Buzz off

Creating buzz via social networking appears to be highly addictive.

Read time 3min 10sec

Is it just me, or is the Social Networking Emperor stark naked and looking rather like the village idiot?

Sure, he's “out there” - thanks to Twitter, we know what he's up to on a nanosecond-to-nanosecond basis. Facebook? Check. MySpace? Check. Obligatory blog(s), personal Web site, island on Second Life? Affirmative.

Posse of social media “experts”, themselves in possession of a similar array of “profile-enhancing” tools, not to mention at least a book a year on the topic? Youbetcha. And he must be damned good at his Emperor job because he's got a million recommendations on LinkedIn. If you start noticing a strange interconnectedness between those sharing the love, begone - you simply don't understand how it all works.

Thanks to the marvels of social networking, it seems conventional wisdom has headed in a direction where what you say (even if you're a cat on Twitter) is at least as important as a) saying it in as many places as possible, b) presenting it in a novel way, and c) making it look good. If you can ally yourself to an exclusive bunch of fellow self-appointed insight purveyors, all the better because it's all about the profile, baby.

Thing is, outside of those creating all the buzz, is any ordinary person really that interested?

I'm not suggesting for a second that there isn't any high quality analysis or information available online. What's really grating my carrot is this massive online profile conveyor belt industry where appearance and well-cultivated kudos often mask the reality that much of what's being said is age-old truth wrapped in shiny new clothing - if there's even a message in there in the first place.

Yes, there are people out there who know how to make Twitter work for your company, but if you look at much of what passes for “clever” marketing/profile building at the moment, it seems the real experts are actually quite thin on the ground.

Thing is, outside of those creating all the buzz, is any ordinary person really that interested?

Pamela Weaver, contributor, ITWeb

Too often, people are treated like just another passive receptacle for “the brand”, as if they have the attention span of a gnat and the intellectual capacity of a box of cornflakes. To read a lot of what's posted out there by the self-styled gurus is to feel like you're on a never-ending, self-feeding book promo tour.

There's a sexually explicit phrase for a lot of this, the second word of which is “circle” and the first of which begins with “w” and refers to the art of self-pleasure. Seth Godin's “Triibes” group appears to underline this mentality, building on the notion that exclusivity will create a buzz around something. In many ways, he's right of course. But even if he isn't, who cares, right? Wouldn't you rather be in the gang?

The mere act of creating a buzz appears, for many, to have become an end in itself. And when those seemingly addicted to doing this form vast networks with like-minded profile raisers, forming one giant mutual recommendation society, it gets hard to hear anything for the noise.

For all the possibilities that social networking technologies can offer business, much of the current offerings are reminiscent of Plato's cave, where we're spending so much time watching the shadows on the walls that we're ignoring the real things casting them and interpreting those as well.

Imagine if Chicken-Little from the kids' story had a Twitter account:

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