Wednesday, 23rd May 2012
A lot of the talk around social media in the last year has been around information overload. Social media has provided us with new and exciting ways to create content. But it has also meant learning new ways to manage and engage with social media tools. Are we teetering on the edge of an information overload precipice?
On his blog Brian Solis.com, Brian Solis writes about the "Fallacy of information overload". In this post, Solis explains that whilst the amount of information being created as part of the social media revolution isn't a new phenomenon. The number of channels we're expected to engage with is. This has recently been described as "channel panic". Chanel panic is defined as the "the general, floating anxiety you feel because there are too many lines of communication open and too many locations to store supporting information".
What "channel panic" ultimately means is that we need to create a new set of rules or governance policy for ourselves in relation to social media.
The other concept discussed in Solis' post is that we are our own engineers of information overload. By connecting, consuming, creating and sharing content, we're actually adding to information overload. Accepting that we're a part of the problem is the one of the first steps in understanding how to manage it. Left unmanaged, social media can take over your life leading to a feeling of social media anxiety – a situation in which you're excited by the potential social media has and engage with it, but engaging with it makes it impossible for you to do anything else!
Another argument that has been circulating for a while is that we're not overloaded by information at all. The actual problem is down to individuals not being able to filter information correctly. Much like addressing "channel panic", this means it’s increasingly important for us to create better filters.
Having access to information is great, but we need to filter and focus based on what we want to accomplish and what we need. When it comes to social media this ability to filter and focus is crucial. If you're thinking about using a social media tool – for example, Twitter – think carefully about what you want to accomplish by using it. It's fine to create an account and start following people but much like any other tool you need to manage both who you follow and your followers to ensure you get the most out of the added information channel.
So how do you avoid information overload if the problem isn't the amount of information that is being produced but how individuals are filtering it? Thankfully there are a few tools available that can help: Summify is a tool that allows you to connect your Twitter, Facebook and Google accounts to "feed" it with the most popular content from your network.
If you want to understand and manage your Twitter followers more effectively then SocialBro is a nice little application. For example, you can click to see which countries your followers are from, what languages they speak, and identify their activity on Twitter
Though they aren't exactly new, we're still learning how to use and manage social media tools. Until we do, people will continue to discuss information and content overload. Information professionals have a key role to play both as users of these technologies and in providing guidance.
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