We've been hardwired to believe that the strength of an idea rules all. That's still true, but it seems as though we've become so wrapped up in what technology allows us to do with that idea, that we don't stop to ask if the idea has gotten lost in all the zeroes and ones.
Before digital became as pervasive as it is today, television commercials and print ads had just a few seconds to elicit an emotion out of you. Ideas, I think, were stronger then. They were more raw, more primitive, more carnal. The strength of the idea had to knock you back, because that's all there was. Today, we have jaw-dropping data visualizations, universal mobile access, and most recently, more social networks than we know what to do with. All this helps distract consumers from seeing the true value of the message.
The rise of the Facebooks and Twitters of the world have made us share-crazy. That's not to say there's something inherently wrong with that. The rapid propagation of our ideas is what separates today's advertising from yesteryear's. It becomes a problem when sharing IS the idea. And that, I fear, has too commonly become the norm.
You don't have to search long to find a social campaign entirely predicated on the notion of mass sharing. Instead of the idea being social at its core, with sharing being wrapped around it as support, we tend to prioritize shoving it through the social media meat-grinder, to see how many social networks it can possibly handle. We do this with no regard for whether or not it makes sense to involve all of these channels in the first place. Many times we add them for the sake of adding them, rather than determining if there's a way to incorporate them that helps to tell the story.
Sharing for the sake of sharing is not an idea. If there's an appetite to add Twitter, do it in a way that helps to tell the story. That goes for every social network. These channels are good for more than just propagation and amplification. Use them to build and enhance, and the idea itself becomes stronger and more share-worthy.
One such example was Grey's use of Twitter for the successful reboot of the Dallas television series. Instead of using Twitter as merely a way to share an idea or piece of content, Twitter WAS the idea. All of the show's characters were brought to life on Twitter prior to the premiere, where they conversed with one another, revealing a bit of what to expect, and providing something to continually check back into.
It's easy to get overwhelmed by all the ways that your message can be socially propagated. But social sharing, in and of itself, is not a social idea. It becomes one when social is used to tell the story. Don't confuse the two.