Social Media and Data Overload - Is Content King or A Dictator?

You've probably searched for something like "social media overload" to find this blog. And, in an effort to get our point across, we hope you've found what you're looking for. The proliferation of data, specifically if shared on social media, is practically an epidemic. Have we created TOO much information? And, with all the information available to us, should we be sharing it at the rate of overload?

The goal of this blog isn't to create more content just for the sake of content. What we're noticing more and more are the overwhelming data feeds and streams that constantly distract us. In reality, content is becoming a dictator and the Staples office supply company would have been better suited to create an "Ignore" button, rather than an "Easy" button.

Before Facebook became wildly popular, connecting with others socially online came from "chatting" on AOL instant messenger (remember "you've got mail?"), or even more so, through forums on the internet. And, in these beginning stages, social networks were relatively quiet because advertisers and marketers hadn't diluted them - yet. What changed the game for businesses and marketers was when these social networks offered the ability to share information as a brand with people that share the same demographic qualities of their target audiences. As such, we as marketers found that creating content is the key to connecting and building relationships with these users.

Now that we've spent the last decade creating content and playing around in social media, where are we? We've written blogs, Tweeted those blogs, posted updates to Facebook and spent countless hours connecting with other professionals on LinkedIn. We shove more gigabytes of content out the front door of our businesses each day trying to capture every shred of the most desired commodity known to man - the attention of human beings.

(FYI since starting to write this blog, the @HarvestCRM Twitter news feed has 125 new posts.) Maybe we as marketers need to refer back to Kindergarten days and begin to treat others how we would want to be treated. Stop writing and sharing and posting content just to write and share and post content. Otherwise, you're going to get ignored.

So, how do we (marketers and NON-marketers) weed out the good and bad info, and what can we do (as marketers) moving forward? Let's start with the latter and discuss a good yardstick to measure quality content creation.

1. Know your target audience. If you want to get out a message via social media, think before you post. Will this content actually be interesting to potential readers, or is the information unoriginal? If every single AC repair company posted a blog about how to lower your electricity bill in the summer, do you think those blogs will look much different from one another?

2. Know what you're selling. How does your business (or the content you're about to publish) differentiate from your competitors? Is the information you're about to offer pose some new thought or game changer for the reader? Or, perhaps don't sell your reader. Perhaps it's a good time to take a more organic and real approach with your target audience and quit trying to establish relationships solely based on the fact they've given you money.

3. Think. Would you want to read what you wrote? Is your content thought provoking or remarkable? And, if it's not, how will your "standard content" reflect on the intelligence of the author/company?
Give them something to talk about. Bonnie Raitt may have been before her time with this idea. Is your content remarkable and will the reader talk about this content? Will someone who reads your blog actually re-mark it for later reading or even share it with someone else?
Be relevant. If you're writing about outdated processes or practices, immediately pull out your shredder and destroy. Stop wasting your time and others.

The truth is many marketers haven't followed good practices in content creation, or even good practices in terms of sharing that information on social media networks. How does an online user weed out what's good and what's not so good?

1. Regulate the time you spend on social networks. Probably the hardest of all things you can do online especially when you stumble upon something of interest or find yourself deep into page 10 of a Google search. If you limit yourself to certain times of day for a predetermined period of time, you will find that your focus is better streamlined when you only have XX amount of minutes to find what you're looking for.

2. Trim off the fat. You've got 1,789 Facebook friends, you like 97 business pages, you follow 834 users on Twitter and you're connected to 500+ professionals on LinkedIn. Unless you actually know ALL of those connections, take about an hour for each platform and get rid of the connections you can do without. This exercise will help you better determine who's important and who isn't, as well as cut out some of the clutter on your news feeds. Not ready to say goodbye? Alright, well, then start by adjusting your settings per platform so that you can decide what information is important to you.

3. Pick 5-10 topics you're willing to digest. Make a list of topics you're interested in (personally, professionally or both) and stick only to reading those subjects. Just because HubSpot or Mashable publishes 100 articles a day doesn't mean you need to read all of them.

4. Use helpful tools. There are so many, but one of the best ones we've found is Get Pocket. This is a great app that you can use on your computer or phone to store articles for later reading. If you're too busy to sit down, browse and read, you can store these articles for a later time and dedicate your attention to reading only. It will help you with point #1 and you will better regulate your time. (Other tools of notable mention are Evernote, Google Reader and Flipboard, to name a few.)

We simply cannot avoid the fact that data overload is a terrible time suck, and it's only going to get worse. If you want to make smarter decisions for your business, or smarter buying decisions, or just be smarter in general, get on board now as an even bigger data flood is coming. If you're a marketer, be a better content creator. Or, if you just want to silence the noise, prepare yourself each time you embark on an internet surfing adventure.

What are your thoughts on data overload? Or, if you have any nuggets of wisdom to help people weed out the noise, please share with us by commenting below!