Social Media Rigor Mortis: How Behavior Kills Value
We’ve all seen it. What once worked in social media six months ago doesn’t work now. Why, for instance, does a large following on Twitter no longer indicate influence? Or why is blogging no longer as impressive as it was in 2003? Both these examples follow a predictable economic formula:
As “x” social behaviour multiplies, its social value approaches zero.
Let me break that down for you. The more you do the same thing, people’s appreciation of it lessens. The more you do the same song and dance, don’t be surprised if your audience dwindles. This should be obvious, but it’s not.
LiveJournal: An Example
Most of us think of LiveJournal as the walking corpse of the social media world, but it wasn’t always so. It was one of the first platforms to combine blogging with social networking. More fascinatingly, people who had a LiveJournal felt it gave them status: in order to have one, you had to be invited.
Then it happened. Danga Interactive, LiveJournal’s parent company, removed the invite requirement. Soon everyone who wanted one could have one. This was the beginning of the end.
The problem was everyone wrote about the same things: breakfast, cute kittens, and favourite movies. LiveJournal succeeded in the task of being a journal, but as the novelty of public journalling wore off, so did its perceived value. Soon, users left LiveJournal for the unique feature set of MySpace — and we all know what happened to MySpace.
State of the Social Media Union
Most popular social media tools have their time in the sun then go through a slow rigor mortis. Usenet was once the reason people paid for Internet. Chatrooms were how people dated online. MySpace was a “place for friends”. What happened?
Everyone was doing it, and everyone was behaving the same way. Usenet became so burnt out over flame wars, the term “troll” was coined and “Godwin’s Law” became a law. The acronym “ASL” became such an overused greeting in chatrooms, their very purpose became sexual gratification. As for MySpace, “making friends” became the basis of many a Catch a Predator episode.
We are seeing the same pattern of behavior happen on Twitter, Digg, and Facebook — and if people keep doing the same things, those social networks will soon have less social value than they currently have now.
How Can We Add Value?
The social media slide into rigor mortis is not inevitable. The only way to reverse the lessening of social value is to give your audience value. That is to say, behave in a different way from everyone else. If a platform is flexible enough for innovative forms of communication, and if communities are courageous enough to move beyond their own cliches, social media can thrive.
Want to remain relevant in social media? Behave differently.