For a long time now, people have been preaching the “content is king” sermon. You need to have content to share. You need to have content to show your expertise. You need to have content to…well, you know all of the arguments.
I think the underlying assumption behind these arguments is that if you generate content, people will actually, ya know, read it. Thoroughly. Certainly before sharing it or commenting on it. But I am finding more and more often that people in the online world are actually not reading most of the things they respond to. In fact, it seems like most people these days are ready with a response and they are just looking for a good place to dump it, whether it’s 100% relevant or not. If you want to promote someone, you may automatically or without much thought promote a post of theirs. Whatever is at the top of their site. If you read a title and it seems to make sense to you, you promote the post and say it’s brilliant.
Only, what if what you are sharing is sheer and utter crap? What if your own credibility gets waylaid because people think you’ve lost that hamburger that makes you a full happy meal? Why are you talking about how awesome dogs are when the post was about mean women, for example? It doesn’t make much sense, right? And yet without carefully reading the content you’re sharing and promoting, this could very easily be you.
Women aren’t mean enough to win
I sort of fell into this conversation by accident. I wrote a post with the title, “Women aren’t mean enough to win.” My post actually railed against this kind of thinking, but a lot of posts have used titles akin to that and argued in support of the concept. I thought a bit of sarcasm could work in that scenario. I mistakenly thought that if people saw the title, they would go on to read the post before offering a comment or before sharing.
When I first tweeted out the post, I got several responses from people who had clearly been scarred by mean women. I got responses that evinced a sort of shock that I would say that about women (thus proving my point about how dumb the argument is, but that’s beside the point). People responded that they agreed with me 100%, meaning they agreed that women really are NOT mean enough to win. A large majority of the first wave of tweets I got indicated that no one had read the post. They saw the tweet and responded immediately, not knowing what it was they were responding to.
That scares the boogers out of me, quite frankly.
Misinformation is behind every corner
Let me tell you a story. I was working on our company’s e-newsletter one day and I was writing about ROI. I was negating the argument that the ROI of social media is the same as that of your mother, an argument that was floating about the online world at a dizzying pace at the time. My boss/dad and my co-workers thought I had finally lost it. “ROI of your mother? Who would even say that? That doesn’t even make any sense! Take it out!”
And yet many people in the online world are now holding on to this refrain as if it is gospel. Why? Maybe because a person with a pretty big online following said it. Maybe because it’s catchy. Maybe because it makes you stop and think (even if what you are thinking is, “Huh?”).
This is how misinformation is taking over the marketing world. Marketers are joining the online frenzy and their priorities are all askew. Instead of trying to use social media to promote their businesses, they are using social media to get more followers…for themselves, in many cases. So, retweet what that person with the big following is saying. Comment with saccharine niceties on blog posts that you think will help further your cause.
Hey-we can do better than this. Right? Surely we can read. surely we can think for ourselves. Right?
It’s not just about journalism
A lot of people got nervous when it was announced that the Associated Press was going to start considering bloggers to be credible sources of information. “How do we know that what these bloggers are saying is true?”Well, the same goes for any division of knowledge you are studying digitally. One must continue to read and question. One must research and say, “Wait – that is not right.”
If you are not interested in reading content that you are sharing, it is not your followers who will suffer. It is YOU who will end up doing something that cannot be undone. Whether you’re relying on the automated tools of Triberr or whether you are simply reading titles without reading the full post, you are making yourself vulnerable to foolishness, a loss of credibility, and a tarnished reputation.
Are you still reading? Do you hear me out there?
Nod if you got this far. I’m crossing my fingers.
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mgifford/5024892224/ via Creative Commons