Forget The Statusphere. How About The Egosystem?

Earlier this year Brian Solis commented on the trend of people moving from participation on blogs to engagement through micromedia tools like Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook and so on. The next day he posted a piece on TechCrunch:

With the popularity and pervasiveness of microblogging (a.k.a. micromedia) and activity streams and timelines, Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed and the like are competing for your attention and building a community around the statusphere – the state of publishing, reading, responding to, and sharing micro-sized updates.

He’s right. More and more people, especially in social media circles, seem to be shifting their conversations away from long-form blog content and towards tools like Twitter. They still read blogs, but more and more conversations happen in the cloud, not on destination sites. That’s why tools like BackType Connect are so helpful.

Until recently these tools have been populated largely by early-adopting, progressive types who are open to new ways of doing things. However, that’s evolving. Unlike some, I welcome the mainstream adoption. However, in the last six months we’ve seen a shift towards people applying the same old tactics (the ones that have led many people to loathe public relations and marketers) to these new tools.

As micromedia platforms grow in popularity, their ease of use and the ease with which they can be “gamed” has led to people playing the “follower” game, racking-up huge numbers of followers over a very short period of time. Sometimes it’s done through fame and personality (Oprah and Kutcher, anyone?); other times, often by black-hat marketers, through a more insidious tactic of rapid follower-gaining.

shout megaphoneOne common thread with many of these new people, whether celebrities or otherwise, is their use of these two-way tools as a one-way broadcast mechanism. These tools, whether they’re blogs, Twitter, FriendFeed, LinkedIn or any other popular application, are just numbers games to these people, letting them shout ever louder and leading some smart people to wonder whether social media is losing the “social” part.

Forget the “statusphere.” We’re entering an egosystem where the masses judge value by the size of someone’s following and the volume of their voice, not the value of what they say. It’s a path back towards the mass media model – the one-way broadcast model that drove people to these new tools in the first place. It’s a dangerous path, and one that’s difficult to avoid as those with the loudest voices are the ones calling to entrench it.

Is this a ubiquitous trend? No. Some people develop followings through the value of their content. They’re at the peak of the pyramid, though, and as with any such peak they are but a few.

Fortunately, you have the power to control your own experiences in social media. So, if the egosystem turns you off as much as it does for me, you can avoid it. How?

  • Stop equating follower numbers, friends, etc with authority. Smart people, like Seth Godin, long ago started to shift away from looking at how many listen to you. Start thinking about who listens.
  • Consider two-way interaction as a major criteria when deciding who to listen to.
  • Offer advice to newbies who you see going astray. Some may adjust their approach. For those who don’t listen:
    • Unfriend those from whom you derive no value. Life’s too short to waste your time with them.
  • Set an example. Use Twitter the way you would like others to.

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you noticed this trend? Does it concern you?

  • Great article Dave. A few years ago, Chris Pirillo dubbed it the Narcissystem.
     
    Today in Hamburg at Next09, I challenged people to stop answering “What you are doing” on Twitter b/c the answers are mostly meaningless.
     
    Instead, let’s answer questions that force us to think about the updates we wish to galvanize action, response, connections, learning, et al, such as “what inspires you,” “what did you learn today,” “who should we pay attention to and why,” “what are we better off for knowing now because we follow you,” etc. We need to stop tweeting “at” followers and start listening to the things that help us grow, learn, and in turn, contribute value back to those who follow us. We must earn followers and friends. Participating on the Social Web is a privilege. Just because we have access to these broadcast tools doesn’t mean we have something interesting to say…our tweets set the foundation for our online persona and long-term legacy. How do we wish to be characterized or remembered?
     
    I believe that in order to stop transforming social media into broadcast media or egocasting, we need to take a more proactive role in injecting value into the stream – for the benefits of the people on both sides of the update. It’s the only way to take the “me” out of social media. in the end, we’re measured by actions not words and the contextual relationships that bind us together.
     
    Here are two great summaries from the conference:
     
    http://is.gd/x9WI
    http://is.gd/xfXi
     
    Thanks for bringing this into the public spotlight for discussion!

  • Hi Dave
     
    Dead on. Godin’s of course right: but there’s more
     
    IMHO the real ecosystem is HOW you’re talking to—the audience who’ve self-selected in that particular medium, not some marketer’s demographic.
     
    And what’s really interesting [at least to me] is that the more diverse the media consumption [online, print, radio, TV, even face2face gossip], the more likely a person is to consume media and then dialogue.
     
    So the self-selection piece [eg Twitter not Facebook, BBC not CNN] is even more important than age or gender or degree of education: more and more, as media fragments, the pipeline choice will play an ever greater role in evolving our minds. [Pure McLuhan!]
     
    I personally think this is a profound opportunity to recast not only how we communicate, but, more importantly for the future of the planet and us humans, how we learn
     
    And that’s what closes the loop: if how we consume media is becoming more and more what we think, how we change what we think is all about learning and engagement…without which there is no activism, no community

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  • Fg2001

    How do they come up with stupid words like “STATUSPHERE” it is bad enough that they use the word “CLOUD”, I wish they stopped pulling words that mean nothing out of their ass !