Social Media websites like Digg started off as a good idea. Kevin Rose was capable of finding better news than major media outlets, so he built Digg. The concept was that users could find and then collectively vote on which news, blogs or articles became the front page of Digg.
That’s how social media websites started. Then they started to grow and gain attention. More and more submissions came in. Internet marketers started paying attention, and now many marketers claim social media is a way to market websites. Based on this advice bloggers submit even more posts. Social media websites are bombarded with submissions. So many that it’s hard to keep up. It’s not the spam, it’s the volume.
In the beginning you were able to peruse all the submissions, and voting for the top stories was a fairly democratic process. The current volume makes it impossible for any users to view all the submissions. That has lead to a breakdown of the democratic system of voting.
Rather than read through volumes of submissions, users congeal into social networks. These are cliques within the social media websites where users have developed virtual relationships. The top users on the social media websites filter the submission volume by means of the virtual relationships. They read and vote for submissions from within the clique. This makes them top poster simply by the fact that the virtual relationship is quid pro quo. The members of the clique vote up the posts from the clique, knowing their submissions will reap similar rewards.
This is a well publicized strategy on social media websites. You are encouraged to build relationships, and then twitter your clique when you want them to vote for your new post.
Members of these social media cliques tend to professional marketers. These are people whose job is to spend on day on Digg, Sphinn or StumbleUpon. Live bloggers flourish on social media websites because their job is blog instantly from conferences. How does the average user with a day job compete with the professionals?
This is what causes some submissions to reach the top pages of social media websites. It’s no longer the best content. More often than not, mediocre or poor content reaches the top. Meanwhile, some of the best content is lost in shuffle, just as it used be to before the social media websites.
There are already problems arising with social media websites. Marketers have started offering votes on these websites for cash. One in particular paid users to vote for certain submissions, and simultaneously collected fees from the author. Social media websites reacted by locating the offending users and terminating their memberships. But the real question is if the social networks are less damaging? Instead of accepting cash for votes, the quid pro quo nature of the clique is trading services for services. Votes are the currency of choice, and I’ll vote for you if you vote for me. Is it hypocritical to support this trading of votes, but then terminate votes for cash?
Does the clique need to defend its status as the top posters? If every post suddenly got 50 diggs, sphinns or stumbles, wouldn’t the top posters also be lost in the volume? Are the top posters likely to be dismissive any new authors achieving success? I read discussions where the top posters take it upon themselves to report spam. Do they judge everything as spam, either consciously or subconsciously to protect their turf. If so what chance does new and unique content stand.
Is this the fault of social media websites? No, it’s more a result of being released to the masses. Should the social relationships be disbanded by the social media websites? I don’t think so because it is a means to filter the volume of submissions. What can be done? I don’t know, but I think social media is at its pinnacle. The next method that recognizes the quality content, no matter who the author is, will eventually replace it.
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