Questions? (877) 643-7244
FutureNow Article
Friday, Dec. 28, 2007

Top 3 Problems of Social Media

By Bryan Eisenberg
December 28th, 2007

hey, hey, we're the content monkeys...“The problem with social media is… there are more people writing it than reading it. That isn’t very social, huh?”

I laughed when I first heard it, but my friend explained:

At last count, there were some 75 million+ blogs out there, but very few of those blogs have many readers besides the writer, his mom and the family pet; and if it’s a cat, they just casually glance at it. If you care to argue that people use it as a personal journal, I’d suggest they use a more elegant and simpler technology, a moleskine notebook and a pen.

In fact, besides a few really popular blogs, most blogs don’t have enough readers for a pickup game of basketball. Please don’t lecture me about the long tail — I understand niche, even micro-niche. I think as marketers, though, we have bigger issues to overcome if we ever expect to see the acceptance of social media as a viable media channel.

1. Splogs, Scrapers and Money Making Fakers

Way too many of the blogs out there have been created because someone heard the search engines love blogs. And eventually, some low life figured they could get more traffic by grabbing garbage content from others to post and post and post. The frightening part is that Google and Technorati can’t filter out these content thieves and their sites often show up in listings so that in aggregate they deliver traffic. Both blog publishers and readers feel this pain.

Also, according to Google, of the 2 billion or so pages containing the word “blog,” only about 200,000,000 of them don’t contain the word “money” somewhere on the page.

Based on these statistics, close to 90% of the blogs you’ll find on the internet are the products of get rich quick schemes.

2. New Year’s Resolution Makers and Promise Breakers

Do you have your list of things you plan to do in the new year? Ready for a fresh start? Do you plan to lose weight, start exercising, find a better job and quit smoking? Like many people, you might sign up for the gym the first week of January; you’ll feel the burn of that first session you have with the personal trainer. You’ll thrill from the buzz and bustle of the crowds. Waiting for your next machine may whisk you back to memories of standing in airport TSA lines during the holiday travel season. You’ll return, but, unfortunately, by March the gym will be so empty that you’ll hear an echo every time you swallow. Sure you’ll keep going, because you’re different.

Blogging, like any of these resolutions takes a real commitment. Out of the 75 million plus blogs started, in April Technorati reported that 15.5 million of them were “active.” What exactly does that mean?

Technorati claims about 1.5 million new posts a day. Take a look at popular blogs like, Boing Boing, Engadget, TechCrunch, Lifehacker, Scoblelizer, Search Engine Watch, and Search Engine Land, and you’ll notice many of these are publishing 5 or more posts a day. Meanwhile others — top marketing blogs like Seth Godin, SEOmoz, Duct Tape Marketing, Search Engine Journal, Marketing Pilgrim and us at GrokDotCom — try to publish a couple of posts a day. To really feel the benefits of blogging, or any of those other resolutions, you have to do it regularly and you have to do it well. How many actual blogs do you think are doing it and not just polluting the interwebs?

3. Link Baiters and Content Masturbators

If you don’t have easy access to Reddit’s leaked algorithm or know the secret formula to be Dugg, let me tell you how most people get to the front page of these sites.

  • Create a list. Title it any of the following: The top 10…, a definitive guide…, 101 resources for…
  • Pick a hot topic. These include: Apple, Ubuntu, Linux, Wii, Halo, Ron Paul, or choose something trendy from Google.
  • Link to a whole bunch of other people’s posts.
  • Voila, you have viral post.

Need an example? Just this week I saw a post on analyzing traffic and improving conversions rise through the social media networks. Not to take anything away from the effort made to create the post, but its first link is to a parked GoDaddy domain page with no content. Even still, people saw the list, didn’t read, didn’t click, but just bookmarked it. Is that the promise and purpose of social media?

Bring the Social Back to Social Media in 2008

Promise to create useful, updated, and unique content every day. I toast each and every one of you who make valuable contributions to this blogosphere every day. It’s hard work and I, for one, respect and appreciate it. Will you?

P.S. Happy New Year to you all.

Add Your Comments

Comments (59)

  1. Bryan, this is a great post. It touches on many themes I’ve tried to present to Marketers over the years. I fear that technology enables Marketers to be lazy. It enables them to create 100 fake Blogs (Flogs… grrr) and move on if they don’t work with very little budget. That temptation runs high and brings out the worst in people.

