Technology & InternetSocial Media is heading in the wrong direction – don’t follow

The only reason this post has a slight chance of getting your attention, is that I am tweeting it and I designed the headline to catch attention. Since my Twitter account has a considerable reach, a few people will retweet it without ever having read it. My sister and cofounder Susanna will tweet it, as will our company account. These retweets will ensure that it gets a bit of attention. Is this a real quality indicator?


Update: I wrote a followup to this article here:

Let me start with this – I am not sure this post deserves your attention at all. It is a rant, complaining about the direction that one of the greatest inventions of all time has taken. Yes, I am talking about social media, not the cure for cancer.

(Actually I am pretty sure this post does not deserve any attention, I spent about 20 minutes writing it, no editor has ever seen it. Wording is probably crap and I can be happy if it gets the point across. But, if anything, it is my true opinion. Please share it IF you liked it.)

I just had an interesting discussion on Twitter:


“Does anybody have the feeling that good content on Twitter gets lost very easily?”


@jogebauer I consider it a research tool as much as a social and content distribution platform, for exactly this reason.”

Ok, did I just read right? I am complaining good content gets lost and the first answer I get is: Yep, that is why I use it as a research tool! Oops…

I also had a very interesting discussion with @_NateBerg about whether Likes, Shares and Retweets are really the right way of getting quality content. We finally agreed on them being no perfect indication for content quality – but are used and advertised as such. Last thing he told me was


@jogebauer Absolutely...that's a massive task but great opportunity.

Meaning better quality indication in social media is much needed.

Why? When was the last time a university research paper went viral? There are many papers about interesting research that I would think would qualify as great content. But for their distribution to interested readers, we still rely on standard publishing processes via journals and university websites. Social media has failed on the promise to delivering “good” content and is now focusing on delivering “shareable” content. Meaning we all spent more time on making the headlines catchy than on making the content valuable.

I am not saying that there is no good content being shared, nor am I saying it is wrong to like your friends party pictures – these are relevant content for you, so you are of course wanted to say so. But very few things of true importance to humanity ever show signs of viral spreading.

Take a look at the tweets about the North Korean crisis for instance – truly relevant to most of us. But the most tweeted article I have seen is: “North Korean missile test delayed because of Windows 8”. (Really? I thought making fun of Windows is so 90s.)

Someone once said: “Social Media gives everyone a voice.”

I say: Social Media gives everyone a voice, but it did not change who we listen to. Content only gets seen if someone famous talks about it.

Same as ever. But I do believe, this could be changed by introducing new mechanisms for relevance and quality into the mix. But Facebook and Twitter won’t do that – they are focusing on Traffic, and getting people to like and retweet is giving them more traffic.

It seems it is up to ourselves to put relevance into social media.


JonathanJonathan GebauerexploreB2B GmbHGeschäftsführer, Gründer


Chef LeeZChef LeeZThe net is full of crap!

We, as humans, want information and the net is about information and yup an internet search will give up sooo much crap before one finds the real poop. Did you know that Wikipedia is monitored by country censorship which means, for example, in Thailand wikipedia content has to meet Thailand censorship and will display less than the real truths.

Jonathan GebauerJonathan Gebauer

Thanks for the comment.

I think the worst part is, that we are actually censoring our own information - users of social media are actively censoring good information, by only repeating what others have said before.

Chris HealeyChris Healey

I never comment on articles, but I am commenting on this because I think this "right on the mark" - social media is turning into a giant telephone game of passing the same tidbit around and around. I see it as a result of commercialization though - the economy of the content you see, being a business oriented blogger, is less substance and more pitch. I suspect other communities online i.e. model railroad hobbyists or birdwatchers - have more a substantial experience.

Jonathan GebauerJonathan Gebauer

Welcome and thank you. Glad you liked this post that much, Chris.

Co-Founder / The Writers Social Thomas OrtizCo-Founder / The Writers Social Thomas Ortiz

Social media is all about the human attitude. People do not care about anything but themselves and that is why places like Facebook have so many people on them. It is me, me, me attitude. Let me show you what I am doing; let me show you what my life is about. I do not like you enough to call but we can be friends on Facebook and you can see what is happening in my life. This attitude is a big reason my company does almost nothing on Facebook. I really do not want to sell to my family and friends.....Just my opinion.

