Edge Cases, Link Bait And Herdsourcing! Oh, My!

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We Give Too Much Authority To Social Media Edge Cases.

This is not to say that edge cases should not be given their rightful attention or respect. They most certainly should. Edge cases teach us where the boundaries are. They help push us. They help stretch our thinking. But there is danger when the edge case becomes the battle cry for wholesale change, or the poster boy for social media apologists, searching for something concrete to pin their beliefs to. Or worse, the model for selling a reckless generic strategy.

One of the problems is that these apologists throw out their link-baiting headlines to articles built on edge case proofs and their “expert groupies” eat it up without so much as a hint of critical thinking. The positive feedback the guru shepherd recieves, in the way of retweets and likes and head nods, is confused with crowdsourcing. It’s not. It’s herdsourcing. The herd nods in unison. The shepherd revels. Self-fulfilling prophecies abound.

Here’s an example from the real estate industry.

Corcoran Group’s use of Foursquare is often cited as an example when others write about the value of Foursquare, especially for real estate agents and brokers. And its success with Foursquare is well documented. Corcoran Group has much to be proud of and there is value in looking at its use as a way of pushing the boundaries of what can and can’t be done with the platform. But Corcoran Group’s use is also an edge case. It is not a model that can be lifted neatly and used by the average real estate brokerage without significant modification. It is unique to the Corcoran Group brand, its strategy and its market.

“Our approach and idea resonates well with others,” Matthew Shadbolt, Director of Interactive Product & Marketing at The Corcoran Group, “but we never advocate ‘doing what we do.’ Others say that ‘about’ us instead. It’s something I struggle with a lot. What I do is entirely geared towards our brand, business development, and the New York City market.” Matthew’s approach to explaining his success is measured and reasonable. He understands his use of foursquare is an edge case for real estate, but NOT for use of Foursquare.

“I think it’s an important point to stress,” Matthew adds, ” leveraging the platform in the best way it can support your business (not the other way around, or copying others, as many advise). In many ways what we do doesn’t pay much attention to the rest of what the real estate industry does (ie we’re not in an MLS, not members of NAR, use platforms uniquely etc.)”

Headlines like this one, “No Corporate Website? You Don’t Need One. Welcome To The Post-Web Era,” drive me nuts. The premise is built on the back of social media edge cases and the headlines are misleading at best, and dangerous at worst. “For those of you who have procrastinated about getting your corporate website together,” Strom writes, “I have some good news for you: you can pat yourselves on the back because you have just saved a bunch of money. For many smaller businesses, you don’t really (need) one anymore. Welcome to the post-Web era.”

Take that “advice” at your own peril. As Todd Carpenter said in a comment, “Transactions don’t happen in “The Community”. There’s only one place where you can properly ask for the sale. Here’s a hint; it’s not on Pinterest.”

“What a dangerous load of BS!,” Jay Gilmore wrote on Google Plus. “Having your own URL and website is a must. You build interest and activity through the other channels like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, forums, Tumblr and others and get them to your site, to your product. Marketing channels will come and go and change but your website is yours. Until further notice, you need a website.”

Unfortunately, a headline like, “You Still Need A Website” probably won’t drive the same kind of traffic. It’s just not a very sexy soundbite.

Sound Advice, Not Sound Bites

This entire post is the result of a challenge Matthew issued on Twitter. “@gahlord @jeffturner @tericonrad I want you to include the word ‘herdsource’ in your next piece of writing.” I don’t believe he was serious, but the timing of his tongue-in-cheek request was hard to resist. I had witnessed every element of this post’s headline in the hours preceding his challenge. From the sensational, misleading, link baiting headline fueled by edge case euphoria, to herdsourced approval by expert groupies expressed in 140 character soundbites. Some days I should just stay off of Twitter.

It’s getting old. Or maybe I am. Either way, I believe we need more sound advice, regardless of how sexy it is, and fewer hyped sound bites.

We can do better.


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  1. says

    Just noticed that your, and Gahlord’s posts, are some of the few that I actually read (and comment upon) online.

    So first and foremost – Thank You!

    I’ve not been to NYC since Fourquare was developed within feet of Cooper Union … but look forward to seeing the Corcoran posts pop up.

    Seems like the natural evolution of Foursquare has been from the “I win – you lose” model of Mayorships to the “Wow – I’m glad you’re here and this is what is cool near you” model that Todd Carpenter uses so effectively in Chicago!

    I find questions are often (always) more valuable than answers … and one valuable question to ask would be “how can I help this be of value to others?” rather than “how can I use this shiny new thing to get more business?”

    And from a geek perspective (hi Gahlord – I know you’re watching) from what I recall of Optimization Theory is that the optimal solution to mathematical problems always is at the intersection of two (or more) boundary (or as you refer to them edge) constraints.

    Me … I much prefer nerd-sourcing rather than herd-sourcing.

    Hoping that many α, β, or even γ Geeks join me!

    Ira α-Geek Serkes

    • says

      [SOAPBOX ON]


      Even back at Ira 0.0 I was very clear that I wanted to have complete control over the foundation of my online presence (i.e. web site)

      I do use sites which I don’t have control over, but in large part they refer back to berkeleyhomes.com in one way or another.

      Real Estate agents say they “work” for XYZ Company – technically correct, but philosophically incorrect.

      The agent generates the lead, meets with the potential clients, signs a listing or buyer representation agreement, does all the work, closes the transaction, and gives part of the money they earned to the real estate company. In my book, then the real estate company works for them … not the other way around.

      Just one of the reasons we have web sites, email addresses and phone numbers we have control over. We never know when we’ll decide it’s time to fire the company.

      As Dana Carvey would say “wouldn’t be prudent” to depend on business-critical means of lead generation and communications that someone else controls.


  2. says

    Great article and a unique point of view. In my own humble research I have noticed the same tendencies by many Pro bloggers. It appears to me too many are unwilling to entertain comments from those holding onto an opinion different that theirs.
    Herdsourcing! Love the term. It so accurately describes what so many author-marketers want to achieve.
    Love your unique and independent thinking work. Keep it up Jeff.

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