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July 14, 2008

Social News - Is It Really Social?

By Li Evans

Digg Party Sign, by Scott Beal - LaughingSquid.comOver the past week, I've been thinking about Social News sites, and wondering truly are they "social", in the way that can benefit building true relationships with an audience or customer base?

Social News tends to be very transactional in that,  you ask and you get something.  You submit a story, you get people to "vote" (Digg, Mixx, Sphinn or Kirtsy "it up"), and then what?  What's the gain?  What's the return?  Where's the building of relationships or trust?  What comes next?

The gain is for the individual users to attain fame and status of being a "top" user.  With that fame and status, also comes a little bit of power on some of these Social News sites that base their algorithms off of the status of the people who submit or vote (up or down) on a submission. The other gain is perhaps you might (big might) attain traffic and a "butload" of links, as I heard it explained once - I'm still waiting for a measurement value on "buttload" btw. ;)

Looking more at the gaining of traffic and links though, again, where's the value social media wise?  There's certainly value SEO wise, links are valuable and so is traffic.  I find it tough to see a true in-depth social media return here.  How can you form a relationship with the community or audience from social news sites?  It's really tough to do it when you probably don't even know who's reading your article or blog post, let alone what they thought of it or how they reacted to it beyond the link, or the vote.

Sure there are comments, but on sites like digg comments consist of "Way cool man", "I agree", "Great article", or the dreaded "Buried because its spam".  There's not much opportunity to really start a conversation, especially when you consider how much most of these social news sites, hate marketers.

Social News sites aren't alone here, social bookmarking sites (del.icio.us, furl, diigo, etc.) also can fall into this realm of "non-opportunity" to really build a social relationship.  However, some of these sites are upgrading and enhancing their user interfaces to allow communities to build and be more interactive with one another.

With social networking sites, the gain is in building relationships and communicating, the same with forums and even microblogging sites like Twitter and Plurk.  In these social media sites, the communities seem to be the biggest benefactors.  With social news sites, the owners of the sites seem to be the biggest beneficiaries.  The users submit the stories, and promote them, to attain "fame", but it's few and far between that these top users, actually get rewarded by the site itself for generating all the content, traffic and revenue.  As David Harry discussed with me, it's tough to even get a "Thank you, Great Job" from these social news sites, for all the time spent generating the content that makes their sites work.

So where's the social in these Social News sites.  Well I guess it comes from perspective.  If you think asking for a Digg, Sphinn or a Mixx is being social and you receive it, then heck that's it.  But if you think social media's a bit deeper than that, Social News might not be the place to start your strategy.

So, I'm curious, what say you?

*Photo Credit: Scott Beale, Laughing Squid


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Oh I know, I know. A buttload of links is more links than you could imagine but most of them stink!

@ David

LMAO! I almost spit my water out all over my laptop at this comment!

How true, how true, how true! :)

Perhaps as time goes on, and we flesh all this out, we may find ourselves being social at some places and marketers at others. For instance, we may get to know each other well, and on a social basis, at places like Plurk, but we "use" those relationships from a marketing standpoint on social news sites where we share friends stories. I think it may all be to new to know anything for sure just yet.

Well, I am pretty sure you know how I feel on this. More and more I am unsure of the true value or social media and it's associated social aspects. Certainly there are some SEO benefits to it, but I don't look at them in this light. I have been a user and contributor not a SMM type thus no client benefits to be had.

Some have implied that I receive some type of benefit from being a Sphinner, but it has not been the case.... I am a non-profit blogger. Those whom think otherwise are free to contact me.

I can't believe how some top Diggers/Sphinners/Stumblers I spoke with of late have NEVER even had a quick email to say thanks... makes us all look like schmucks IMO.... and I for one have lost interest in it all.

As you mentioned, social networking is far more rewarding and that's where my time is likely to be spent once more... thanks for the support dear, is always appreciated...someone cares at least... that is what really matters to me.

This is just another signal/noise issue. I think that the very nature of social media is that it possesses all the normal traits of interaction, but in a distributed manner. Where our physical bodies and identities are bound up in a set of impressions in one place and time, our virtual identities are bound up in impressions from all over the net.

Thus, since life is messy, social media and virtual life will be messy. While things being clean and discrete make doing the job of social media marketing easier, the messy and chaotic factor is simply part of the nature of the game. The reason people like these services is that they feel like a part of their lives; life is messy.

The social web was a great idea but is a wall we beat our heads against. I will admit there are time such as when a site is new and fresh that it works. Yet most well known sites fail in the worst possible way to the average user. The ability to communicate is stifled and stale crowded with marketers like us drowning the people.

There are some that push real social potential but none have yet hit the mark. Not always a fault of their own. Every site needs income to survive and the current technology just cant bring a real human feel to the web yet.

Just my view bash me if im wrong, everyone has an opinion just like me the a......e :)


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