The War for Your Attention on #socialmedia

War for Attention

Welcome to the ecosystem war, where we are all pawns.

Have you noticed what all the social sites are doing? Oh, and a lot of the less-social tech companies, too? They’re all vying for our attention, and our time. It’s driving me to distraction. Anyone with me?

The logic is undeniable. At work or at play, the more time you spend using Microsoft stuff, the more MS wins. When you wander from Microsoft to Google, Google wins and MS loses. When you wander over to Facebook, Google loses and FB wins. When you flit from FB to Twitter, guess what happens? Winners and losers are made and made again with each click of your mouse or tap of your finger, and each tech company is desperately aware of it.

The tech firms cannot sell your attention to advertisers if you are not on their site. They cannot sell their own stuff to you, either. And you certainly won’t be their brand advocate, luring your friends from other networks to theirs, if you aren’t immersed in their ecosystem most of the time.

I love to rant about nefarious plots (ask my wife Jane and our girls: I just love to rant, period). But there’s nothing evil here. It’s just unfortunately-smart business. In much of the modern world, life is no longer zero-sum, win/lose. But in the struggle for our time, yes, it very much is.

So rather than ceding search to Google, MS came up with Bing – as if anyone needed another search engine! And it’s why Apple has products they’d like us to use instead of Office (whatever their products are called.) It’s why Google came up with Google Plus, which is a lot like Facebook but used more by business professionals, like LinkedIn. And stodgy old LI is trying its best to get more of our time by gamifying, with its frivolous one-click endorsements. Oh, and apparently there’s a blog/news type of feature on LI now, like Huffington Post. And Forbes went all bloggy, and is now much more an online site to compete with (and, sorry, to crush) HuffPost, even more than it is a paper magazine (shrewd move, by the way).

The tech firms cannot sell your attention to advertisers if you are not on their site. They cannot sell their own stuff to you, either. And you certainly won’t be their brand advocate if you aren’t immersed in their ecosystem most of the time.

Wow. I could definitely keep building that list out all afternoon – I’ll bet you can, too. We’re all aware of this trend, because we live it all day every day. So let’s cut to the chase: what put this hair across my ass this morning?


The social sites are siphoning comments from blogs. It pisses me off: I’ll bet if you’re a blogger, this irks you as well. We at Switch and Shift, be we founders, Leaguers, or guests, write our hearts out for our readers. And we love love LOVE whenever a piece we write inspires one of our readers to leave a comment. It’s like a big hug or a box of chocolates – even the negative comments, because at least our writing made someone care!

The comments on any site also build community, because readers can connect with each other, not just the writer. And when you have a site like ours, catering to business leaders and leadership authors and the like, well, that’s something really special.

But here’s what happens all the time: rather than writing a comment on our blog, folks comment on the social sites where we share them. If you look on the left of this post, you’ll notice you can share it on FB, LI, G+, Twitter, and StumbleUpon. Shawn and I also share each post on Triberr.

Then readers who find us through those social sites often comment on those social sites rather than here on this blog, scattering comments to the four winds. They give us a way to share our content (yea!), but then charge a “community tax” (boo).

The social sites are siphoning comments from blogs. It pisses me off: I’ll bet if you’re a blogger, this irks you as well.

If I ran any of these social sites, I’d say, “Hey, we’re doing you a favor. It’s free. We aren’t a charity. That community tax? That’s fair, don’t you think?

Yes, it’s fair. But it’s frustrating. If you’re a blogger, I’ll bet you’ve run into the same thing, and you find it equally frustrating, don’t you?

I don’t think our gripes are going to change a thing, but here’s what we can do to support the little guy and gal bloggers out there who pump out the content that inspires our comments: we can decide, as individuals, to save our comments for the originating blog.

Sure, give a little +1 or “must read!” or “I commented” on the social site. That will drive more traffic to the blog, so that’s cool. But let’s try to refrain from scattering our comments. Help the blogger out. Let’s score one for the Davids of the Interwebs, shall we? Goliath doesn’t need our help.

Your comments below are greatly appreciated. (On this originating post, of course.)

