The Age of Too Much Info

Abe Simpson Too Much Info I feel like Abe Simpson sometimes….what did I just say?

I’m quite relieved that Google Buzz tanked upon its launch. Not because I don’t like their products, but because I’m really tired of this whole new social media paradigm that is making people communicate in rather unhealthy ways.

We don’t need another social media platform and another massive time-suck, for goodness sake!

We’ve reached a stage in cyberspace where suddenly, it’s cool to be navel-gazing or to put every single thought up for display in public.

Yes, this coming from me – one who updates my status in Facebook several times a day to the amazement or horror of some friends – might seem ironic and contradictory.

But Facebook is in its own league of communications and allows people to shape conversations on their own time and space.

Given its massive user base (400m at time of writing), it’s an incredible way of connecting with friends and sharing stuff you could never do so before using your own website/blog/homepage. It combines the visual, the aural, and the verbal in truly useful ways.

Compare this to Twitter, which seems to have spawned a generation of people who cannot help but keep putting up 140 character updates on every little small thing. Already, I check FB too frequently, but you have to double or triple that frequency when using Twitter!

There are folks and companies which truly use Twitter in a controlled manner and post useful information, but having tried to be a Twitterer several times over the past few years, I really find it to be a high-risk platform where I might blurt out something I’d truly regret.

And for what purpose? Millions of tweets go unread every day, a far higher frequency than Facebook postings.

For me, the worst thing about Twitter is that its so “un-visual”. Everything has to be squashed into a TinyURL or Bit-ly link.

Let me detour a bit to the marketing profession on a related rant.

There are some..make that many, marketers who now believe that one should ply all their energies into Facebook and Twitter. I don’t disagree with them as marketing platforms (heck, I set up our Xbox fanpage and maintain it daily), but one should not miss the forest for the trees.

Just because you are using social media, doesn’t make you a good marketer. And just because you’re getting some fancy numbers, doesn’t mean you’re moving the needle where it counts.

The fundamentals of using all the marketing levers, old and new, is still critical especially in Asia where old media continues to rule mindshare. You’d be surprised to know how many marketers I’ve seen who don’t understand old media, or outdoor publicity to begin with. Those fundamentals cannot be ignored because we live in a real world, not a virtual one.

The thing people (who get enamoured with social networks) keep forgetting is that the information you post on such networks is so fleeting, it hardly registers with the majority of people unless you keep grinding at it constantly and consistently.

Trust me, it’s hard to find the right people who can truly engage the public online. Xbox’s Major Nelson is one of the rare few who get it right and actually builds great affinity for the brand rather than just being a “corporate blog” (which is an oxymoron IMO, most corporate bloggers are dead boring and never reveal anything that is truly personal or worth re-reading).

And his tweets are always worth reading because he knows what he’s doing.

I often have to reserve my comments when people come and beat their chests and talk about social media marketing or digital PR. The truth is, the online space has millions of people but very few voices that actually matter. Unless you are willing to step in deep and present yourself as is, your voice will hardly rise above the din. Most people don’t dare to break that wall of privacy down and offer themselves to the masses.

There’s really too much information flooding everyone, and the scary thing is that we’re all contributing to the noise in increasing ways. 

Now here’s another irony I’ve begun to observe– With social media, more is less. The more friends or followers people have on their platforms, the less they’ll notice a particular post from you, no matter how important you think it is. Unless you’re a celebrity or big personality, this rule will apply more often than not.

That said, I think Twitter is a unique tool for generating conversations in real time for people who enjoy it. But I seriously doubt it’ll last as social media fatigue sets in for more people.

For me, I’m sticking to Facebook, where I pace the conversation on my own terms, and Live Messenger, where it’s an actual exchange of thoughts with no peer pressure or interruption.

And Google Buzz? No time, gotta buzz off.

I guess I need to reduce the amount of noise I’m generating too.

4 Replies to “The Age of Too Much Info”

  1. I so totally agree. But then this is coming from someone who had stubbornly resisted all attempts by numerous friends to entice me into the social media web until a weak moment last year at my impending departure from a place that I had lived in for the previous three years.

    Anyway, I’m starting up my own online business and from the literature that I have been reading, it seems lots of marketers out there are urging people to quickly jump on the bandwagon to maximize the potential of various social media to engage the customer and eventually generate the ka-ching. I had been half convinced that as an online retailer, it would be imperative for me to set up a blog + facebook + Twitter + mailing list etc. I even began reading up on various software designed to help one update all the different media at the same time. But upon careful evaluation of the unique functions of each media and my own motives for using them, I realise that I shouldn’t just be setting up any of these things just coz everyone one else seem to be on them. The very nature of social media is to be social, and people can’t do that without getting somewhat personal. Yet the very act of putting the same content onto various platforms for business exposure renders the content impersonal and self-interestedly promotional in nature. Which defeats the purpose of being on a social media in the first place. So my conclusion is that unless I can be confident of using the medium in a personal and meaningful way appropriate to the nature of the media, I’m not going to waste my time and risk my business reputation creating the virtual equivalent of junk DMs that used stuff up our mailboxes until locks were installed to thwart junk mailers.

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