A request came from a fellow internet citizen today, if I could write something that will help writers enhance their visibility on the internet. Although, I shared my thoughts to a large extent, in the very same forum, that found my earlier article on 20 years of the internet, and it’s still gasping for breath, quite boring. But, I take this opportunity to write a little about what a content expert of the future might be, and what one must do to get ahead in the future generations of the internet. You might find something or the other on my blog that talks about the internet of the future. Please remember, I myself do not read my articles again, and it’s just a train of thoughts every time I express. And I leave them here for your consumption.
Content is King
We’ve been hearing this for a long time now. However, we’ve all been sharing content, whether be it on facebook, twitter or instagram, and after we share it, we sit down to observe how many people “liked” our content or shared it further. My new found acquaintance today, did refer to the crowd-endorsement of content in terms of “likes” or “shares” being the driving force on social media, but then if you are focussing on the digital side of things, the “likes” or “shares” will have lesser meaning going forth. In today’s age, we do like content that’s sensational. If you’re going to refer to the last episode of Season 2 of Silicon Valley (Series aired on HBO), you’ll notice the striking satire of how a particular video goes viral. I will add, that our need of “social acceptance” as previously highlighted in my post on social progression often clouds out the actual strength of our platform. So for those, who have been following Silicon Valley, they will know that although their programming geeks had chanced upon creating a revolutionary algorithm that could run searches on a compressed data space, they weren’t creating traction with investors or people on social media, until they had a gruesome video of a man in pain (more details not shared) being broadcast through their channel.
Now, I do not know how more to put this across, but yes, if you’re a hero who can jump wearing a wing suit with a Go-Pro camera from 10,000 feet above sea level and go through a stone loop, yes your content will go viral. But then it could also go “horribly wrong”. If you write content, there are great chances that you would not like to jump wearing a wing suit from even your own balcony. I would like to strike at all the endorsements for my friends who have got their sky-diving pictures clicked for their Facebook walls – yes you had the guts to jump out of the sky. But then, the inspiration is limited for someone like me, who likes to wake up from my bed and put my legs down, rather than jump off it.
So, if you’re creating content on your blog, website, or youtube channel. What I will say is, create the content without the expectation that it will be shared. The real essence of the internet is derived from the fact that it provides people like you (and me) to be able to create content and place it on the internet for others to consume. We have always shared our thoughts and experiences with the ones close to us. The internet provides us opportunity to be able to take them far beyond. But before you want to do that, create content that is worth going far. In the due course, justice will be done.
Influencers, SEO and Social Media Sharing
The first traces of modern media go back to the 15th century or the 16th century when the printing press came into being. The evolution of media happened over time, when first print came into place, then perhaps the gramophone and later the telephone that allowed real-time communication of voice across seemingly ever-so-large distances that made the world a much smaller place. In the middle part of the 20th Century, we got access to the television, initially in black and white, and later in colour. But look at all these forms of media, and notice their reach and accessibility was largely limited in terms of people being able to deliver messages to a large number of people.
Yes, if you had access to a publishing house, or you owned a TV channel, you could communicate an idea to many people (one-to-many communication), but as a common man, you would at best have access to a telephone, and the telephone only allowed you to communicate to one person on the other side (one-to-one communication). So in the era, where film makers had the opportunity to create movies that influenced the way we think, we created the concept of “stars”. So the likes of all the celebrities who came into the media – be it K. L. Saigal to the modern day Yo Yo Honey Singh, we have been awed by the capability of certain individuals who possess power to communicate a message to people. Sometimes, even the part of what could be considered “absolutely wrong” becomes viral entertainment, and is “shared” through “social networks” that takes the message far and wide.
But if you analyse carefully, what we have done is, neglect the power of the internet, and brought the “star” aboard, making him or her an influencer to believe and follow on our newly found digital channels created on the internet.