Ted Coiné is a Forbes Top 10 Social Media Power Influencer and an Inc. Top 100 Leadership and Management Expert. This stance at the crossroads of social and leadership put him in a unique perspective to identify the demise of Industrial Age management and the birth of the Social Age. The result, after five years of trend watching, interviewing and intensive research, is his latest book, A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive, which he co-authored with Mark Babbitt. An inspirational speaker and popular blogger, Ted is a pioneer of the Human Side of Business (#humanbiz) movement. He is also a serial business founder and three-time CEO. When not speaking at conferences and corporate functions, Ted advises CEOs on how to become Truly Social Leaders, or “Blue Unicorns” as they put it in A World Gone Social, in order to bring their companies into the Social Age. Ted’s advice: “Change is only scary if it’s happening to you. Instead, bring the change your competitors dread. That is something only a Social Age business leader can accomplish.”

  • Chantal Bechervaise

    As a new blogger I was not fully aware how commenting on other social sites affects the blogger. Thank you for pointing it out. I will adjust my behavior as I do appreciate and understand how much you and others invest in their blogs and content. Thank you for all the great posts!

  • Anne egros

    Thanks for bringing my attention to this paradox: Obviously, I have noticed a drastic decrease in number of comments on my blog while more people share it on other social networks and content curation tools. I think it is really a problem for bloggers who seek feedback to improve content, so I would be interested to see more comments with suggestions here on what should I do to solve this problem?

    • You’re right about #socialsaturday, Yasa. That was not an accident.

      As for the other social sites: I love them! I just don’t want them siphoning off comments. For me, the comments go where the post is, so everyone who comments can read what the community has to say and participate in the crowd – the highly intelligent, leader-filled crowd, in our case ;)

  • The Diffusion of Attention. That’s the new game, because diffusion keeps the power in the hands of the incumbents. Well said and a first class rant.

    I’m all for focus – I’m an anti-diffusionist – Aggregation of popular opinion sure beats diffusion in my world. I guess @Listly could bias me to crowd ranking and aggregation.

  • Natalie Scholberg

    So let me get this straight (BTW, I love rants!) – you’d like your loyal readers to comment AND share or just comment …?

    What’s the preferred process? I respect thought leadership and surely don’t want to dry up the well by adding to your frustration, but I just re-read your post and now I’m getting frustrated …

    When I’m inspired by a post, if I: 1.) comment my appreciation, 2.)snag your blog URL, 3.) shorten it, and 4.) share it via Hootsuite to my network, is that being a good neighbor or am I stuffing the community tax pilfers? Please help.

  • Margy

    I love getting comments. I like connecting with people. Your line, “It’s like a big hug or a box of chocolates – even the negative comments, because at least our writing made someone care!” – made me smile. When people post on other sites, I can see the numbers (which is fun and validating), but I don’t know what resonated with them. I love being able to build relationships with people who may have gained an insight from one of my posts or have another perspective to share. I appreciate your bringing up this topic and offering a useful suggestion.

  • Beatriz Diaz

    I understand your point of view. What if at the end of each article you put a
    witty phrase that encourages readers to leave comments, educating them to
    understand that it is more useful to have the first hand comments on the blog.

    Something like … seeding your opinion on this blog for you to pick the fruits of your
    comments on new articles, together we empower this site

    • James, I agree and disagree with your last remark. The agree part is that we may be only a few years away from a full-on social media company bubble, potentially more vast and thus devastating than the dot-com bubble ever was. So far it’s been slow going, I’m happy to say, but I do watch that sector carefully for signs of trouble (have been for years now).

      As far as the content bubble, I’m not so sure. Have you read “Cognitive Surplus” by Clay Shirky? Although 2010 now seems like eons ago, I think the points he raises are just as valid now as then, namely, that we have a lot of time on our hands and social media enables us to interact and create, rather than just passively consume as we did in the Industrial Age. So we have a lot of content online because we’re creating and enjoying it. I don’t think that’s going to burst anytime soon, because there’s no bubble there: it’s real.

      In my only occasionally humble opinion, of course.

  • Deepak Dhungel

    Point noted. As you mentioned in the post, I also visited this site after knowing about this site from social site. It is also business and customers are loosing control over what is really needed for them.

