The Pageantry of Pundits

The commercialization of the social web by advertising-hungry blogging companies, personal branders, and rank amateurs disguised as marketers has produced a pageant of pundits. Whoever is most popular wins the Mr. or Mrs. Social Media contest.

In the current attention economy, people value peer opinion over facts, research, results and even common sense. Social media pundits – people who voice the “expert opinion –wax poetic on the best way to Pin, market selflessly, garner ROI online, avoid garnering ROI online, on and on.

Their blog posts and content increasingly read like thinly veiled forms of link bait, creating an RSS stream of “look-good” pieces that do little to inform the public or further evolve the sector.

Rather, they trick readers to validate the authors through social shares, comments, and an overarching public perception of “thought leadership.” Yet, the deeper you dig, the less research, analysis, results, original thought and experiences you find. Only hyperbole.

It’s only a matter of time before Big Data becomes accessible to individual voices and small companies marketing themselves like this. Then their fake plastic content can evolve to a level of pandering heretofore reserved for political pollsters. As soon as the social web winds shift, they can move from Google+ books to Pinterest webinars, and damn the rest.

Who loses?

Society certainly becomes less thoughtful and poorly informed. It’s not like the media can vet these arguments intelligently. In some cases, the press only amplifies the bad memes developed for the attention economy.

Our industry invariably gets dragged down as the larger business world becomes more suspicious of social media and marketing pundits. And yes, the pundits themselves lose respect, at least amongst their professional peers who are experienced enough to discern fact from fiction.

The rewards – at least short term – still sway the pundit. To be loved, to be considered a thinker, to be lauded in print and YouTube video. He’s (she’s) a SxSW hero!

What more can anyone ask for? Isn’t this what we’re supposed to do? Become popular and famous?

Real mainstream discourse is a joke. Long live the pageant!