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The Moment Is Now

On February 23, 2012, in Social Media, Technology, by Tony Hymes

Digital technology is adapting to the newest elements, advancements, and potentials that the accelerating growth of demand commands. Technology is getting so incredibly advanced that it is hard to find a place where it doesn’t exist. Soon even Eskimos will have iPhones, probably the white ones. There will be digital billboards in places that only [...]

Digital technology is adapting to the newest elements, advancements, and potentials that the accelerating growth of demand commands. Technology is getting so incredibly advanced that it is hard to find a place where it doesn’t exist. Soon even Eskimos will have iPhones, probably the white ones. There will be digital billboards in places that only recently got electricity. Social media is already everywhere.

But digital technology is limited by the physicality of screens that display content. Even 3D screens suffer from this problem, and the problem is especially visible when it comes to social media. We have two physical dimensions and that ever-present-wonder: time.

Social media is entirely about what is happening right now. People spend time on the site seeing what their friends and those they are following are doing or thinking in that moment. The sites are represented as feeds, with the newest stories coming in first. Because it is limited to an interface on a screen, it is hard to have other elements present.

For example, Facebook has instituted their timeline feature to try to remedy this. Before, all events, comments, and status updates were treated equally, meaning that a comment like “ugh, it’s raining today” would receive the same attention as “I just passed the bar exam!” while clearly these two updates dont have the same importance. Now things are a little more categorized in terms of time, but there is really no way to rate events by importance.

This is also because people who post things need others to be online at the same time to see their messages. Tweet in the middle of the night and the only people to see it will be around the world, and might not be a target audience. For businesses this means that social media strategy needs to be ultra time sensitive. It also means that the momentum that can be created is extremely important.

Since people see on their feeds what other people like, it is incredibly important for something to start a chain reaction, or as it is known, to go viral. As soon as something drops down too far on the feed, say goodbye to the attention that every social media poster craves.

A company called Klout has come up with a way of judging the most influential people online (it’s Justin Bieber if you were wondering) through a series of criteria. But there is really nothing to rate how influential something is to someone in their specific life. If there is someway to self-rate how important an event is to someone, it would immediately be abused as people would overrate pretty much everything. For example, if getting married is a 10 on a scale of importance (out of 10) then eating at a really good restaurant would probably be a 4, but if someone really liked the restaurant and wanted people to pay attention to how good it was, they would rate it higher.

But we also can’t rely on how many “Likes” something receives on Facebook from other people because again, we are limited by the mechanisms of message delivery and the chance that someone is looking at a specific part of their news feed at a specific time (if they are online at all). Plus, since all “Likes” are created equal, there is no way to differentiate if you really like something or just kind of like it.

Surely this will be the next evolution of Facebook and social media, but for the time being, make sure you optimize the timing of your status updates to maximize their network effect.

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