Social Media Discovery: 5 Hurdles to Information Consumption
The volume of information on the Web is overwhelming. With more than 5 billion mobile phones (70% of the world’s population) and 2 billion Internet users, the number of posts is staggering. Everyday 200 million tweets are shared and 70,000 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube. And this is only the beginning since Web content now doubles every 2 years. Social media has revolutionized the way information is published and shared. Social media has also become a foundation of information discovery and consumption.
Tools that Use the Social Graph to Filter Content
Social Networks: Social networks have become one of the top ways to consume information. The ease with which to follow people and the opportunity provided by Twitter and other tools to connect with people is increasing the reliance on such platforms to consume information. Before it was nearly impossible to make connections. Today, there is practically nothing to it.
Search Engines: Google is paying more attention to social signals of all kinds. The search giant has been using social media sharing as an indicator of quality for a while now. The +1 voting system is going to play a major role in providing relevance to the individual users. Google assumes that users are likely to enjoy the content that is liked by their entourage.
Discovery Engines: Many discovery engines are also based on the social graph. Flipboard is an example of how an automatic content curation tool that can easily provide an acceptable level of relevance. This application pairs pre-selected content feeds with popular links shared by the user’s Facebook and Twitter friends.
5 Important Limitations to Social Media Discovery
It is increasingly easier to publish information and increasingly difficult to consume it. This lies behind a tendency to rely on the “social graph” to filter information on the user’s behalf. Information consumption is largely limited by who we “follow” online. Effectively, we give them our vote of confidence and subscribe to their information published.We are experiencing a huge wave of tools providing social media discovery. However, relying on social media for information consumption has a series of limitations.
1. Dependence on social creates tunnel vision: Excessive attention to what is being said within the user’s circle of trust limits the scope of the information consumption. Critical information comes from anywhere or anybody. Social media discovery can create dependency on specific groups of people and limits exposure to information that doesn’t conform to their patterns of thinking. Important information can be overlooked.
2. It is hard to follow the “right” people: The user tacitly assumes that the information shared by specific people will be relevant based on a partial view of their profile. Thier online profile, number of followers, degrees of separation or the most recent (and thus most visible) posts published, reflect this. Users are forced to decide whether or not to connect because the opportunity might not present itself later on.
3. The user’s perspective is not challenged, instead it is reinforced: Users generally follow people that they respect at a personal level. It is understandable that they don’t have the desire to follow people that they dislike or that have the opposite view. The resulting comfort zone can lead to an excess of confidence that can be distorting.
4. Professional and personal content tend to be mixed: People love to share what they had for lunch or the last hilarious stunt of their pet. There is nothing wrong with that, but it’s a significant distraction for users needing effectively stay informed in relation to specific topics of interest.
5. Lists, Circles and Subscriptions aren’t reducing the noise: Google circles, Twitter lists and Facebook subscriptions are not resolving the information overload problem. Instead, they dramatically increase the number of channels a user must follow. The trade off hasn’t changed. Following more people still equals a broader information scope and even more noise.