Social Media Rigor Mortis: How Behavior Kills Value

Written on November 19, 2009 – 3:18 am | by atomicpoet |

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.

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  1. 11 Responses to “Social Media Rigor Mortis: How Behavior Kills Value”

  2. By Brian Wallace on Nov 19, 2009 | Reply

    Great post atomicpoet – enjoyed the example of LiveJournal. You could make a similar case in the early times of the microblogging war:
    1 – Google and Jaiku – lol, though it was a good platform
    2 – Pownce – hmm, how about we opt for Digg instead, though the beta to public seems like the same feeling I got about LiveJournal.

    And let’s not forget Geocities. 🙂

  3. By Richard Becker on Nov 19, 2009 | Reply

    I love the post, but it begs the question if “x” social behaviour multiplies, its social value approaches zero, the what happens when behaving differently becomes x?

    There is certainly a greater need for organizations to develop unique programs that are not reliant on the best practices of other companies. And that is why, this post works as something to keep in mind that the first rule is that there are no rules.

    Best,
    Rich

  4. By Laura Chapman on Nov 26, 2009 | Reply

    The number of followers does not guarantee the level of influence. It’s the quality of your followers that determines the influence.

    Laura Chapman
    wadja.com

  5. By Brian Wallace on Nov 26, 2009 | Reply

    @Laura: totally agree. There are too many Twitter traffic secret spam services that will not get you the influence that you are looking for.

  6. By residuetiger on Nov 28, 2009 | Reply

    Interesting post sir, but isn’t this trend(constant change/evolution) an inherent characteristic of the net in general?

  7. By Ari Herzog on Nov 28, 2009 | Reply

    Giggling at Laura and Brian, you prove the nonsense of the cartoon. I’d argue your following is irrelevant to those you follow. A rock band does not play for its groupies; a band plays for those who pay money to hear them play in venues their manager picks.

  8. By Brian Wallace on Nov 28, 2009 | Reply

    Hey Ari,

    Glad you are giggling and thanks for stopping in – while I agree with you that it isn’t just the quality/quantity of the people following you on Twitter, I would be hesitant to compare one’s Twitter influence with a rock band. For the most part, a famous rock band will have people asking them for autographs in the street – wouldn’t say the same for being Internet famous 🙂

  9. By Shubham on Feb 12, 2010 | Reply

    I am with you..! the no. doesn’t count.! its all about quality…that counts.!

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