DO IT NOW:
Tweet about this article without bothering to read its content.
That’s how to do the twitters, right?
Content warning: a bit of foul language in this one.
And it’s fucking horrid. Like, horrible.
And it’s not the execution. The user interface, borrowed extensively from Tinder (well, pretty much the same, but it’s a good idea so nobody should complain) is positively lovely, and certainly easy to use.
Look at the beautiful simplicity! I can just swipe right on stuff that looks ‘hot’ and left on stuff that’s totally ‘not’.
Or in their words:
Check ’em out, then swipe right on content you love and left on what you wanna skip (or use the handy buttons if you’d rather). Your picks will automatically join your Buffer queue to be shared with your fans and followers!
— (from their App Store listing, emphasis mine)
So why the doom and gloom?
This app I’m certain is a godsend to many users.
Finally, easy high-quality content! Much pretty interface! they’ll think.
And I’m sure it is. Buffer says the content is hand-picked too, as they were very quick to tell me:
@hughstephens hey Hugh! all content is hand-picked, no bots or algorithms! 🙂 -Dave
— Buffer (@buffer) June 26, 2014
Apparently the issue of ‘protecting authentic, thoughtful sharing’ is also something for them to ‘consider’ (…wouldn’t you have done that before build & launch of an app?).
@hughstephens For sure! Would love to be able to protect authentic, thoughtful sharing. Something for us to consider. 🙂 -Adam
— Buffer (@buffer) June 26, 2014
That also sets off warning bells…It would almost be better to have automatically selected content based on what kind of industry/content you need than generically chosen articles based on extremely broad industry choices (‘marketing, design, lifehacking [puke], inspiration [puke], and business’). But let’s ignore that for a minute…you could easily design a machine learning system to improve the recommendations over time.
The core problem is this:
People no longer actually read stuff before posting about it.
A lot of people no longer care about what kind of content they’re Tweeting, Facebooking or goodness knows even Google +’ing (someone must use it…). All that matters is that we post more things every day, to get more clicks, more followers, more ‘Likes’ ad nauseum.
Buffer Daily and many services like it (Klout’s recommendations for one) encourage this kind of ‘auto-share stuff other people like without having to actually go to the effort of reading it’ activity.
So why is this a problem?
Quite honestly, I hate it because I follow these people.
They post articles because they want clicks, they want follows, they want likes.
But the content is often a lie.
It has a misleading clickbait-y title, rubbish advice hastily put together by an underpaid (or not-paid) intern, or (I suspect we will see more of this as time goes by) a redirect to another site altogether to collect some remarketing cookies, sell something or (insert dramatic sound cue) encourage you to download malware *horrorface*.
Firstly, it’s lazy. Come on — people follow you for a reason (your ‘value proposition’), so you’re selling yourself and your followers short by taking the lazy option.
On a simplistic level, it’s an easy way to get people to unfollow or mute you, because you go from sharing valuable, interesting insights into a topic (i.e. why someone follows you in the first place) to bulk sharing generic rubbish that it’s obvious you haven’t seen.
It’s the ‘boy who cried wolf’ — by sharing-without-reading (#SWOR? #SharingNotReading?) this kind of mass-content-churning-non-read-rubbish you’re perpetuating the circlejerk ‘viral content’ machine. Sadly that machine only serves itself, and its owners — many of whom get paid to ‘recommend’ the articles shared by ‘influencers’ (not saying Buffer Daily is one of these, but it would surprise me if the business model doesn’t end up there).
On a broader level, for brands (and a lesser extent individuals) this presents a massive governance risk in social media. You’re posting unknown content, human recommendation or otherwise. And that’s an easy recipe for disaster. What if it changes? What if the title is misleading? I seriously hope brands don’t get pulled into this kind of lazy habit.
If you love something, talk about it online. Tweet it, Facebook it. And tell us why you love it.
If you haven’t read it, how can you love it?
But why the hell should I listen or follow your recommendations if they aren’t yours?
If you want a good example of curated content done right, check out check out 5at5, which is @stilgherrian‘s invention. 5 articles at 5pm (Sydney/Australia time) each weekday, or most of the time. Often interesting content, and Stilgherrian actually reads them, writes a blurb/digest and then sends his newsletter. I bet he’d love to just ‘swipe right’ but alas, the man has morals. I’ll swipe right to that.