The Disconnection Paradox of Existing Social Media Platforms


Social media platforms have effectively become “The Matrix.”

The Disconnection Paradox of Exiting Social Media Platforms.

Most of us are simply too busy to really care or notice. Yet, it is clearly written on the wall. There is a problem in existing social media platforms and particularly in the way we use it, and it is important we acknowledge it.

Social media platforms have effectively become “The Matrix.”

Let me explain.

Social Media Platforms Are Broken.

As much as we are all connected to each other through multiple social media platforms, the truth is that we are practically disconnected and deceived. We have become slaves to blind consumption of non-sense and are in fact, used as effective tools for the distribution of media and new forms of advertising. Even when we realize this, we still remain hooked simply because we are somehow convinced that we are going to miss something or god forbid, become irrelevant.

Could you imagine what could possibly have happened if we all stop sharing?

The likelihood is that nothing could really happen, simply because the visibility of the typical social media user is already zero-to-none. But more importantly, nothing will happen because there is no lifelong value for us in the way we currently use social media platforms. What is shared today is in most cases, a shallow, superficial or otherwise suppressed representation of our true identities.

Following Race Leads To Invisibility and Noise

We are all consumed in this constant acquisition race after followers (and fans). We want to build audiences primarily to be heard and promote our online presence. We want to ensure our social existence and relevancy. But we are sucked into this vicious cycle of reciprocal following game.

We are unable to distinguish between organic and manipulated accounts. The amount of available tools and services that are specifically designed to boost your followers count and at the same time, keep your account “balanced” and under the banning radar of the networks—is overwhelming. It has become a number game. A way to inflate your online reputation.

And if not embraced by marketers, “gurus,” or even mainstream users, this type of activity is directly promoted by the platform itself. In an effort to grow each platform’s ecosystem by continuously fuel the built-in distribution—we are constantly encouraged to follow, be friended, and connect to pages, advertisers, acquaintances, companies, or anything that is part of the platform’s social graph. “The more the merrier” type of agenda.

Whether it is an organic acquisition or a promoted one, at the end, the more users (or things) we follow the faster we lose control of our aggregated feed. Even a small number of followees could mean a busy, flooded feed. No matter at what time of the day your followers “plug” in, chances are that your most recent messages are already buried at the bottom of their feed. And as we all have that much of an attention span, most users are unlikely able to scroll their entire feeds. It is simply time consuming and they are likely be distracted much earlier.

The result is that your voice cannot really be heard by your very own followers. When this happens, it is just a matter of time until invisibility becomes apparent to the average user, a realization that results in a much reduced activity and suppresses continued growth of these platforms.

You are invisible. You are broadcasting, consuming, and distributing. You are connected but disconnected.

Irrelevancy & Self-Censorship.

Technically speaking, most existing social networks promote irrelevancy by design. As a user, you are allocated with a single feed into which you share your content. When following other users, you are basically forced to consume their entire feeds. However, if you think about it, any two individuals share very little interests in common, no matter how close they are. Overlapping interest base is non-existence, if the social tie was created only on the basis of reviewing some random messages. And as a person grows on both personal and professional levels, his interests and focus are constantly shifting and as a result his sharing themes.

No matter how narrow or wide the context of the network is, you will find that you are (unconsciously) restricting yourself to a limited set of sharing themes, or involuntarily forced to pick sharing themes that are aligned to the lowest common denominator of your direct network. Not doing so, and you will be adding noise and irrelevancy to you followers, and risk to be gracefully hidden or removed from their feed.

Controlling the sharing based on a manual segmentation of your followers doesn’t solve the problem of irrelevancy. You cannot assume relevancy even based on real-life relationships.

You are practicing self-censorship and you don’t even know it.

Retention Models Are Abused.

The default retention models are based on email notifications and mobile push notifications. If the notifications are not excessively used by the platform itself, then it is used by robots and marketers exploiting the platform. Either you get that random “favorite” email for a post you submitted a year ago, or you get a dozen notifications and emails the second you clicked the Post Message button.

I have opted into social media to engage with people, not with organizations, brands, and marketers that promote their agenda. I want real people to follow me and send me real feedback in regards to what I share or what I have to say.

I am annoyed by marketers who tend to forget the correct approach to conversion. Social media is not different than any other sales channels: ignite or actively participate in a discussion first, and then build relationships that will eventually result in a transaction.

