Uncoupling Everything

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Do the great brands drive you to them or do the great brands put themselves everywhere?

The Web used to be about destination. Yahoo! quickly evolved from a search engine to a portal in the early days of the Web. AOL was picked up by Time Warner in 2000 because it was seen as the next generation of destination media. For years, the biggest players online were the destinations. As Social Media gained traction, it seemed like MySpace and Facebook were just the next generation (or next iteration) of the portal – with the big difference being that it wasn’t about the edited content but rather about the connections that individuals have to one another. 

There are some new, subtle changes happening.

When YouTube allowed anybody to grab any video and embed it into their own site, the world tilted just a little bit. It titled a little bit more when Facebook allowed people to put a "like" button next to anything and everything. It tilts just a little bit further now that Twitter is allowing people to put a Follow button wherever they like and as Google continues to evolve the +1 button. Instead of these brands creating destinations, they’re uncoupling their functionality and spreading it far and wide.

It’s a new way to look at things.

These buttons all seem fairly innocuous. The functionality is not all that innovative (prior to the Twitter follow button, it wasn’t all that difficult for someone to have an icon on their website that linked to their Twitter profile). What’s interesting is why these brands are uncoupling and allowing these little bits of functionality to roam free across the digital channels. Maybe Wired Magazine was right and that the Web is dead… as we know it. Perhaps these little transitions point us to a new world where each person has their own platform and it’s made up of little buttons, tweets of content and this seamless flow of information that looks much more like an app than a highly commercialized website that is owned by some traditional mass media organization.

Uncoupling the small stuff may be the only way to get big.

There’s a logic at play here for YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Google: if it’s getting harder and harder to grow an audience by expecting them to come to us, we may be best served to let people do what they want to do – on whatever sites they want to be on – but let’s ensure that our brand (and some of the functionality that comes along with it) is a part of the ride/experience. Simply put: if we can’t push more people to our domains, let’s get our stuff on their domains. The reason this is working so effectively for these brands is because people derive value from it… for now.

Share and share alike.

We (digital media folks) got very excited a while back about the "share this" button. The challenge we quickly discovered was unveiled in the web analytics. The majority of publishers don’t see a ton of action from this button. There is both fatigue and too many choices. Imagine a Blog post with fifty different icons under it that allows anyone to tweet it, follow it, like it, +1 it, etc… This isn’t an indictment on the recent moves of these brands to add functionality everywhere, it’s a question of value that we’re going to have to discover together as these brands continue to uncouple.

Is sharing too much of the same thing everywhere going to become annoying and overwhelming? 


  1. It is just a small demographic that may or may not be representative of a generation, but our twenty-one year old son and his friends are openly hostile to each other when someone shares a now popular link late (more than a day or two after it’s initial posting) in the game.

  2. Very interesting post Mitch
    I have bagged on facebook’s open graph as mostly a failure since compared to readership on the web people clicking Like is almost zero. It might increase but with many options will it dilute things. How many buttons per page should I click if I have many to choose from? What does it get me? I think Facebook blew it by announcing if I click Like I then open my network to that web site for technically spam instead of showing it has utility to people vs brands.
    And that is the key. If the focus of uncoupling is to make my experience better it could work. If the focus is purely selfish to make the network or marketers reach me it will fail.
    A great example of the buttons is a blog I guest post on and it has seriously about 15 share buttons (like Delicious and StumbleUpon etc). To me that is a lot of clutter and confusing for anyone not already a heavy user of one of those networks. And one thing I exist for is to break the clutter.

  3. Excellent and interesting post today Mr. Joel
    To quickly repeat your question: Is sharing too much of the same thing everywhere going to become annoying and overwhelming?
    Personally, I feel that is will become annoying / overwhelming and we’re seeing this already. In fact, many blogs run on the functionally of taking what has already been said (such as another blog post), and re-publishing it.
    That’s not a 100% bad as it does offer a great blog post more exposure to people it otherwise might not have found, but as that becomes more and more common, it certainly will become annoying.
    However, my real concern isn’t with those who are purposely re-publishing others thoughts, my concern is for those folk who will read / watch / listen and then re-say what has already been said.
    The overabundance of sharing could lead to a lack of creative output. Why come up with something new, or different when you can simply copy the other guy?
    This is what I’m worried about…thoughts?
    Again excellent post

  4. No! Sharing too much is not going to get old!
    Mitch, I would love it if more sites utilized the “Sign in Using Facebook” button. The value of this single-tap sign-in becomes multiplied tremendously on a mobile device. Often, the biggest barrier to participation is the need to somehow sign-in with a proprietary account before contributing.
    Spread the platform around further, I say!

  5. The mobility of social media has accelerated conversations. “There’s an app for that” has simplified and sped up the spread of content. Yes, it does get repetitive. In another career I had I once complained to a supervisor about the way we merchandised our sale footwear. Sales would run for weeks on the same display with the same signs and banners. It was boring and repetitive. His take was different. Just because I see it everyday doesn’t mean everyone else does.

  6. Hi Mitch – great post! I personally think that sharing too much of the same thing is ALREADY annoying! Sharing has become a bit like mainstream radio – a limited playlist of the same content on repeat – and the more popular it becomes, the more play that it gets! I would like to see social sharing be less of an echo chamber and more of true tool of discovering great content online. Not sure how that would actually happen in real life – I suppose more discretion on the part of the individual in what they choose to share?

  7. Mitch – Thought provoking and it got me to thinking, Why is the destination cluttered with buttons? The site may want us to think it’s for convenience, but it’s for promotion and so attraction is devalued. Why not allow the user to carry their own portfolio of buttons with them? When they see something they like, their networks of choice are right there waiting. This would tilt the world the other way – Want me to add your button to my portfolio, what’s in it for me? Distribution remains in play, but now the aggregation players have to step up to the plate and deliver something tangible. Of course there is no forcing destinations to play in this kind of world.

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