    I think your post brings the promise of a new day. I think one well-versed (and thought out) Blog will trump the noise. It will build readers, drive real links and, most importantly, create some of those raving customer evangelists that Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell talk about.

    It is also a game of frequency as you state above. The funny part, I remember when posting frequently to a Blog was once every 1-2 weeks… and that was acceptable not too long ago.

    It reminds me of how fast these channels evolve but, more importantly, how the real Marketers shine against the people using these tools as manipulation.

    Bottom line, there is no silver bullet or secret formula. To be successful in social media is much harder than “starting to Blog.” It’s about building a real relationship. That’s hard for Marketers to do and it’s not something that all consumers want.

  2. Didn’t read it, just sphunn and bookmarked it. ;)

  3. j/k

    I agree with your thoughts – I see and hear too many people voting for things and bookmarking them without reading it at all.

    Sometimes, if it is from a very reliable source, I will vote and bookmark it for later – I have to admit, I’ll only return 80-90% of the time to actually read it.

  4. Thats classic! At least that means there is an excessive of blogs out there to Link build on :) I think eventually the social market bubble will pop.

  5. Bryan:
    It needed saying and you said it. Very clearly, those who understand how the technology works are at a clear advantage in the social networking arena. To them linking strategies and bookmarking and trackbacks means something. The unititiated have to rely on just writing good content as often as they can and hope for the best.

  6. Bryan:

    Great observations.

    “Way too many of the blogs out there have been created because someone heard the search engines love blogs.”

    Perhaps, but there’s one thing that’s certain – the more discrete information objects become, the more likely they can be found by precisely the people looking for them. Blogs tend to cause people to write more focused information – indeed, each “idea” is typically published as a specific information object making an easier job of receommending the most important content about a specific subject. While it appears that “search engines love blogs”, the accurate way to think about this is that “humans love focused information” because (a) it is more findable in a blog post, and (b) humans want answers to questions about very specific things.

    “… eventually, some low life figured they could get more traffic.”

    I agree. Whenever a good idea comes along, there are always companies that want to transform it into a money-making endeavor; but can we really blame any individual or business for trying to benefit from participation in the blogosphere?

    “… Google and Technorati can’t filter out these content thieves …”

    True, but in the long run, individuals and businesses that focus on sustainable content practices will likely overshadow the flash-in-the-pan rip-off artists. I also have a hunch that the major recommendation engines are busily trying to improve their heuristics to make sure they provide consistent and valuable information leading to reputable content providers. Another force that is slowly reshaping the blogosphere is the social engineering movement behind all recommendation engines.

    To combat this aggregation theft problem for our own customers (who also provide significantly more syndicated content than typical blogs), we’ve actually started to monitor plagiaristic instances where blogsite links and content are being used in non-authoritative ways.

    Someday, the definition of search will be turned on its head – information (that you want and need) will simply find you at about the time you actually need it. Social networks are starting to do this already, so I think the days of high visibility for thieves are numbered.

    ” … of the 2 billion or so pages containing the word “blog,” only about 200,000,000 of them don’t contain the word “money” …”

    This really puts it into perspective – great post.

    bf

  7. Amen, Bryan. Well said.

  8. I guess this makes this blog entry one of the 1,8 billion pages with the bad blog/money combination in it, then…

    Don’t get me wrong – I totally agree with you on the splog/flog/xlog-issue; but disqualifying blog entries because they contain both ‘blog’ and ‘money’ is a bit radical. And to call that statistics – hmmm, well.

  9. So… we stand with IBM, Fox & De Biers.

    “Do you know what would happen if we let these amateurs, fly by night, here today gone tommorow – cowboys participate. Publish, create, sell, market?”

    Bring back the entry barriers!

  10. A near cousin of this ‘flog’ malaise is going to be the e-book.
    Not the pdf technical guide that comes either in a the classic ‘please take me for free & give me your email’ or the convenient ‘only $2000 & it will change your life forever’ package.
    I mean the variety that will this year, in ten years or whenever usurp the book-book. The device that the kindle i supposed to be.

    If the middle ages middlemen finaly lose their grip & authors finally publish themselves, without unsold copies or inadequate shelfspace what will make a best seller?

    How many will read the first (free)chapter, buy & discover a totally useless book?

