“I don’t want to go to school.”
“Why not?”
“It’s not fair that we have five days of school and two days of weekend. It should be the other way around.”
“But you have so much to learn now. You’re learning to write, and to read. And pretty soon you’ll be learning about science, like where plants and animals come from.”
“Plants come from the earth. Animals come from other animals.”
“And you’ll be learning about history. Like who was the first man on the moon.”
“George Washington was the first man on the moon.”
“No, George Washington was the first president. Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon.”
“George Washington was the first man on the moon, and Neil Armstrong was the first man to play a trumpet on the moon.”

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I’ve been a content marketing and social media professional for roughly the last six years. I was, and continue to be, excited about the potential of social media and content marketing to change the business world for the better. But these days, I cringe when I go on Facebook or Twitter. I find myself pondering a strange and uncomfortable question:

As human beings, are we ultimately unsuited to social media?

Self righteous indignation has become America’s national pastime. (Schadenfreude is a close second.) I’m not just talking about people complaining on Facebook about bad service. People really enjoy piling on when someone else makes a mistake. And a lot of websites and Facebook pages seem completely devoted to amplifying and broadcasting those mistakes.

Here’s an example: a few weeks ago I saw a status update from a young woman who said something disparaging about people who join the military. It was unfair, unwarranted, disrespectful and showed no gratitude for the sacrifice that the volunteer military makes to help keep us safe.

But ultimately, so what? I doubt more than a handful of people would’ve seen it if it hadn’t been picked up and spread. Of all the people I’ve met in my life who give less of a damn what idiots think of them, serving military personnel and veterans are at or near the top of that list. Regardless, one young woman said something stupid and thousands of people piled on, to the point where I was genuinely worried she might be getting death threats.

Is this really how we want to use a worldwide network of information and connection?

As for content marketing, we may as well replace the word “content” with “linkbait.” Yesterday, I saw a video showing people they were using little paper ketchup cups the wrong way. As I said when I shared it on Facebook, “If you’re creating content for people too stupid to use ketchup, how long are you going to stay in business?”

Marketers are seeing the value of content, but predictably have galloped right past the point of diminishing returns to the point of absurdity and eventually, destruction. How tired are you of headlines like, “This one guy did this one thing and what happened next is the most amazing thing that’s ever happened, and maybe somebody exploded, but actually they didn’t”?

Does anyone really think this is sustainable? Does anyone care?

We do know what is sustainable. We’ve known it in our hearts and in our guts, and we can finally prove it: giving your audience useful, interesting, well-written content that amuses and engages them while at the same time helps solve their business problems.

Why don’t more people do that all the time? Again, there’s a simple answer: because doing it is hard. But it’s the only thing that works if you want to build trust, build a reputation and build relationships.

I hope we can survive the coming backlash. Social media went through a backlash because it never lived up to the hype piled upon it by people who really didn’t know what it was. The same thing is happening with content marketing, and I’m afraid it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

If you want to do one thing to help, share good examples of useful, interesting content. The more we do that, the more we can all help prove that quality will win in the end.

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“Hey look, buddy. That’s called a luge.”
“Can I do it?”

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Me: “Thank you for coming with me to the grocery store.”
The Boy: “It was a waste of time for me.”

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“Knock knock.”
“Who’s there?”
“Knock knock.”
“Who’s there?”
“Knock knock.”
“Who’s there?”
“This isn’t a joke. It’s just annoying.”

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Today in North Carolina there was an Amber Alert for a one-year-old girl in a stolen car. The headlines in local media were along the lines of, “Search continues for missing High Point girl.”

I first saw the story on my iPhone, and I’m sure many others viewed it on a mobile device. To get the most potentially-important information, namely the description and license plate of the vehicle, you had to click through to read the story. I did, but I wonder how many others did.

The most helpful headline would have been, “Missing child in stolen white Suburban, NC license BJXXXXX.” (I’m not putting the actual plate number here as the girl has, thankfully, been found.) That would have provided useful information to someone who only read the headline.

In content marketing, we talk all the time about how to make our content easily consumable on mobile devices. Businesses are adapting their content for mobile consumption. It’s time for the media to do the same, even if just in cases of urgent need. A teaser headline may get more click throughs, but it may also make it more likely that vital information is ignored.

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We’re trying to discourage bathroom talk, especially at the dinner table. But it’s hard not to laugh at, “I power the city with my farts.”

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“Daddy, underwater you look like an old potato.”

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“Who’s there?”
“Interrupting eyeball.”
“Interrupting eyeball wh…”
“LASER!”

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A decade ago, I knew the names of some Internet millionaires, just like we all did. Today, I personally know probably a dozen or more; people who were part of a great idea at the right time and did the hard work and had the
luck necessary to capitalize on it.

I’m listening to my favorite Internet jazz station, Noctamblues. I don’t know anything about them, and I’m too lazy right now to do any research. But when I first started listening to them, they didn’t have any advertising. Now they have occasional ads from major US retailers. I doubt anybody at the station is getting rich from this. But I wonder if they are on their way to making a living from it.

I’m sure some smart person has coined a term for this kind of mid-level entrepreneurship. One where, instead of one big idea that sets you up for life, you have one that gives you a nice bit of supplemental income, or maybe a half dozen that provide a comfortable living. I imagine there are lots of app producers who fall into the latter category.

It’s an interesting paradigm, one that makes me think of artists and artisans and writers and musicians who piece together a living from their skills and their passions.

I think it’s a way of living and working that technology will continue to make easier, to the point where the Internet craftsperson will be infinitely more common than the Internet mogul.

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