In the world of social media, we’re often invited to “follow” people and groups. These days I find myself questioning who’s following who. I say this because things have become very reactionary in the world of media – both social and conventional.
You often hear people in conventional media asking, ‘What are people talking about?’ It is certainly important to know your audience, and to have a sense of what’s going on out there, but I feel sometimes we go too far. I don’t necessarily feel that people shouldn’t be asking this question, but my concern with it lies in its reactionary nature. If people are already talking about it, unless you have something new to offer, what’s the point in labouring the subject? The news should be giving people things to talk about. Not the other way around. If the public is deciding what they should hear, is it really news anymore?
Far too often we confuse things that are trendy with things that are topical. The two are not synonymous.
Content that’s topical has relevance. Content that’s trendy is simply popular.
Content that’s relevant affects your life. Content that’s popular often distracts you from real life.
A good friend of mine works in the news media. On many occasions, he’s expressed concern with the perpetuity of American pseudo-holidays. A great example is the so-called “National Siblings Day”. Ignoring the fact that this is a day that is recognized and celebrated solely on the internet (anybody ever buy their sibling a gift on this day?), and that it even changed its day in 2015, it’s not officially recognized in Canada. It’s not INTERNational Siblings Day.
This may seem like harmless fun, and for the most part it is, but the concern here is journalistic credibility and integrity. I’ll just quote my friend here since he put it so well and since he’s the better writer.
“This garbage isn’t perpetuated by your random Joes and Janes on social media. It’s by people in my own industry – broadcasting – who see “National ____ Day” on their American-based prep sheet and think ‘Oh! Here’s something I can tweet about to engage the audience!’ Before you know it, the subject is trending across the country and in every major city up here despite the fact it’s not an actual national day of anything.
Worse, this does absolutely nothing to distinguish your product from those of your competitors. If more than half of Canadian morning shows are putting a picture of a dog on Facebook because it’s “National Pet Day” (which it isn’t), no one gains a thing.”
If you’re concerned solely with keeping up to date on what is popular, you’ll never come up with anything original. Furthermore, if you’re just acting as a conveyance for other people’s content and ideas, you’ll never take ownership of anything. You’re just a name struggling to keep your head above water in a turbulent sea of frivolity. Some days it almost feels like a bunch of ideas fell out of the sky and that was all we had to work with for the week. But these ideas didn’t fall out of the sky. They came from people. Clever people who dared to be different.
Come up with something original. Be different. Tell a story.
Follow less. Inspire more!