I know, it doesn’t scale, and you are in a rush for my money.

Retention models are now used as the back door to your phone and inbox. It’s the good ’old spamming, just dressed a bit nicer. A “social” spamming.

Who will be the first to enforce “No Soliciting” policy?

Automation Tools, Robots, and Droids.

Social media management tools and other plugins allow you to schedule your messages. You are timing your messages probably because you want to ensure maximum visibility and combat message invisibility with technology. But this practice is not social. Are you skipping the lineup in the bank or in the coffee shop? Who gives you the right to push my friends down the feed?

Or do you want to schedule your messages simply because you don’t want to assault my feed with too many messages too frequently? How thoughtful. You must be very creative to post, and schedule that many messages, don’t you? Yes, I know. That’s a nonissue for you the “brainer.” There are some more tools that gladly help you find the most popular content in social media. But why would you want to send that many messages in the first place? Ah, I get it, to make sure I know you exist, and increase the likelihood I will continue your distribution cycle. Thank you, that is very sociable of you.

You see, we are being manipulated by marketers and their robots, and we have become droids ourselves. Was that the original intention of the creators? Most certainly not.

Hidden Advertising.

While we all understand the tight dependency of large-scale platforms on advertising revenue, as a user, I am annoyed when I see something that is out of context and artificially implanted in my feed in a way that is hard to identify as an advertising. I am even more annoyed when I see an endorsement of some page timed artificially and repetitively. Any form of advertising should be clearly and prominently distinguished from the organic content of the feed. The exact layout or color theme of a user-generated message within the feed should not be used.

Overtime, and unintentionally from our end, we have replaced (or supplemented) the flood in our email inbox with an opt-in advertising and directly into our personal aggregated feeds. Instead of letting the users to naturally endorse products and services, we are being fed directly, and are socially engineered to endorse brands and distribute their well-crafted, and continually flowing content to our personal network.

We have a new part-time job.

Fragmentation & Complexity.

As much as specializing in specific niche markets is important, the social universe and our online identity is fragmented across multiple social media platforms. We are loosing our ability to control and manage our online identity. We juggle between multiple social networks and share differently based on the context, while others may conclude wrongly based on the first context they find.

We are confused with the rich options, cannot distinguish between default and controlled privacy settings, and have to constantly assess and understand the risk of unintentional disclosure.

Content We Share.

The typical sharing theme: A link to an article. Photography, at times, animated. A video. Recycled content. Bragging.

Are we that shallow? We have all the time in the world to relentlessly check out our feeds, and that’s all we can do?

How about writing our own opinions? How about recommending a good read? How about sharing our thoughts and life experiences, verbally? How about we ask questions and ignite a discussion? What? We have graduated Grade 12 and are not capable of writing one paragraph a day? Once a week? Once a month!

Are we creating value to ourselves? What can we do different?

“And, while I’m happy that I’m building a collection of life recordings that I can look back on later, I’d still prefer if I shared better stuff, that’s more accurate, more personal, more meaningful, so I could have a better accounting of my life.” Liz Gannes, AllThingsD

Thank you for taking the red pill.

Disclosure:

The above was written based on a personal observation. The author believes an evolution in social media space is imminent, and is actively building and promoting a new type of social media platform.

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From Lawyer to Startups


How’d you get that job?

That’s a question I’ve wanted to ask hundreds of people over the last twenty years. I would’ve loved to have heard their stories to help me make better decisions when managing my own career. In the last several years, for the first time, many people have asked me that question. And, I’ve been answering it every time, often in person, even when it comes from someone I don’t know, because me five years ago would have done anything to meet me today. But, that approach isn’t scaling well. So, to help the many people who are figuring it out like I was, here’s the short version.

But before I tell this story, I have to thank the people who came before me and built this country in which we prosper. One of them is my grandfather, who survived the Holocaust while saving lives, found his way to America, and then literally built parts of this country working construction to support his family. Because of that, I received a great education and could try out a few careers until I found a job that was challenging, fulfilling, and meaningful. I can’t overstate how grateful I am for the opportunities and happiness that I have. I don’t take a day for granted. And, I try to work hard, keep perspective, and give more than I get.

And now back to the story…

After working at some of the biggest companies in finance, consulting, and advertising, I went to law school and then followed the parade to a big law firm. I planned to work there for a couple of years, repay as much as possible of my $150,000+ in loans, then move on. My experience was better than I expected, so I stayed for longer than I thought I would. During my fifth year there, I decided it was time to transition into something that was more interesting and meaningful, something in a growing business, where I could learn more about the internet and technology, and feel like I’m building something and moving the world forward.

