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?

Dave Fleet
Managing Director and Head of Global Digital Crisis at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.