It’s been a tough month for web stuff. First, the web died, then social media and now SEO. Although I heartily agree with the first two, the last one is more than a bit dubious. As social sharing technologies mature, it’s obvious content will be optimized to catch that wave.
Remember the first one? Remember how everything on the web had email and print buttons, allowing us to easily share stupid articles with our friends and family? Or, in the final stage of evolution, email-only forwards that my parents STILL send around? That’s social media optimization for you.
Sure, it’s easier now. We can one-click like on Facebook, one-click post on Twitter and often one-click post to Posterous, Amplify or WordPress blogs. But the sharing technology doesn’t really go any further than that. You can’t really make anything EASIER to share, but you can make it WANT to be shared.
Short of sensationalized headlines and stupid topics (hello Phoenix New Times and Digg), the secret here is telling great stories about topics people want to read. This means analyzing Jersey Shore, posting uneducated thoughts about the Tea Party and bragging about the time you didn’t sleep with Christine O’Donnell. It means lowering the level of discussion so low that anyone can join in.
Note that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. People want to be entertained, they want to feel like they are a part of something and they want to revel in the failures of more powerful people, but when all you’re doing is reflecting what people are, you’re doing them a disservice. Stories are the way in which we remember, connect and paint a picture of what we want our future to be. They are our roadmaps and watering them down in order to be better shared isn’t right.
We will always share stories with those that we know. Searching and SEO-related technology allows us to discover stories from people we don’t know on topics we may not be intimately familiar with. The world was small once. We didn’t like it.
It’s time to be better.