Another social media tipping point: 20 percent of people are informers; the other 80 percent are me-formers

Admittedly, this study from Rutgers University on the types of social media (predominantly Twitter) users is about four years old, so take it with a grain of salt, sure. But it does bring up an interesting point, summarized here on Buffer’s blog: 20 percent of social media users, give or take, are informers — i.e. they put out content that moves a conversation forward in some industry/space/idea. The other 80 percent are meformers – you know those people all-too-well. They mostly post about themselves and their issues, and don’t actually push the conversation forward; I’ve bitched about them before. There are numerous tipping points for the evolving role of social media in business/daily life — namely things like Twitter’s new reality, Facebook’s potential age issues, and social media’s role as a revenue-driver — but the split of “me” vs. “informer” might be the single-biggest issue facing social. If, over time, it becomes increasingly seen as a place where there’s a lot of white noise around a given topic — instead of legit information — then will something else crop up in its place?

Here’s an example. Yesterday, Landon Donovan was left off the U.S. Soccer team roster for the World Cup. As a rather famous U.S. soccer player, this was an odd, potentially confusing move for people following the team in the lead-up to Brazil. If you went to Twitter looking for information, here’s the world you’d encounter.

You’d find some relevant information:

But also a bunch of white noise:

This is a real issue for a place like Twitter, especially as a public company.

I was thinking about this the other day — it’s not an unique or interesting thought by any means, but still, ’tis something — on the whole idea of “staying in touch” or “keeping in touch.” 15 years ago, that was an active process. You had a phone book or an address book and maybe an e-mail, and you actively had to seek out your friends with calls or letters or visits to kind of understand and know what they were up to, and where they were at in their lives. Now, the idea of keeping in touch is a passive process. I can tell you what 15 people are doing for Memorial Day Weekend just because of FB/Twitter, and if I told my mom all 15 plans, she’d assume I reached out to those 15, kept in touch with them. Nope. I just saw their posted information. In a way, then, they were me-forming but simultaneously informing, which is kind of interesting. That’s probably the real and tangible value of social — it lowered the entry cost on friendship/connectedness (not getting into the negative aspects of that as a whole) — and also probably why social will be around for generations hence. But if the white noise becomes too much, could social local really be the thing? After all, having context on your neighbors and neighborhood via social has documented, tangible value — hearing what every fool under the sun thinks about Landon Donovan maybe doesn’t. Right?

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