    Will having 1000 poorly written link-bait equivelents drown the 100 or so best sellers that now get shelf space ata a time in a cbd bookshop-cafe?

  11. To quote my PPC guru Andrew Goodman “Amen, Bryan. Well said.”, I think an “intelligent way” (for search engine results) of filtering “relevant” blogs will take sometime. We will still see more of those run of the mill copied-paraphased-recycled content driven blogs with “top 10 of something” topics. Sadly most of them will still be selling ebooks.

    And most of us will still be considering them as part of our online campaigns.

  12. Frankly, I don’t quite get this whole controversy with social media.

    Social Media (aka online word-of-mouth) is not a miraculous panacea.. it is (or rather, it should be) merely a part of SEO strategy.

  13. FOG comes on little cat feet.
    SMOG is belched from the acidic industrial anus of metropolis.
    Most BLOGS is Smog.

  14. [...] Bryan/Grokdotcom: Top 3 Problems of Social Media [...]

  15. My blog, http://www.RestaurantMarketingBlog.com has been up for over a year, yet I still don’t understand in article #2, “link to a whole bunch of other people’s posts.” Can you give me an example; sorry I’m still bit of a newbie, even though I post at least once a week.

    Joel Cohen
    http://www.RestaurantMarketingBlog.com

  16. As a blogger I think it’s really important to comment on the blog posts I read. I hate seeing a bunch of visits to my blog and having no comments…maybe it’s just my content.

    Joel, I think posting to other people’s posts helps you by getting trackback links, but also helps services like Technorati decide how important blogs are. Technorati bases its authority ranking on the number of links a blog gets.

    Sean Stefan
    http://www.reginabusinessblog.com

  17. I think the whole problem with social media is that it is contributing to the already out-of-control problem of information overload. THAT is the real challenge facing many Internet users these days. And that is a major reason why so few blogs are actually read.

    I do wish we could do something about the abuse of placeholder sites, though. I’ve discussed that issue a bit on my blog. See for example: http://webmysteryshoppers.blogspot.com/2007/11/free-domain-names.html

  18. Great Post Bryan to remind everybody about creating useful content rather than just spaming the search engines.

  19. This is one of the best posts I have read on Social Media.

    I fully agree that over the last 12 months more and more people have fallen victim to “self-proclaimed gurus” who fill their head full of marketing lies just to watch their own bank accounts go up.

    Bryan, you and your team have helped me to help others in more ways than I can express in this comment.

    Thanks and keep up the great work.

    Never Give Up,

    Troy Dooly

  20. [...] Click here to read this post. [...]

  21. Bryan,

    You wrote To really feel the benefits of blogging … you have to do it regularly and you have to do it well.

    I like to write (I was a website copywriter for nearly 10 years), but lately I’ve found it extremely difficult to come up with something to say on a regular basis. As a result, my blog languishes and the visitor count is practically nil.

    Any suggestions?

  22. Bryan:

    “…but lately I’ve found it extremely difficult to come up with something to say on a regular basis.”

    I have a number of suggestions…

    1) Take a look at this free eBook (Spend Less Time Blogging in 7 Simple Steps)– http://blogsite.com/public/public/item/191394. Pay close attention to #5 and #6.

    2) Read this post (Looking for Blogging Ideas) – http://blogsite.com/public/blog/162374. It turns out that one of the best sources for blogging ideas is right in your inbox.

    3) Create a blogging intelligence system. You can do this free with Google Alerts (http://www.google.com/alerts). Just create a series of watch-lists about your market segment – look for keywords that are controversial and interesting — specifically, you want to find new topics that would be relevant to blog about. This will cause new emails to arrive daily about subjects that are new and topical.

    4) Use a newsreader to read 15 other popular blogs that write about your industry – I’m sure you’ll find a bazillion things you might want to agree (or disagree) about.

    “…my blog languishes and the visitor count is practically nil.”

    For starters, look at your Blog’s index footprint in Google (http://www.google.com/search?num=100&hl=en&q=site%3Awriting-etc.com+inurl%3A%2Fblog). Pay specifically close attention to the URL’s that Google has indexed for your blog pages — example…

    http://writing-etc.com/blog/http:/www.writing-etc.com/blog/2006/08

    This is an ill-formed URL and it leads nowhere. It looks like all your posts are being indexed this way, and it could explain why your traffic is nil.