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mohammed Alnjjarmohammed AlnjjarSound Tweets

One day in the early morning I stood meditating and suddenly began to hear dozens of musical tweets from Canary birds (this is not a poetry?) emitted from one of the rooms of a neighbor's apartment. It was right very nuisance .
And at that moment I remembered dozens of people I follow in my humble Twitter account , which does not exceed the 100, which some was bothering me OF frequent Tweets and most disturbing donate TO Re-tweet, they need only seconds to fill apartment WITH Thousands of Canary birds
YOUR wonderful POST may help everyone (slaves) or even TWITTER to develop a way to track tens of thousands (to BROADCAST OUR SELF ) without being bound by placing them in a single room
Although the current situation is frustrating in that hope remains that we continue to enjoy the historic opportunity which GIVEN TO us by social media joy large scale brainstorming in the interest of our village which becomes increasingly smaller, "The Earth"

Jonathan GebauerJonathan Gebauer

Thank you for your wonderful comment - which is indeed, if I may say so, almost poetry to my ears :)

Carla J GardinerCarla J Gardiner

My two cents worth on this post is this - I believe if we all step back, take time to develop REAL relationships on social media rather than cramming our products, business or opinions down others throats...then the quality, important messages some have will be shared and valued as that one person. That one person can take it to their community and then virality can take over from there.

Corma HolmesCorma Holmes

Carla, You are so right! Thinking about it, what we really should do is start interacting with others on Twitter, follow the people we would like to be our customers and start commenting on their world, join their conversation and make friends.

Jana JaegerJana Jaeger

I like your comments and this article! You're all right - we need good and valuable content more than ever. It's hard to find the very good stuff within all social media channels. Less is more - also in this case. Concentrate and focus on the really good content - thus it will help us to not become overwhelmed by all the tweets and posts flying around us, which are often nothing else but secondary...

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Matjaz SirceljMatjaz SirceljQuantity vs Quality, the new game of social media.

Too often is quality sacrifised for the sake of quantity, which is actually reach in social media terms.
The speed of internet makes us less thinkers and more instinct based creatures.

I think that quality content is still with traditional media (not all, of course, but generaly). So as the traditional media creates good content, it also curates it through social media. Social media is often just a tool for the reach, content in secondary.

Bottom line - social media is an extension of media, with some new flawors of "ordinary" people participating in discussion.

Btw, great post, Jonathan. :) I miss more this kind of critical thinking as yours. Thanks for making me think.

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WebEmergence SEOWebEmergence SEOTag Lines Work

Creative content with "eye-catching" tag lines in social media networks will get website traffic. As much as keywords play a siginificant role in SEO rankings and traffic, interesting and well thought tag lines will cause readers to click on your links.

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Ankit VermaAnkit VermaPeople are becoming automated.

It's great to read this post as I am frustrated with how automated some people become on social media. I tweeted a influencer a few weeks back in hopes of starting a conversation on one of his articles, for him to never respond, but keep tweeting article after article every few minutes. I tune his tweets out now. I've seen this trend with many influencers, they're posting content for the sake of posting content.

Sherma FelixSherma Felix

I totally agree with Ankit. It's extremely automated and full of sales talk and you're never at a loss for a sales pitch. In the search for "followers" I believe we have laid aside the REAL us, and have become who we think we need to be to gain followers. This will only last for a minute because what people need is authenticity. When that's lacking there's nothing to stand on. Authenticity should be the platform from which we work. Great article, thank you for sharing it!

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Justin RickeJustin RickeOn the Flip Side

I think many people who never had a voice, now have that opportunity, and that while frustrating, there are no current algorithms or equations that can predict the possibility of viral growth of any such post. Relevant material is obviously individualized, but can become part of a hive mindset. So how do you determine the hive mindset for relevant material, and how do you decide what is quality? Quality to you or I may be topics on media literacy, data protection etc, but to someone else it may be Beyonce riding her bike to her performance at Barclays. This is the reason why IMHO traffic is not focused, because there are different hives, with different mindsets, all stimulated by different ideas. I think we who are versed in social media understand this, and because of our literacy are able to find the relevant materials we are looking for, if you want to extend that range, then people outside that sphere need to be educated on how to query and find relevant/quality topics.

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Shane GibsonShane GibsonIt's because content without community doesn't really work

"Social media has failed on the promise to delivering “good” content and is now focusing on delivering “shareable” content. "

Most marketers, great writers, academics fail to to build a community online. They want to receive (likes, shares, feedback etc.) before they give (build relationships, build trust, contribute to other people's success). Things go viral in many cases because we have people who like us, and trust our content because of credibility.

