Social Media is Lowering Our Content Standards

Sharing has ceased to be an endorsement of the quality of content. Social media has created the expectation that we share content, and in the drive to meet the content demands social media places on us, our content standards are falling.

Here are signs that sharing content may have become more important to you than the content itself:

  • You have started reading in order to find content to share, not because you want to spend time reading content.
  • When you find content you REALLY like, you have to share it differently, emphatically stating how great it is to differentiate it from the only OK content you shared before. (ie “LOVE this post! …” or “+100 RT …”)

If so, it is time to stop listening to the social media experts, the ones that gave you the idea you need to share 4, 8 or 15 pieces of content in the first place. As Jessica Northey wrote recently, Don’t Should On Yourself and instead, find what works for you.

The rules are at best guidelines, and nobody is requiring you to share mediocre content. In fact, you probably aren’t required to share content at all.

Here are steps I plan to take to bring my content standards back up in the coming weeks, I hope you will join me:

1. Forget the Rules

Do not hold yourself to sharing a certain amount of content. When you set a numerical goal, you create an incentive to share content that would otherwise be below your standards.

2. Say Why

Why are you sharing this content in the first place? Is it because you agree? Is it because it is great writing or photography? Don’t just share it, say why it is worth sharing. Sharing is acting as a content filter for your connections, and your reason for sharing is a critical component of the filter.

If you don’t have a reason to share it, STOP.

3. Who Would You Mail it to?

Remember when you shared content using the postal service? We carefully selected what we sent and who we sent it to. Is what you are sharing worth tearing out and mailing to someone with a note saying why you think they should read it?

If it is not worth mailing to at least one person, STOP.

If all you need to do is forget the rules, raising your standards will be easy. But if your standards have been lowered by social media sharing (like mine have been), raising your standards will take time.

Your Turn

Has social media lowered your content standards? If so, will you bring your standards back up, or is the quantity you share more important than the quality for your objectives? Share your answers in the comments below or with me on Twitter.

About Eric Wittlake

I am a digital and B2B marketer with a background in online media and analytics. I work with B2B clients on media and integrated marketing programs. You can connect with me on Twitter at @wittlake or in the comments here on my Digital B2B Marketing blog.

28 Responses to Social Media is Lowering Our Content Standards

  1. Perfect. Every word. Bravo.

  2. I’m appreciative of this ‘call to quality’, because, well…more than occasionally, guilty of lowered standards! So to reverse that trend, I’m gonna share this for the right reasons, mine alone.

  3. Eric,

    Great and timely call to action. I look at this as a type of intensification; a drive to feed a growing need, perceived or real, than there is quality content. IT leads to a lowering of standards to keep the content flowing out.

    For me, i have always held true to your rules from my start and only look for content that fulfills my own sense of wonder and discovery – content i enjoy reading. Whatever happened to that?

    Social Media is a culture of rewarded mediocrity where we are afraid to tell the truth.

    I hope your message catches on.

    Jeff – Sensei

    • Thanks Jeff, I hope so too. Love your line: “Social Media is a culture of rewarded mediocrity where we are afraid to tell the truth.” Its sad, but I have to agree it seems to be true for so many.

      Thanks for taking the time to share your sentiment, I really appreciate it.

  4. Eric,

    Fantastic! I have been ruminating on this one myself. I feel the pressure of “more, faster” but rarely hear “better.” I am committed to increasing the quality of content I support and distribute! I will hold you accountable, if you hold me accountable!


  5. Watch your mailbox for a comment from me!

  6. Allie says:


    “You have started reading in order to find content to share, not because you want to spend time reading content.”

    That was me when I began blogging. I needed to skim the post, make a quick comment and then share it so I can get kudos from my readers and hopefully from the author. I found this to be quite tiring and useless for me. I was not learning and I was not building a relationship with anyone by doing this.

    Being a successful blogger means you create relationships with your readers and who you read. I decided to slow down. I only read what I can learn from (or my readers so I can share it with them), I only comment if I learned or took something from it and then I share it.

    I like what Forrest said: “A call to quality” NICE!


    • Thanks Allie, great to hear! Following you now and looking forward to seeing what you share and how you have learned to engage!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment share my post, I appreciate the vote of support!

  7. Very good.
    “Is your post worth mailing to at least one person?”

  8. Drew says:

    When I read the title I thought I would be against this post because I naturally thought, that social media should be pushing us to share higher quality content. It seems however that you are right and that as with anything the pressure to create a higher quantity of something you lose out on the quality that was once required. I will certainly try to think twice to make sure that content I am sharing meets my standards.

  9. Sharlene Boodram says:

    As a content producer, I find it increasingly hard to reach my audience through all the noise, after spending so much time on quality ideation and development, providing value to my intended audience. As a professional hungry to stay on top of new findings and best practices, I limit my influencers to the trusted few, instead of opening up to a diverse selection, for that exact reason. Great post!

