Commentary

The Search For Meaning -- And A Column Idea -- In The Social Media Universe

Editor's Note: Third paragraph changed to take out previously incorrect mention involving a person who was laid off from Forbes.We regret the error.

Here's something you don't see very often: the Social Media Insider staring at a blinking cursor, with no freakin' clue as to what the column should be about, five hours into the work day. I've trolled all of the usual sources looking for something to write about: Mediapost's OnlineMediaDaily, Twitter, Facebook, Twitter, Mashable, the keyword "social media" on Google, Ad Age, Twitter again.

And all I discovered is that I'm not the only one finding that Facebook is suggesting I follow dead people, which might be some cool Halloween meme except for the fact that it's actually happening. Which is scary. Perhaps that's why there are so many social media ghosts floating around my brain looking for a place to anchor themselves.

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But you know and I know that my lack of a topic was generated by something else: the information overload engine. It's absolutely impossible not to find social media news, or not to find out news by using social media, just as it's impossible to breathe without oxygen. In fact, today, using social media, I discovered tha a "kickass" writer specializing in fashion, retail, and lifestyle just got laid off from Forbes; that ABC thankfully cancelled a plan to promote its series "V" by mysteriously skywriting the letter "V" in the sky over major cities because it would be too scary; that Carrot Creative's Mike Germano is looking for new office space; that 59% of all visits in the social network category happened on Facebook; and that the site of the Norwegian Royal Family has a lot of broken links.

Which is to say I learned everything, and nothing, all in five hours' time. And that brings me back to the dead people. According to one of the posts about the dead Facebook people that I read on Mashable, the reason Facebook might be, um, trying to resurrect its members' relationships (really, with live people -- the dead people suggestions were an unintended, if holiday-themed, mistake) is because its growth is slowing. If that's the case -- and it will be soon if it isn't already -- the best thing to do is expand usage among people who've already joined. Suggesting ways for people to reconnect is one way to do that. It's no longer about quantity, but about online quality time.

It's becoming a similar challenge with the information that social media generates.

Certainly, most of us will continue to find new Facebook friends and Twitter followers, but we're rapidly getting to the point where it is becoming at least as important to figure out what to do with the content we all generate, as it is to create it. Last week's column, in in which I pooh-poohed the value of real-time search, touched on that idea; we haven't necessarily found great ways to use real-time search for either commercial or noncommercial purposes. (Not that we won't, mind you, but it's a work in progress.)

Apparently -- and I learned this on Twitter, naturally -- this was part of what was discussed at today's #140conf. Robert Scoble (@scobleizer) said "curation" and "search-discovery" are two of five trends on Twitter.

I know this isn't news to you guys exactly, but at least it gives this overloaded Social Media Insider a direction to point to for the next column, which will be on ways people are starting to make sense out of all this content. Perhaps it will even stem future cases of writer's block caused by the information overload engine. For next week's column idea, I thank a certain very much alive Facebook friend who helped me see the information forest for the trees today. Just too late for the purposes of fleshing out the idea for this column. Cobwebs, be gone!

3 comments about "The Search For Meaning -- And A Column Idea -- In The Social Media Universe".
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  1. Greg Hall from Yebol, October 28, 2009 at 7:02 p.m.

    I did a search using www.Yebol.com of Andrew Bourland.
    Indeed, deceased.

  2. Kristin Thompson from RedShift, October 29, 2009 at 11:54 a.m.

    I enjoyed this article. I spend all day on social media. (For work. Not pleasure.) But is incredible to me how much and how little I actually learn. I seem to always be on top of new fads and yet I feel like I am doing nothing all day. I totally feel you. Very interesting.

    http://www.redshiftagency.com/

  3. John Lofranco from CKR Interactive, October 30, 2009 at 3:03 p.m.

    I am an intern at CKR Interactive and I spend many hours digging and exploring the realm of social media. The information that I consume while on these social media networks impresses me at times. I do my daily blog sweep, gathering information from these numerous sites, and it amazes me how much of social media actually relates to my life outside of work. I regularly have conversations with friends and colleagues about social media. It real knows no bounds.

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