Social Media: It’s No Longer Every Man for Himself

Charles Darwin is known for defining the concept surrounding of survival of the fittest. Those who adapt, survive; those who do not, die out. While this idea encapsulates evolution of the human species, or at least was intended to, it works quite stunningly in social media as well. But contrary to the notion that each man must survive alone, in social media, we’re all in this together as a community. Only those who languish behind will lose out and not reap the benefits.

Yesterday, I encountered blog post submission to a small but growing niche social news site. The post implied that the top players in social media had some alternative agenda going on (and you know how I feel about that). Essentially, the blog author had the vibe that the most dedicated person on the site was being “annoying” because his avatar (and thus his name), which he has built hard to establish through blood, sweat, and tears, was ubiquitous and that its mere presence was diluting the quality of the articles that have been promoted to the front page.

I’ll summarize both sides to this disagreement with a “been there, done that” response. I can closely relate to both the person who initiated this complaint and the person who the complaint was about, because at one point, I was that same kind of complainer. I had the same exact attitude. Now, I’m in the category as the other person.

I feel that my last few posts on community interaction may not have been clear enough and that the lesson needs rehashing. The world I speak of, after all, is virtual. So let’s use a real-life example to clarify.

Imagine you’re an immigrant in a foreign country and you want to fulfill the “dream.” However, you don’t know anyone in this new land and you are afraid of taking the next step. Fortunately for you, you have similar interests and can share them with the community when the time presents itself. As you begin your journey, you’ll run into obstacles and roadblocks, but as long as you are determined to succeed and adjust to your surroundings and the people living among you, you’ll do just fine. When the opportunity knocks, you share among your peers. You have skills that your neighbors appreciate and they, in turn, help you out as well. Over time, you’ll grow as a member of the tribe and will no longer be viewed as the “new kid on the block.” Perhaps, in due time, you’ll even become a shining star, a leader, or a notable member of the community.

Social media is not that different. It’s a community that flourishes because people help each other out. In fact, survival is nearly impossible without it: if you visit a social site for the first time and start submitting your stories and only your stories, you’ll promote the perception that you’re only in it for yourself. Since social media is inherently social, you will not be able to define success — the notion rubs off the wrong way on those who spend considerable amount of time building upon the successful vision of the social network. Does such criticism have no say? It certainly does and is a good starting point for an intelligent discourse on the issue. Again, I once had this same exact attitude: but it was because I didn’t understand.

I don’t think the negative attitude is a bad thing. I do, however, think that education is the answer. If you thought social media was a quick fix for easy exposure, consider the stats I presented last month at SMX: I’ve Dugg over 18,000 stories (that number now exceeds 22,000), and I added that each individual social network takes hours of study to get even the slightest inkling about. If you are under the impression that you can wake up one day, submit all your stuff to Reddit, and become an instant hero, unfortunately, there’s a lot more that you are not understanding: the bottom line is that an army of your peers is watching.

On social media, networking is of utmost importance (see tip #3). Without getting to know your surroundings and the people within, you’re as good as nobody. Michael Gray once said something phenomenal and it relates so well to this lesson:

Building quality content without [networking] is like locking William Shakespeare in a room to write for himself.

You already know you have the content that has front page potential — or at least you feel that you’ve written the content that works, but what’s next? Go out and help those within the community who you feel add value to it. Don’t use the social network as grounds to complain when you need to make the effort — or at least prove that you’ve made the effort — first. We’re a great group of people, albeit with strong opinions and a desire to create a kick-ass community, but at the end of the day, we’d like you to be part of it too.


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