As many of you know, I’m running a startup in the social media intelligence space. I spend an inordinate amount of time scanning blogs, forums, social networks and such, studying trends in online conversation, both for my customers and my own company. December was an anomaly. In at least two completely separate non-retail industries, there was a measurable decline the number of posts as the holiday approached—not dramatic, but noticeable. I’d consider that pretty intuitive.
What was not intuitive is that the number of sources posting content and the quality of posts, as measured by relevance, went up noticeably. Many of the posts were part of a spike of 2009 predictions and 2008 in-review. But many were just good quality analytical posts on their respective industries. Which got me to thinking about the cause for this spike in quality. Not surprisingly, I have a hypothesis.
If you’re connected at all to your industry online–not only through social media, but through the Web sites of traditional media sources–you can’t help but be saturated with analysis of the year past and predictions for the year ahead. In psychological terms, this is induction. Reflective analysis of the environment and the systemic drivers of phenomena that govern your life. And it being the end of the year, we are naturally and culturally inclined to reflect on transition, on new beginnings, hopes and resolutions for change. Very reflective stuff, even if you hate it.
So. My hypothesis is that social media is amplifying the resolution effect. The traditional media channels post their reviews of the past and expectations for the future, bloggers add their own voice and their own opinions, which people comment on, post links to on Twitter and Facebook, and soon we’re saturated in ambient reflection. The increase in sources I mentioned–the suddenly rise in voices in the fray–I suspect are dormant bloggers gearing up for their own resolutions to start posting on their blog more diligently in 2009. Just like the thousands of people crowding into gyms right now to make the most of a new start. I’ll be interested to see if the trend continues much past January.
Photo credit: Perrimoon