And then, why search. The average user today, is spending more time on the internet, than he or she does watching television. This was not the case two decades ago. Which means, this person has the time to consume a lot of news and information, but somewhere the news and information that he actually wants, is not reaching him. As a result, the consumption is driven by what is called either “a search” or a “a social share”. This is because the internet, still largely lacks content. Compare yourself with an average internet user, who’s sitting before the screen at the same time, he or she would have normally sat in front of the television. Unless, he or she is sure about his or her interests, and working to resolve the thirst for knowledge and information, they would be looking for content to engage themselves with. In contrast, a student or a professional engaged with work at the same time, will be working in the domain of his university intranet, or collaborating with peers to build upon a project or share a vision. Now, the earlier person, who’s using the internet for pure entertainment, will naturally also search for the “stars” that he or she misses from being an earlier part of the audience to the television.
This means, that visibility of content created by people like you, can often get crowded out by the presence of influencers, just because “search engines” are so programmed to reflect results that are more often visited, or linked to. Although, programmers at Google and other search providers are increasingly working to collect more data (often neglecting the privacy of individuals who provide that data) and provide you more context to search results, it may not necessarily mean in absolution, that we really want to view that content. This means, that many of us, are often led to believe it is “good to view” certain content over the internet, simply because of peer pressure (including the videos that land on our WhatsApp groups). Which means, when we view content that has no meaning for us, to enhance our daily lives, or improve our mental or spiritual growth, we are actually just feeding the ego of those stars and celebrities from age of yesteryear, who have successfully and gainfully been able to push their traditional content through to us, using a digital channel.
Thus, as we go through the transition phase, where there is certain lack of creative content for the average user, we find “influencers” getting created to drive messages on the internet, from among celebrities who earlier ruled the one-to-many format of communication. In effect, we have not harnessed the true power of the internet, and instead used the digital format to ride the back of one-to-many communication systems using channels like YouTube. Blogs by celebrities, or newspapers and journals on the internet that do not offer real collaboration for citizen journalism to take place, are nothing more than one-to-many communication products delivered through digital media.
The term was coined in 2010 by Clay Shirky, where he mentions how the world will change in the digital era, where many-to-many communication will rule the format of exchange. I am tracing back creativity to one of the earlier days of the internet in my experience, where a website had created a contest for users to download a photoshop file, add a layer and put it back online. All iterations were available for visitors to see, and it was mindblowing to watch how different an image was when it started from the end result, after all the minds had worked on it, from across the globe.
Now, similar concepts are coming across in collaborative programming through open-source platforms and git, which have methods to protect the intellectual rights of creators and contributors as well as promote growth and creativity.
Blogging and content writing has seen little collaboration, apart from the famous blogs where editors and content creators have come together to play the orchestra. Wikipedia is a great example of cognitive surplus, and it is so beautiful at times to imagine that in 2011, the foundation had only 65 employees on their staff page, and yet together with collaboration from citizens all over the world, they had created a platform that is used for research, marketing, disseminating information and creating a learning environment for people who have a quest for knowledge when they come online.
Geeks will rule the future
I picked this up from last years’ trend when people started talking about the stars of “The Big Bang Theory” being the most highly paid among TV celebrities. And then, we’ve always seen dominance by geeks in epic yesteryear film series like Star Wars. But then, we need to take a step back and focus less on how many immediate “likes” we are able to receive for the content we create, and try to create content that will be meaningful for the people we want to reach out to.
What the present day internet can do for us, is help us understand different needs of people with regard to knowledge, information and content at large. But then, there is a difference between what we “need” against all the clutter created by what is “shared”. Because, as the clutter around information that is not useful to us grows, there will be a perceived need and awakening around people, who will come forward to recognise information they can connect with it. And that will come from our basic human needs to connect.
And then, this growth will not be limited to just the present day population of the internet. We have crossed the one billion mark already, but then the world consists of another 6 billion people. And to reach them, we need to transcend the political barriers, language barriers, differences among us in terms of economic strength, cultural understanding and so on.
But the most beautiful opportunity is, the digital packet of information is so similar to the blood contained in our vessels. It cannot be differentiated from another, unless branded by us to be riding on the AT&T Network, or Verizon. So, how far we can go to bring people together using digital media, will really be governed by people who can think, and think above. So, while you’re creating, create content that will bring people together; create content that will have a greater purpose and meaning. Content is art. And real art is always discovered, never sold.