    Lastly, take a look at your index footprint in Google’s BlogSearch – http://blogsearch.google.com/blogsearch?hl=en&num=100&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tab=wb&q=site%3Awriting-etc.com+inurl%3A%2Fblog. Note how none of the indexed posts point back to the individual post URL’s – they point to improperly encoded aggresses such as (http://writing-etc.com/blog/http:/www.writing-etc.com/blog/copywriting/how-to-make-sure-your-website-copy-gets-read). This is a major disconnect and most likely caused by a faulty RSS feed although, it seems to work fine in a newsreader.

    I don’t mean to beat you up in public, but these (and a bunch of other factors) suggest you really don’t have a functioning blog so the low traffic seems reasonable given the technical state of the blog. I’m no SEO expert, but Ive noticed recently that many of the search engines will index your content but not include it in results if there are technical quality issues.

    bf

  23. Wow Bill … thank you!!

    Couple of comments:

    1. I got an error message trying to access the blogsite.com links you provided (500: Internal Server Error).

    2. As for the ill-formed URLs … I thought I had set these up correctly in my Permalinks. Possibly part of the problem is related to the .htaccess file coding — which I know nothing about. I just copied what was on the Permalink page.

    No worry about ‘beating me up.’ If the feedback is constructive and helpful (which it was), I can take it. :-)

    Thanks again. I’ll look into these areas and see what I can do to make corrections.

  24. Sorry Bryan – this is the corrected url – http://blogsite.com/public/item/191394

  25. [...] Top 3 Problems of Social Media Bryan Eisenberg, Grokdotcom | 12/28/07 [...]

  26. True Blogging is about someone wanting to be heard. However, most don’t know how to be heard. They simply don’t know how to extend the reach of their blog. It’s unfortunate that the majority of the blogs that might be seen and read, end up being “get rich quick blogs” with absolutely zero redeeming qualities.

  27. I commend you on taking the time to publicize this issue. I think there is an even deeper problem, and that is, that many of us who are writing content either are poor writers or have no right creating content because we are not content experts. So in this blogocracy, we have created a runaway situation where there is now ‘crap’ that is being copied by the folk you mentioned and is being bookmarked or referred to my the masses and is being used to ‘educate’ us the masses.

    May G-d help us all, or should we say may Google help us all?

    Very nice post and congratulations.

  28. [...] “Bottom line, there is no silver bullet or secret formula. To be successful in social media is much harder than ’starting to Blog.’ It’s about building a real relationship. That’s hard for Marketers to do and it’s not something that all consumers want.” via grokdotcom.com [...]

  29. buy ebook internet marketing strategy…

    Keep up the good work….

  30. A lot of people aren’t aware of the massive linkbuilding efforts with dubious content and blogs. There is a real danger in this. Because the real content is snowed under.

  31. Top 3 Problems of Social Media…

    In fact, besides a few really popular blogs, most blogs don’t have enough readers for a pickup game of basketball. Please don’t lecture me about the long tail — I understand niche, even micro-niche. I think as marketers, though, we have bigger is…

  32. Lol at the monkeys!

  33. I think beyond all the hype and volumes of social media, there will be some trends that will get big and change the face of internet. Social media has already made internet more interactive. There are negative aspects to almost everything including social media, but it will evolve.

  34. [...] problems that one can use Social Media to address is that of content scraping and splogging. As Brian Eisenberg wrote a while back: “…according to Google, of the 2 billion or so pages containing the [...]

  35. Great post. But its hard to explain to those guys who are writing loads of copied content everyday. I know some , not in my industry but in retail who writes more than 5 posts a day but they don’t have single reader of blog other than search traffic.

  36. I note that the blogs you cite as examples of good blogs, that update content more than once a day, have staffs of people devoted to keeping them up-to-date. Not really fair to compare that to an individual who is trying to run a business but still post occasional insights.

    That said, i did post earlier today in my own (irregularly updated) blog a question about whether blogs are essentially dead in the new social media landscape. (see post at http://www.temafrank.com)

  37. Nice post I Like your site very well and continue to do so. I have bookmarked your site.

  38. [...] [...]

  39. Brian, I particularly like Tip #3.

    I did exactly as you said and just wrote a blog post on “The Top 10 Ways You Can Get Free Publicity from the Tiger Woods Mess” and linked liberally throughout it.

