Why Britney Isn't Retweeting Your Tweets

Can you stand out in the crowded world of social media? (courtesy of Search Engine People)

As some of you may know, I am currently reading Clay Shirky's interesting book "Here Comes Everybody" which examines the phenomenon of social behaviours and trends brought about by the onset of social networks and technologies. Several thoughts occurred to me, some triggered by Shirky's ideas, many others not.

1) Social media doesn't really replace traditional human behaviour, but provides new platforms and tools to manifest previously latent tendencies. Recent examples include the organising of meet-ups via forums, Facebook, or other social networking platforms, which caters to our urge to converge. We have always wanted to converse with our friends and family members - social media just makes it easier and more efficient to do so. Platforms like Youtube, Flickr and Odeo also caters to our interests like making home videos, taking photographs and composing our own music while sharing it with the world.

2) The effects of fame which limits the amount of interaction and dialogue in the real-life world will be mirrored by the Internet world. While it is technically possible for Barack Obama, Paris Hilton, or Ashton Kutcher to reply every email or tweet sent to them, they will not have the time, interest or energy to do so. This means that having a social media hotshot add you on Facebook or Twitter doesn't automatically guarantee that they could help you to propagate your messages.

3) Social media can magnify the effects of celebrity - whether online or offline. While Obama's presidential address in the US used to only reach hundreds of millions through TV, he now can reach billions around the world through Internet. It is also interesting to note that many of the Twitterers with the greatest number of followers (at least in the US) are real-life celebrities like Ashton Kutcher, Oprah Winfrey and Britney Spears.

4) Conversely, the flatness, transparency, ubiquity and democracy offered by social technologies on the Internet may actually enhance obscurity and magnify mediocrity.. Theoretically speaking, everyone of us can be a one-man or woman media outlet, disseminating charming home-grown content like videos, music, photographs and text to a seemingly unending audience. However, not everybody is going to be interested in what you produce unless it is remarkable, interesting or useful enough for their purposes. Against billions of blogs, forum postings, youtube videos, and Flickr photos, you need to be truly outstanding for anybody to notice you. The competition (24 by 7) has never been this great before.

5) As I have remarked about previously, we only have a limited amount of time in our lives, and this scarcity in attention will mean that not everything that comes to us will even get seen, heard, or viewed let alone shared and disseminated through our networks. The greatest filter invented in history are not RSS readers like Newsgator or Bloglines, but the human brain.

6) It is no longer just a numbers game. Having a friend with 10,000 Twitter followers who also follows you may improve your chances of success in scoring a Retweet hit, but only if you are able to cut through the clutter. In fact, uber social media user Robert Scoble has recently unfollowed some 106,000 followers on his Twitter feed (how he selects is humanly unfathomable). Read this excellent article by Jim Connolly on how the crowd can sometimes be more foolish than wise.

7) Screwing up online can be worse than doing so in the real world, especially since the Internet never forgets. Previously, if you made a mistake, you could just walk away from it all and perhaps lose face from a few associates, family members or friends. Now, any errors will go through the echo chamber effect and be seen to be far bigger than they truly are. What's worst is that they are always retained somewhere in the virtual universe, like transgressions that never get washed away.

The moral of the story here is one of managing expectations. Social technologies like blogs, forums, chats, video sharing sites, photo sharing sites, microblogging apps and social networking platforms are great as tools or levers, but they can't make you an overnight star. You still need the traditional ingredients of success: hard work and diligence, intelligence, personality, uniqueness, charm and charisma, leadership, and creativity amongst others.

Added to that is a huge dose of luck, God's will and being at the right place at the right time with the right people.

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