Social media creates a lot of exposure and has become an extremely efficient means of distributing information. Â At times, social media networks can seem like gods on the Internet.Â We sometimes forget that with the power and exposure these networks have, they also face a lot of volatility.Â Users of social media networks can be fickle, demanding and impatient.
This concept was recently inspired by the wave of frustration after social bookmarking giant Digg changed the format of its site.Â Almost overnight the site lost a third of its traffic and went from being one of the most popular and well regarded news centers online to a barren wasteland of spam and frustrated users.Â Almost instantly, the number of votes ("Diggs") for articles on the front page dropped by a factor of almost 20 and comments by almost as much.
Digg Begins Digging Out
Digg has made a valiant effort to turn things around and fix the bugs in their site.Â Most of the spam that was dominating the front page has been disappearing and the site is beginning to regain its credibility.Â The number of Diggs for posts on the front page is still not nearly what it used to be but it has been improving steadily over the last couple of days.
The lesson we can learn by Digg's example is that social media can change drastically in a short period of time.Â A highly credible site or profile can suddenly lose everything it worked for in a matter of hours, triggered by a single event.Â A common question may be: If a network or profile can lose traffic so quickly, can't it get it back just as easily?
The question reflects excessive optimism and a lack of understanding of social media dynamics. Â Most of the time, when any business loses its credibility it is much harder and takes more time to get it back.Â In twice the time that it took Digg to lose its traffic, it has made modest progress in getting it back.
One of the key challenges of Digg is that the frustration has caused many of its loyal users to flock to its competitor, Reddit.Â Many of these users have become accustomed to the format of their new haven and may be reluctant to return to Digg in the future.Â One thing that is certain is that Reddit is now better known in the social bookmarking industry and can compete with Digg more directly.Â Reddit was already a popular site, but many Digg users weren't aware of the site or the functionality before the redesign of Digg.
The recovery process for Digg may be slow and the competitive balance has changed.Â This does not mean that Digg will not be able to achieve the popularity and Alexa rank that it once enjoyed.Â However, in the future it may have to work harder to keep up with competitors like Reddit because their users have discovered the flexibility to switch between different social bookmarking platforms.
You don't have to be a major social networking site to appreciate Digg's lesson.Â Circumstances will always happen outside our control.Â All we can do is to prepare for them to try mitigating outcomes, which may not always be possible.Â Perhaps we need to just accept that social media is a universe in itself and that we need to simply be prepared to accept the volatility associated with it.
Kalen Smith is the founder of Engineer-a-Business, a provider of business-to-business services and informational products for developing technology businesses. Read more about Kalen here.