Thanks to social media, I now see more shared content than ever—but how much of it is of real value?

I delivered a workshop recently where one frustrated attendee asked, "What is the point of sharing content if all you're doing is contributing to the amount of crud out there?"  Frankly, I couldn't agree more. 

Then, almost as if on cue, those year-end lists started pouring in. You know what I'm talking about: top XX lists, countdown lists, best-of lists, most/worst/least lists, and lists compiled by prognosticators, critics or uninspired editors who just know that content like this will be consumed.

Bah humbug, I say!  Sure, lists can be useful, entertaining and easy to digest. For these reasons, lists have become a staple of our media diet—but they're also propagating like bunnies.  Do we really need all of these lists? 

Are they really providing us with value? Or are they just diverting your attention from something more worthwhile? You tell me.

Here's only a smattering of the lists I have been bombarded with this year-end season:

  • Top Six Social Media Trends of 2011
  • Facebook's Most Shared Stories of 2011
  • Top 10 Twitter Trends of 2011
  • Top Tweeters of 2011
  • Best Mobile Campaigns of 2011
  • 10 Best Commercials of 2011
  • 30 of the Freakiest Ads of 2011 (OK, so maybe you'd really want to read this one)
  • Best Memes of 2011
  • Top Apps Downloaded from iTunes in 2011
  • Top 10 Marketing Sites, Tools & Apps for 2011
  • Top 10 Epic Fails for 2011
  • 2011 Worst Social Media Meltdowns
  • 2011 Top Innovators in Digital Marketing
  • 10 Companies to Watch in 2012
  • Top Brands to Watch in 2012 for Social Media
  • Top Tech Companies to Work for in 2012
  • Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2012
  • 5 Proven Strategies to Accelerate B2B Revenue Growth in 2012
  • Marketers Top Wish List for 2012
  • A Marketer's Predictions for 2012


And my favorite:

I read all of these—and only about a third of them provided enough real substance to be considered conversation-worthy or thought provoking. The rest felt like someone was trying too hard, like too many people are reading up on how to woo readers.

Is there lasting gain from these lists? If you generate lists just for the sake of generating a list but they provide no true value to your reader, what might be the chance that next time, those readers are less likely to click through to your list?  In other words, are your lists turning people off?

So here's a plea from those of us in business, who really should be doing something more productive as the year winds down: Please think before posting yet another dull list. Is your list teaching others how to do something better, faster, cheaper? Is it stimulating thought or conversation? Would YOU want to read it if someone else wrote it? 

If there's even a question about the "crud factor" of your content, it's probably a good idea to re-evaluate its place.