Most of my professional experience was in the law, including employment law, so I first tried applying for mid to senior level jobs in law and human resources at startups in NYC. I didn’t really want to be in either of those departments, but I also didn’t want to start over. I figured I’d start there. I’d prove myself. Then, I’d transition.

I wrote typical, forgettable cover letters. I attached my resume with good schools, grades, and jobs. An application that I was so sure would make me special. The kind of application I’ve now seen a thousand times.

Dear Company, here is a narrative restatement of my resume. Attached please find my awesome resume in resume format. Please hire me. Sincerely, Jared Cohen

I got the response I deserved: almost none.

While I felt like I was getting nowhere, I was actually making progress in a sense. The process of researching and applying had convinced me that I’d be happy and fit in well at a startup. So, I decided I was going to do whatever it took to get a job. I experimented with cover letters and resumes, making them more creative and less typical. And, I applied to almost every entry level job at any startup on either coast. If they had no jobs listed, I applied anyway. I figured I’d prove myself and work my way up.

Eventually, I got one.

I took an almost 90% pay cut, packed two suitcases, and moved from New York to San Francisco. As I sat in the back seat of the taxi to the airport that morning watching the sun rise, it became very real. I felt like I was watching someone else’s stupid decisions.

The first month or so at the job I was reading documents and typing data into Google spreadsheets. But I quickly moved up in the company. I built and managed a data team of twenty people and joined the executive team.

I also decided I was going to try coding. I told the engineers, who I had become friends with, that I wanted to learn and had always liked working with spreadsheets. After they stopped laughing, they directed me to Ruby and some resources.

I dove in and quickly fell in love with it. I dedicated nearly every spare second to teaching myself about computer science and web development. The engineers coached me, and celebrated when I wrote out Fizz Buzz on the white board without any trouble. I started grabbing engineering tickets out of the assigning system and doing them. I ended up spending half of my time at work on product and engineering.

A year later, it was time to move on. I had learned so much. My resume had been transformed. I applied for product and engineering roles in NYC. I even got a couple without too much trouble. I was about to accept one when a friend told me Kickstarter was looking for a Director of Operations. I applied, interviewed, and got the job.

My first couple of assignments were to figure out payments so we could expand internationally, and figure out what to do about our shrinking office space. While no one told me to, I also took out the garbage when it was full, killed mice when I could catch them, replaced the doorknob when it was broken, and plunged the toilet when it was clogged. As people began to see me less as the scary corporate weirdo, and more as someone who was sincere and helpful, I started doing so much more in so many areas. It was amazing.

In the last three years, Kickstarter built a payments system, went international, bought a beat-up old pencil factory, built a building, and has become a smooth running, growing, profitable company.

And, I’ve found a career that’s challenging, fulfilling, and meaningful. My transition is complete.

If you have any feedback or questions about this post, please comment or Tweet at me.

Coming soon: the lessons I learned during this transition and how to do it more quickly and less painfully.

disclaim.in

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The Perpetual Motion Machine Called Quora


There are brilliant people on Quora.

I wouldn’t consider myself by any means “brilliant,” but I love asking questions and getting “PhD” grade answers.

I have been driving some heavy traffic to our startup Slingbot through various growth hacks, and there have been some amazing conversion rates. As well as some shitty conversion rates from sites.

So, what is the value to a user that signs up for your new product or service and doesn’t ask questions or provide feedback? The answer is that user holds zero value.

Are Quora readers the most valuable users to have testing your product or service?

The answer is, hell yes they are.

When we launched Slingbot almost two weeks ago I started driving interested people to our site, testing which channels yielded the best conversion.

Some readers have said I use more unorthodox “hack” type methods to turn user acquisition channels into something reminiscent of a fire hose, to spray unique visitors at our startup platform. (I like that analogy, a lot)

When you are starting a company what matters most? I will tell you, it is:

1. Using data to test what marketing/user flow works best for converting users, and what does not work.

2. Acquiring valuable users to provide feedback.

3. Make revenue (monthly if you can swing it)

Our startup has achieved this without spending a cent.

After testing and analyzing the data from all the different SOCIAL channels we opened, we found which ones to move forward with, and Quora was one.