  10. I guess you’re getting a lot of spam? You don’t cite any sources, so I must assume you are basing your article on anecdotal evidence. In short – I’m not so sure I see the same problem. However, I have a low tolerance for spam, and so I regularly ween who I follow based on people who have either stopped updating altogether or who post far too much stuff that I’m not interested in. I kind of feel like your tips are good, but, if a person is at the point where they need to ask themselves these questions, they they are too far gone to listen to. I’m also really curious which “social media experts” you have read that endorse the share-way-too-much philosophy? (There certainly are a lot of pretenders and wannabes in the industry.) You say “Forget the rules”, but … I for one have never considered “share a minimum amount” to be a rule. (Other than, say, if I actually wanted my blog to be more than a niche tech blog for me to document my ideas and spread them, I would make sure I updated 3-5 times per week, if only to give people a reason to keep checking their RSS reader.)

    I do think you missed the most important social media sharing rule of all: Context.

    One should share based on the context of the niche that they have chosen. My own personal content mix is that of virtual world and social media wisdom, with a sprinkling of current events and politics. I stick to the formula, and my audience knows what to expect. For my *personal* social media – Facebook, for example – what I post is vastly different than my blog or Twitter. I like how Google+ allows the different circles and delivering content specific to each, and if they got their heads out of their asses about being a “identity service”, then perhaps we’d see a broader adoption and usage.


    • Ron, good point on context. This seems to be something people are conflicted on. They want to share content, but social media is also a personal environment, and some of us (myself included) share information that is interesting to us but is beyond the scope of the niche we are looking to connect with. At some level, this let’s people get to know us better, and helps to build relationships. But too much, and I will no longer follow for the content that originally pulled me in (digital marketing, B2B marketing, social media or technology in my case).

      I do not get a lot of pure spam, but I do see people I know sharing content that I suspect they don’t feel is particularly valuable, and they do not want to heartily endorse. Often, it is a post that, when I read it, I feel like I’ve read 50 times before, in 50 different templates. Rehashing the same advice, without real perspective. For instance, bloggers giving advice about blogging is rampant, I see the posts shared widely by bloggers who post similar content. I don’t know of anyone that advices sharing quantity over quality, but when they give a target number of pieces a day, I think the focus shifts to hitting the target, versus maintaining a much more subjective level of quality. Here is a Social Media Explorer post that advises being very active sharing on Twitter as an example:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and share a contrarian view to my post, I appreciate it!

      • Thanks for the link and reply. The “Tweet Plan” as “8 simply steps” (you caught that the URL had the type-o, right? *chuckles*) – ugh, yeah. It’s one thing for a “social media expert” to be posting a lot, but you’re right – I’m sick of the folks who keep saying how “easy” social media is. If it’s so easy, why do we need social media people to say it’s easy? Self-defeating arguments, at best. 🙂

        I’m sure there are ways to “game” Twitter. There are likely studies on when people read tweets most. At work? At home in the evening? What time zone? weekdays, not weekends? Ultimately, I have found Twitter so much better about having collective conversations with colleagues in my industry and interested tertiary parties, than to try and social-ize some company looking to push out ads. If you’re in advertising, go big, go viral, and put production effort and $ into making something fun / funny – then it won’t matter what you do on Twitter, because everyone else will do the Tweeting about your marketing campaign for you. Otherwise, if you’re not ready to be online, having conversations with people, don’t risk saying stupid things or putting out more echo-chamber spam.

        But again – maybe I’m just too quick to filter my own social media feeds – I just remove people very easily when they’re producing too much “Here’s my lunch” or “coupon code for what you don’t want” or “hey here’s the same news link we all saw”.

  11. Well you must be doing something I am not , look at all these comments chuckle, you di dnot need mine here.

    Yes, it is why I put Triberr on manual, too much going out as one tribe in particular was putting folks in the tribe faster than I knew who they were.

    I have had so many folks tell me they read my post and that they make them think yet it is so deep they are not sure what to say. HMMM is it possible to have too much quality, seems to me the surface – shallow – gloss over issue posts get more attention. ( not saying that about yours so do nto make that leap) Just an observation.

  12. Emma says:

    Right on, brother. I especially loved your snail mail analogy. Really, I wouldn’t mail an article about the secret sexual perversions found in Harry Potter to my grandmother, so perhaps I should think twice about posting it on my public profile for all to see and connect me with.

  13. Phil says:

    Thanks Eric. Just as we should be selective in whom we follow (and follow back) on Twitter, we need to be thoughtful regarding the content we share. I appreciate your “share less give more” approach. It can be easy to get lured into a numbers game.

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