Influence, reach, funneling, cross-linking — the web is indeed a web of good intentions with unintended outcomes.
- You have a great message, but it matters little if no one reads it.
- You have a huge audience — but why again, exactly?
- You reach people with great teases, but do you convert them into purchasers?
- You have all of the above — so why not goose it further with like-minded people?
So what could possibly go wrong, if a bunch of people with similar aims and tastes decided to help each other out? This is what I saw in my Twitter stream tonight:
Yes, “It Takes Just One,” so why did I see a cluster of four of them at one time?
What you’re looking at is one of the various methods by which marketers can reach full extension of their message. A gaggle of them can sign in, and then auto-post to each others’ accounts to direct interest to a page (ideally their own.) The downside seems low, as most of these people would likely be highlighting each others’ material anyway — this just ensures they do so in a way that doesn’t allow items from the tribe to fall in the gaps.
This isn’t personal – it’s impersonal
I know Danny and Eric and Ann Marie and Mark and Allen. They are all top-notch communicators and networkers, each in their own right. I really would trust each of them, implicitly, if they told me that something was worth reading. (For that matter, Danny Brown seems incapable of writing essays that aren’t worth thinking about. Add him to a list with Geoff Livingston, Jeremy Pepper, Olivier Blanchard, Shelly Kramer or Amber Naslund.)
Notice that word: “seems.”
None of us are perfect. We’re all capable of laying a big stinker every now and again. And when we do, we deserve to get called out on it. (I think most of those named above will tell you at least one story about me tussling over something they wrote. Lord knows I’ve had enough people disagree with me.
I also know there is very little reputational risk involved in merely linking to someone else’s content — and it creates additional activity for the participants’ streams, which only makes them that much more valuable as a resource. But what happened above? What would an outsider think of seeing four consecutive tweets highlighting the same thing? How would that not look like spammy behavior? How does that diminish the personal recommendations, by revealing them as automated and impersonal?
Rat races are rarely for anything but rats
I know why these confederations have developed — and it’s noble, in a way. It’s a survival mechanism.
The Internet has never (despite rhetoric and egalitarian nonsense to the contrary) been about fairness and meritocracy. Those are concepts that exist within a particular silo of the internet, or a community, or a forum. Early adopters always have an unfair advantage in reach and exposure, which they exploit right up until honest-to-goodness Celebrities swoop in and add three digits to the end of the benchmarks.
“Online influence” means very little when people with no credibility within a given topic have such large platforms. (Want to know how to make the next Kony video? Seed it with a select group of people with massive audiences, like Jason Russell did.) The people with true and genuine contributions stand little chance with a magnitude-Four disadvantage, so they do what comes natural. They adapt, and they survive. But it’s still just cursing the wind and hoping you can repel it with your hand.
I don’t know what the answer is. I imagine it might look like some sort of diagnostic tool that lets us really target our messages. Aggregate audiences are only necessary when you don’t know who you’re aiming for. We need the sophisticated media targeting tool that’s akin to Seal Team Six — one that walks into town with nine bullets, because there were only nine sanctioned targets.
It’s time to stop thinking about influence and audience in the aggregate. That’s a rat race we’ll never win. Of course, we can always win at the level of the human individual, her knowledge, and her personal network. But that doesn’t scale when applied to the outer limits of our ability to “know” people.
I wish I had the answer. There might indeed be several. But it takes just one…