Noise Annoys – Questioning the value of social media?

I’ve been running various blogs/websites for over 15 years now and some huge changes have occurred in that time, most of which I have fully embraced. The internet for me has been a wonderful invention and I have no idea what I’d be doing now if it hadn’t been invented. The pace that information is currently available is fascinating and wonderful too, if I wanted to share a video or blog post (theoretically) with the whole world I can do this from my mobile phone without even leaving my sofa. Crazy times.

A decade ago it was all about message boards, MySpace, then Facebook came along closely followed by Twitter and a host of other sites.

Anyone looking after a brand will have a website which they’ll need to update to maintain some kind of regular audience. But in an age where social media has boomed some sites are going to absolute extremes to drive traffic to their sites.

A typical example is the NME site, just look at today’s headlines.

I was a religious follower of the NME through my teenage years, I really don’t expect it to be pitched for my age group these days but crikey they scrape the barrel with their stories and there’s a good reason for this. Where many websites are dependent on advertising, the number of visitors is so important. Pitchfork are not far behind, they’ll post about any mainstream artist just to get clicks. I would not be surprised if I saw a headline such as “Lily Allen says she likes breadsticks”. That’s how pathetic it has got.

Why are they doing this? They are basing their website strategy around social media!

Are they doing the right thing? Definitely not….

I recently did a small personal case study on a website I’ve run since 2000 as a fan site for Creation Records and over that time the site has a steady stream of visitors. Before the start of the year I collaboratively ran a couple of social media pages with a total of about 30k followers, small numbers I know but you’d think they’d have some impact. Earlier this year I moved away from these pages and have instead focused more on writing original content to avoid joining the masses in posting desperate news updates and the results have definitely proved worthwhile.

My feeling is in a world of repetitive noise online you become blind, the constant stream of spam on Twitter and Facebook completely puts you off actually reading anything, you are so worried you are missing out on something better that you swipe past everything or its a story you’ve seen posted 5 times already. You may click ‘like’ or retweet but then immediately move on and forget about it, it never satisfies.

Another personal reason is my site is a hobby and if I’m at work or spending time with my wife and kids I’m not going to drop everything to post an update about a gig or record release. It’s a pointless race and one you can’t enjoy, if a PR person sends you a press release and it’s not on the site within an hour it’s old news. You’re too late…. thank god I’m not reliant on visits or advert clicks, what a slog that must be.

Secondly, what’s the point? Most news updates can be found elsewhere and why replicate all the other information that’s already out there? Utterly pointless.

This change of direction has proved to be really interesting for me as visits to the site have virtually doubled compared to the same period last year.

Which makes me ask the question, does the number of social media followers actually make that much difference? Obviously you need some kind of presence to raise awareness but more importantly you need original content. 30K is a tiny number of followers compared to many official accounts in the music world, but I genuinely thought there would be a drop in traffic, there was no way you could have less followers yet site visits have doubled! Therefore this makes me believe social media is not as effective or as important as people think.

Unique content is the answer.

The stats are below, I looked at the last 3 months in comparison with the same time last year. You can see I changed the approach at the end of January and the effects were almost immediate.
Google Analytics stats

I know Google loves original content and I’m sure this is why so much social media doesn’t rank very well, whereas websites rank really well.

My theory is social media postings seem to have a shelf life of several hours whereas a good blog post can be discovered and shared for years.

Don’t ask me to explain this any more than I have as its early days but it’s an interesting personal case study and I shall keep an eye on it to see how things evolve.

You can’t underestimate the power of Facebook but I know plenty of people who have now left (including myself) for various reasons, they changed the algorithm last year meaning a lot of posts rarely are seen these days anyway. As for Twitter, this has turned into a never-ending stream of diarrhoea for attention seekers and bullies. I loved it 5 or 6 years ago but am becoming increasingly tired because I can’t keep up with it. I have a ‘list’ of several people I follow but other than that it’s just noise. I still briefly use Twitter once a day and it does drive some traffic, but only a small percentage compared to search engines.

Both networks in the UK have also made the headlines a lot recently from a whole heap of celebrities forced to leave their sites, the issue both Facebook and Twitter seem to keep ignoring is cyberbullying. You can block someone but if they are intent on giving some a hard time they find other ways of doing it.

I’m sure 100% of social media experts will say I’m wrong (and use a load of cliches including the word ‘engaging’),  but if I’m tired, I won’t be the only one… This is also why no new sites have taken off in the last few years, enough is enough!

Am I saying “don’t use social media?” No I’m not, but don’t base your whole business around it. It’s such a tiny part of what it takes to run a website or business and all those likes and favourites don’t mean as much as you think.

I’m sure in a few years we’ll all look back at Facebook, Twitter and a whole heap of websites and laugh in the same humorous way we do about MySpace today.

Saying all that I love YouTube, Mixcloud and Tumblr but they offer a totally different service in my eyes, that is to offer unique content too in the form of music, video and pictures. You can also visit these sites when you feel like it, there’s no diarrhoea!

One thing I do know is that I get a lot more pleasure building websites and blogging than I do using any social media site and for that’s the most important thing for me.

On that note… it’s time for some Buzzcocks!