    I tweeted it, and now I’m going to bookmark it.

    Now let’s see what happens….

  40. Thanks Bryan, a very good point. The problem is a lot of companies would like to use social media to sell their product, but clearly have no idea how to. If they would it would clear up a lot as you can only use social media that way if you listen to your customer and develop usefull content. With that part of your problem above will be solved. So keep sending your message out there.

  41. #

    There is a real danger in this. Because the real content is snowed under.

  42. If they would it would clear up a lot as you can only use social media that way if you listen to your customer and develop usefull content.Not really fair to compare that to an individual who is trying to run a business but still post occasional insights.

  43. Whenever a good idea comes along, there are always companies that want to transform it into a money-making endeavor.

  44. I love the example of how to go viral and most of it still rings true today. But, people are smarter and so are the filters but your rules are still valid

  45. [...] Future Now discusses another intrinsic problem when a site becomes too user generated focused (NB: their example is to do with blogs, but I think the themes can be translated to what’s happening in My Tribe) in the article “Top 3 Problems of Social Media”. They accurately point out that while a great number of people may join up to blogs, or in our case Social Media sites like Pool, their willingness and ability to keep an up-to-date and regular approach to commenting and posting is at best, dismal. According to their statistics (based on Technorati figures) of an average “75 million plus blogs started, in April Technorati reported that 15.5 million of them were “active.”” How does this relate to my point? One could infer that although many people may in a ‘new years resolution’ (thanks again, Future Now) attempt to start something productive, create an account and comment once or twice..roughly less than one quarter of users will remain active within the first 6 months. [...]

  46. [...] needs to provide consistent incentives to the ammeter to continue posting. An article entitled ‘Top 3 Problems of Social Media’ outlines this known issue. Importantly though professionals must be aware the ammeter is not an [...]

  47. True Blogging is about someone wanting to be heard. However, most don’t know how to be heard. They simply don’t know how to extend the reach of their blog. It’s unfortunate that the majority of the blogs that might be seen and read, end up being “get rich quick blogs” with absolutely zero redeeming qualities.

    Lolz at the monkeys :D

  48. “Create a list.” This is a top suggestion and works well on eBookReaderGuide.com

  49. Many blogs have been created because the website builder says you need it and only have some posts just after the website launch. Sebsite builders should monitor this behaviour and advise to delete the blog.

  50. no spam,no stress :)

  51. Great points! I really love to hate spammers cos they’re mostly newbies just trying out things these guru types teach them.
    The best way to master something is to learn by your mistakes!
    Robbie Gee

  52. some funny notes in this post :) but so true. the term blog is being used even more now. for typical person out there, any web site that publishes content is a blog anyways. social media is just becoming a hype, that is all.

  53. Many people are bloggind by taking content from other sites and present it to their blog like it is their own and as you said google cannot do anything about this…

  54. [...] Myth of Social Egalitarianism Splogs, Scrapers and Money Making Fakers aside, what we’re really seeing now is that social media is beginning to succumb to all the [...]

  55. My son is currenlty doing a school project on “Social Media”. I’m so glad I found this article as he will be very happy to add some of these thoughts to his project.

  56. [...] [...]

  57. First of all I want to say fantastic blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.

    I was curious to know how you center yourself and clear your
    mind prior to writing. I have had a hard time clearing my thoughts in getting
    my thoughts out there. I do take pleasure in writing however it just
    seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually wasted simply
    just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or hints?
    Cheers!

  58. It is great that you take some time to think before you begin writing. The truth is, writing is hard work for most anyone. What you write comes through the composition of your thoughts, so I would recommend that while you are trying to figure out how to begin, you write down all the ideas that run through your mind because one of them might be a good strategy to start your next writing project.

  59. To “buy youtube views”, I find that mind mapping really helps me get the writing process started. I throw all my ideas down into a mind map and that helps me organize them and start writing.

    Beyond that, as I tell my kids, just start writing! The great thing about computers is that it is easy to edit afterwards.

Add Your Comments

 

Print this Article
Share

Bryan Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark and Always Be Testing. You can friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

More articles from Bryan Eisenberg

Marketing Optimization Blog
FREE Newsletter Sign-Up
send it once every: