New Yorker.) The fact that they don’t understand doesn’t make them wrong though. People in general are vain and self-absorbed. It’s just the nature of humanity. So when twitter becomes vain and self-absorbed it’s no fault of the service, but rather the people that use it. Twitter has illustrated that it can be useful and interesting, but typically only when a celebrity has died or when it’s not used by Americans (see Iran).

Followers, friends, fans and the hundreds of other ways that these sites represent “social” connections have become nothing more than trophies. Like achievements or points in a video game, people collect them as if they represent something. As if at some point a store will open where these tokens can be redeemed for something worthwhile. I can tell you now, There is no follower store. Sorry.

I think that I have one of the best stories to illustrate the nature of this beast. I have held onto this story for fear of offending or hurting someone, but frankly, it’s just a true story. I’m not going to say who it was, but I’m sure people would be able to figure it out pretty easily. Lucky for me, statistically no one will read this so the secret is safe.

I co-host a podcast. It’s a small podcast, but it is the fruit of my labor. One of our ideas to help grow the podcast was to bring in guest hosts. Even if these hosts had a small online presence, there’s no way that our audience would have a 100% overlap. So even if we could only bring in a couple new listeners, we would view it as a success.

At that time I was interacting with someone over twitter quite a bit and decided to ask them onto the show. I wasn’t really paying attention, but as it turns out the person I asked had around 50,000 followers. That’s quite a few people to show interest in what you have to say, especially for someone like me that was in the 300 follower range. As fate would have it, the person said yes. We agreed on a topic, we recorded the show and soon it was on the internet for everyone to listen.

I sat behind my computer screen wringing my hands in excitement over the thought of the hundreds of possible new listeners this could bring to our show. Being someone that tries to keep things in the realm of realism, I knew we weren’t going to get 50,000 downloads. I knew it would be a stretch for us to even get 1,000. I figured we might get a couple hundred if we were lucky, but it didn’t matter. We do the show for fun and whenever we get even a single new listener, it’s a treat. A day goes by, but there is no real increase in listeners. A couple more days, and still no noticeable increase in downloads.

When it was all said and done, there was a slight increase in our downloads. That week’s show got around twenty more downloads than our usual episode. Even with this person tweeting multiple times to their over 50,000 followers and posting on their website, there wasn’t any statistical evidence to support it. It had no long term effect on our show’s listener base and that episode has become one of our lowest performing episodes over long term performance. It’s statistically improbable that the episode would perform like that. That means that only .04% of that person’s follower base could be bothered to click a link and listen to an episode of a podcast featuring that person. It was at that point that I realized, no one reads anything on twitter.

I will say I am twitter blessed though. I have a large percentage of people that I interact with on my timeline. Besides some celebrities that I follow just because they are interesting, I can count on almost any of the people I follow to give me a reply. That’s a rare thing and I work hard to keep it that way. I don’t “follow back” and I don’t do “follow friday.” I figure if you want someone interesting to follow, look at my retweets and following list. I don’t waste my time with people I don’t enjoy following.

So all this text is to say, social media is what you make it. Is someone with a million followers going to answer your tweet? Not likely. You’d be better off yelling at a wall and expecting a reply. If you want to interact, only follow people that interact with you. Don’t be afraid to unfollow someone when you don’t enjoy what they have to say. It’s not a competition and there are no prizes. Make social media work for you and you’ll find plenty of enjoyment out of it.


  1. Mark DouglasNo Gravatar
    Posted August 22, 2010 at 3:25 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I couldn’t agree more. For me, the real victory of twitter is to find maybe 10-100 people that you maybe would not have met otherwise and exchange ideas/thoughts/feelings. Having 50,000 followers is no better than having 10 followers. In fact I think the more followers you have the harder it is to have a dialogue with any of them. Once people “reach” some staggering number of followers they are just broadcasting and it’s not social in any way.

    • CarlNo Gravatar
      Posted August 22, 2010 at 6:30 pm | Permalink | Reply

      I completely agree Mark. You’re one of those examples for me. If not for twitter, there are quite a few people I would have never met. I struggle to keep my following down so I can actually interact and enjoy conversation as much as possible through the service.

      If for some reason I ever became “popular,” I would have to actually consider putting my account as protected.

  2. KaraNo Gravatar
    Posted August 22, 2010 at 6:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Excellent, inciteful. I do not do fscebook precisely because the words “face” and “friends” disturb me in the context. With twitter on the other hand, I have 20ish followers/followers, that i feel, maybe naively, have become actual friends and whom I rely on – cyberly – every day.

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