Not unlike the very planet we call home, the bedrock of the social media landscape is always shifting. The best we can do as keepers of our online communities is try to predict when the next big earthquake or volcanic eruption will take place, then do our best to ensure we're prepared and adaptable enough to endure the upheaval.
I'm not an expert. But I believe the momentum has been building for the past few years and now, finally, the next cataclysm is upon us.
Personally, I welcome it.
For a while now, we've been preaching quality over quantity. In fact, the "less is more" approach was a big theme of the social media predictions made back in 2012
. Size no longer predicts quality. In fact, size might now more likely deter rather than entice. The giant landscape will break apart into smaller pieces. Thank goodness.
On April 25, two Italian security researchers called out a number of big Twitter accounts
for allegedly beefing up their follower numbers with fake accounts. Their findings FINALLY shined a light on the rather icky practice of buying fake followers to increase reach and visibility by manufacturing the notion that you're missing out on something big if you don't follow too.
I get it. Many of us need to justify the ROI on social media to our bosses before the next budget cycle, so we don't necessarily have time to grow organically. We needed to show how social media amplifies our reach and brings in new customers. So how did we help things along? We bought likes and followers.
Seems others might not like it either. Or, they're just sick of all the noise.
I believe people are beginning to search for something more intimate, more personal. They will grow bored of the contests and coupons and special offers (especially if they never win). I'm willing to wager that fewer and fewer people will truly engage with people or brands with huge followings without selfish incentive, simply because it is increasingly impossible to do so. They'll want the little club that lets them really listen and talk to their friends at the same time, not the hulking arena where their shouts of approval can't ever be heard over the screaming din.
Not to say that you can't create that environment on Facebook or Twitter. The platforms aren't necessarily the problem. It's the individual presences themselves: The lack of good content — tested, edited, scrapped and refurbished, over and over again, until it's right — that compels people to like, comment, share, or retweet without being told to do so. The lack of participation because it speaks to people on a deeper level, rather than because they might win a gift card.
It's important to note that good content involves more than turning a nice phrase or taking a decent photo. It's swift and thoughtful responses to questions and issues. It's informed consent. It's a willingness to show you care about more than your bottom line.
Do you know how many people truly engage with your online presence because of no incentive other than the chemical reactions your words set off in their brains?
I predict that if you don't, very soon, you'll need to.