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Friday, April 18, 2014
on marketing some thoughts

If you’ve spent any time at all on any form of social media, the results of a recent study should come as no surprise to you.

We like to talk about ourselves. A lot.

An infographic recently published by OnlineCollegeCourses.com analyzed the results of several studies and articles about our brains and social media.

While there are a lot of really interesting nuggets in the graphic to digest, the information that really stands out involves a study conducted by Harvard where people were paid based on the type of posts they were making on social media.

Participants were given more money for answering questions about other topics, yet a large percentage of them continued to answer questions about themselves, even with a smaller payout.

Yep. They left money on the table just so they could feed their egos.

And while seeing it in infographic form (see the full infographic at OnlineCollegeCourses.com) may make this concept seem more tangible, it’s a concern that’s been around since the beginnings of social media.

In 2009, a study by San Diego State University showed that nearly 60 percent of the more than 1,000 college students surveyed believed that Generation Y uses social media "for self-promotion, narcissism and attention seeking."

Brian Andreas, the CEO of tumblecloud, wrote in Fast Company early in 2012 that he’d noticed a significant movement away from the collaboration and sharing aspect of social media – the very things that social media was founded upon.

"Our so called 'social' worlds have become flat and one-dimensional, just like the static content we curate on a daily basis," he wrote. "Where’s the collaboration?"

But it may be Deborah Ng, the director of community for BlogWorld, who points us down an interesting road in her post from 2011.

"Welcome to the self centered world of social media where we encourage folks to talk themselves up but don’t do enough encouraging to stop and listen to the other half of the conversation," she writes.

"We’re so busy talking about ourselves, our goals and accomplishments that we’re not taking enough time to hear the other guy and learn about his wonderful achievements."

Ah. There we go. Listening.

Are we – as people, as brands, as businesses, as a community – taking the time to not just post on social media sites, but to actually listen to the conversations happening?

What are our customers saying about us? What are fellow industry colleagues saying about trends in our community? Are there questions being asked that I can help answer? Can I post something that ... gulp ... isn’t just a link of the fantastic thing I’ve written or the witty quote I’ve found online today?

If social media really is all about me – and it does appear that despite best efforts, that’s the perception if not worse – how does that change the way we communicate?

Because, let’s be honest with ourselves. How many of us would have taken the smaller payout to share information about our own business or blog post or book or anything else about ourselves just like those study participants did?

It’s time to stop talking and start listening.

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