  • Babette

    Had not thought of this issue before. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

  • Patricia Haag

    Good points on blog comments. Social media was a distribution channel that took over the “commenting” role. I saw a list that named 52 social media sites. No wonder no one has time to post on blogs; they are starting to seem sort of old hat.

  • Achim Nowak

    I appreciate your passionate rant!
    I, too, am one of those who is lazy with leaving comments. I had never considered the commercial implications of how/where comments are posted. You made me think of this differently. Thank you. And I am even willing to modify my behavior …

  • Yasa

    As Non-Blogger one doesn’t think comments that way so I’d say this little rant taught many a lesson. Point taken.

    Yet, I do agree that if your content would not be shared on social media I would not have found the blog at the first place.

    Finally, I think hash-tag #socialsaturday takes your whole blog to twitter and creates an extended community there.

  • I found this post because of Twitter, read it, and sent out a tweet of my own about it.

    As someone who writes blog posts, albeit infrequently, I completely understand the love-hate affair with social media. It can attract attention and raise awareness, but in so doing it can also suck up what little time and attention our readers have.

    In the long run, the web content bubble is unsustainable anyway… although how long it will take to burst is anyone’s guess.

  • astrid

    What you wrote made me breathe more easily, thank you:-)

  • Maria garcia

    Ted, I am at fault on this, but I didn’t know any of this until now that you have explain it so well, my sincere apology. From now on I will modify my way of commenting. I realize you guys are doing us a favor by writing post that are educating the public. I really appreciate all of your efforts and thank you for working hard to keep us inform. A best hug to you and a box of chocolate

  • no name

    “The social sites are siphoning comments from blogs. It pisses me off: I’ll bet if you’re a blogger, this irks you as well.”

    Hi. I post mostly on social media sites because I like to own my words. If I post comments on a blog, then in essence I am giving/donating my words to the blog author.

    I used to spend a lot of time writing long comments on other people’s blogs. Those long comments are gone because the blogs are gone.

    Congratulations. These words I wrote are now yours.

  • Adam L Stanley

    Tough one, Ted. Part of the challenge is that my comments on blogs form part of my online identity as well. When I post my comments within individual blogs, it (hopefully) provides support to the blogger, but my (albeit much smaller than yours) network doesn’t see them.

    If someone follows me on twitter, they can see that I enjoy learning from and sharing lots of different blogs but they all focus on leadership and purpose driven social media. They couldn’t see this if I only posted comments on the individual blogs.

    I like your idea of posting comments here and then posting to twitter or other sites “I just commented…”

    I really respect and appreciate what you, Shawn and the others at Switch and Shift are doing so I will try to get better at doing both.

    Be well.

  • Dr.D.

    I’m relatively new to social media and I thank you,Ted, for making me aware of this phenomenon.

  • Suzanne Daigle

    Ted, Shawn and the Switch and Shift gang, You rocked my world when I met you virtually and/or personally a few weeks ago. My head is still spinning and my heart is filled with such gratitude. It has led to so many “infectious connections” started by Achim Nowak, an amazing and extraordinary thinker who led me to you and to other new friends like Johann Gauthier and Tom Asacker. I’m sure I will do some of this new social media wrong, graduating beyond Facebook (which I still love) and Linked in but what you “opened up” here for me is the opportunity to express my GRATITUDE as in LOVE LOVE LOVE what you invite. By hanging out here and commenting here, I realize we are creating community — communities that can ignite and invite change and transformation which is what we are all about in the end. Making a difference! A pleasure now to give you that “big hug and box of low cal virtual chocolates” – the only negative is that I can’t quite wrap my arms around it all yet, but you sure got me thinking!

  • Suzanne Daigle

    Ted your post is still fermenting inside of me. With my beginner’s mind, I want to notice now what is happening as I navigate the bigger world of Social Media. At first, you bumble through going everywhere and anywhere; you feel drawn to some places, less to others. In the end, I know that what will stir my head and heart — will always be the people, the connections, the generosity of spirit (not as in free without sustainability) and most of all, I am drawn to the CARING and PURPOSEFUL WORK of SOMETHING BIGGER than MYSELF and Switch and Shift speaks to the purpose for me. That said, I still have some bumbling around to do. Your post helps me being more mindful in that early journey.

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