Acquisition channels we have, and still are analyzing (no order):

We found the top 3 conversions came from Twitter, Facebook, and Quora.

In those findings, which users gave us the most valuable feedback? Quora. (10 fold)

How do you best utilize Quora? A ratio of; question to post.

I will show you how I have used Quora to get amazing feedback on our startup.


Powerful Posts
Quora divides their content sharing into two main categories posts, and questions. Questions can fuel your posts number of views, if done correctly.

The underlying functionality behind posts (and Quora as a whole) is to share your content with other readers, respond to comments, obtain views and up votes.

Simple right? Wrong.

The reason I refer to Quora as a perpetual motion machine is because when you get views, shares, comments, and up votes, you gain “credits,” that you can use to purchase more views.

Your Quora post can propel itself with a little help from you asking questions and spending your credits effectively.

This concept is extremely powerful if your content is worth a shit.


Questions (fuel generator)
Asking questions are your most valuable tool in obtaining the fuel (credits) for generating more post views.

When you finish writing a post, ask questions to popular categories, like startups, or digital currencies.

This is what I like to call “mining for credits.” (yeah, it sounds more difficult than it is.)

Make your question edgy and controversial, getting readers interested. For example “Should startups start accepting bitcoin?

Always make your own question.

Categorize you question correctly or readers will do it for you. (literally) This is an example of a BAD way to categorize a question.

Always ask the “free people”

Tip: Keep clicking “view more” and you can ask more people your question for free. Repeat. Keep clicking.

Quora gives you he option to repeat a previous question. The data I gathered showed that new questions take more time to gain up votes, and answers, but yield a higher long-term value.

Once you have a few up votes and comments on your “edgy” question in a popular category, go back to your blog, and promote it, using ALL of your credits reaching the maximum number of readers.

I have tested “credit spending” by spending in increments of 100 credits at a time. (Reaching only 20 people)

My data showed spending all my credits on one post increased my odds (by 2X) in obtaining more followers, up votes, and shares. This was compared to portioning out credits rationing them out to different posts. (Don’t worry you can get more credits)

To keep promoting your posts, you will do a shit ton of “mining credits” on Quora. Just get used to coming up with questions and great content for posts to bring in a great following.

Quick Review:
If you are driving traffic somewhere, you need to produce more fuel (credits) by asking more questions to the Quora community.


Promoting of any kind Quora is a content sharing platform similar to Medium except, Quora allows you to propel yourself in front of intelligent readers based on credits making it the most powerful of all the blogging platforms for promoting anything.

This still doesn’t make it the content submitted different than other blogging sites, so you SHOULD NOT PROMOTE YOUR STARTUP DIRECTLY.

Successful blogging on any site as a matter of fact is about writing content that people will enjoy reading.

If they enjoy what you write about, you will build a following and they will come to your startup after you keep them interested with non-shitty content.

DO NOT ASK QUESTIONS ON QUORA ABOUT YOUR STARTUP.
You will look like a dumb ass and the intelligent readers will tear you apart. It is literally a “lose-lose,” for you and your startup.

If you are driving traffic to your startup from Quora, write about similar INTERESTING topics but not your product directly. This allows you to attract people interested in similar industries, goods, or services.

For example: If you are reading this post, you care about extending your reach on blogging platforms like Quora. Our startup Slingbot does just that we help people extend their reach on social media.

Simple, short plug, then move on with the rest of your RELAVENT content.


Cross Posting and Linking
Every post you publish should be cross-posted to Medium, Tumblr, and Quora.

There are thousands of other platforms, and I think your content should be on as many as possible, but the core of your audience needs to be on these three platforms.

Cross posting extends your reach with links to your startup, and it is as simple as “copy and paste.”

Linking these three platforms together is key.
(Example. check out all my “hacks” on Hack and Hustle.)

I usually put these links at the bottom of my posts so people have already finished reading, and see the value behind reading more.

I average about 10-15 embedded links per post to blogging sources like Quora.

Startups ONLY need to have 3-7 embedded links per post, one being at the bottom as a “signature.”

Moral of this post: When posting to Quora, write interesting content and you will develop a loyal, intelligent, and active following, making promoting your product or service (if that’s your goal) easier in the long run.

Ask great questions to get credits. Use the credits when you get them. Propel yourself and your startup where it belongs with Quora.

Thanks for sharing,

@TheSteveMcGarry

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