"I say: Social Media gives everyone a voice, but it did not change who we listen to. Content only gets seen if someone famous talks about it."

You become famous by building a community. This takes time. It took me several years to build a great following. People want instant results. Opening a Twitter account and launching a blog doesn't mean our content is going to be shared. Social Media is social - we need to build relationships - those are our distribution network.

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Juliet ChenJuliet ChenSocial media is merely a tool

Thank you for the wonderful post. I certainly agree with most points you have raised; however, I feel that we as marketers and businesses are all responsible for it, and "social media" has not done this alone. We were comfortable with controlled broadcasting channels and the passive audience who had to listen to us. Then social media came along and distracted everyone from our messages, so we are forced to humanise ourselves and actually talk "with" the audience. We found a way to identify and incentivise influencers/celebrities who talk on our behalf and reward them with the social currency which makes their voice more important than others despite of the quality... The root of it seems to be an economic/social issue bigger than marketing or any social channel. The internet is still young and changing rapidly while we are all still adapting our behaviours to work with it. In the end, it is (or should be) our choice on how to use these tools to share stories that are worthwhile. It's always wonderful to know there are thinkers like you reflecting on the trend rather than simply following it.

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Helma Lensen B.EmHelma Lensen B.EmThank you for being honest!

I just spend the first 1,5 hour of my day (and most of the time, the most productive 1,5 hour of my day) contemplating your article.

I was triggerd to read it because of your tweet, I kept reading it because of the way you wrote. And I finished reading it because it is true!

About a week ago I had a discussion with one of my customers about SocialMedia Marketing. Het told me to spill the beans and tell him how he could get a whole bunch of followers/likes on Facebook. I told him to handle it like 'the popular kid in school'. Because in my eyes that is what Facebook is. It is merely a bigger school, where the cool kids and brands have a lot of friends, but where friendship doesn't mean a thing. If you ran out of money or need help in some sort of way your friends will leave you. Off course there is always the exeption to the rule.

So thank you for being honest :-)

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Florencia PuntureroFlorencia PuntureroSocial media is not guilty

Following one of the first comments, I don´t think social media is guilty of the me-me attitude of users. Social media is just a reactor of our society´s behavior for decades now. Individualism didn´t start because of social media; social media started because of it: less time to engage with people in person, but more time to chat and expose one self to others in the virtual space. I think us, as marketers, can give our two cents and start our communications building a we-we message, and let people behave as they want to, but stop talking to them as we were the heroes who know everything. That era is definitely over.

Lisa TagaloaLisa Tagaloa

I agree Florence. It's also a reflection of our society as a whole - in real life, you STILL have to wade through the bullcrap to find anything of value so why would social media be any different?

It's our own choice as to what we allow into our experience. I have 5 main preferences: humour/inspiration, reputation for great, informative content, creative beauty, musical awesomeness and mates. And sometimes mine and my son's fave celebs lol (I get a kick out of showing him a message that I've mentioned him in, being favourited by the celeb - the look on his face is priceless).

Given time, the cream rises to the top and anything that proves unworthy gets unfollowed and replaced. It's OUR job to find the valuable stuff, because content is so subjective these days.

"When you know better, you do better" Maya Angelou (emphasis on WHEN you know lol).

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Ben HackettBen HackettGiving everyone voice

Firstly - love your article, in my opinion good content is content that gets people thinking and talking. Like this article.

I really like you point about social giving everyone a voice but not changing who we listen to.

I agree to some extent, but not totally.

Pre social if a customer was pissed off and let down by a brand they might ring the customer service number: They would then be passed from person to person, all the while become more frustrated and angry with the brand in question.

Maybe their issue would eventually be resolved, maybe not. Either way people would share the experience they had with a few select people within their friendship/ work group - down the pub for example.

Now a disgruntled customer can put something straight into the public eye and put pressure on the brand to respond - now, regardless of whether they deal with the issue or not, people will know. Positive or negative, but more so with negative, customers on social will shout about it, so it serves brand's interests to pay more attention to their customers' problems than ever before, because brands now face exposure like never before.

Nothing is more powerful than the customers voice - Social is where brands have to listen to it!

Very good read - thanks!

Melanie Ledbetter-RemyMelanie Ledbetter-Remy

AMEN! Just lectured the "instant gratification" generation on the number of followers on social media outlets does NOT provide a direct correlation of how many TRUE, HUMAN friends one has.

Social Media does NOT follow "if you post it (or retweet it), they will follow".....great article. Crap words and all :)

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