07/16/2014 06:03 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Real Value of Likes, Shares and Subscribes


I wanted to share a thought on the value of "Likes" "Shares" and "Subscribes" from the giver's perspective. In other words, what's in it for those consuming of content; then liking, sharing and subscribing to content?

The problem these days with social is not a new problem at all. Your mom can probably tell you about actress Sally Field's infamous 1985 Oscar speech where she said,"You like me, you really like me." Not much has changed in 2014 with the way many of us value today's social affirmation.

Ever felt let down when you shared an awesome pic on Instagram and it got zero attention? Add insult to injury when your friend's lame selfie gets 2,671 Likes and several comments. What's their secret?

There are major flaws with using the "You like me, you really like me" scale of measurement to determine value, more commonly known in marketing circles as "social proof" or in other terms, fame.

First, the creator mistakenly measures things like: value, skill, self-worth, talent, credibility, abilities etc on the volume of the applause. A standing ovation might temporarily remove all of your fear, doubt and impostor-syndrome feelings.

But little or no applause might result in feeling like you're not good enough; a failure; have "no business trying stuff like that..." and other iterations of shame either self-imagined or left by others in the comments (HT author, Brene Brown). Enough of this so-called negative affirmation usually leads to hiding where's it's more comfortable to just stay off the grid and play it safe.

Don't fall into this trap.

If you're creating any "content" with the goal of becoming famous, you're already doing it wrong. Fame and money is usually a by-product of great work. The exception to this rule might be your current situation and the master artists, writers and musicians of centuries past. If your content is awesome but no one seems to care, you might consider 1 or 2 key things:

1. You're "performing" in front of the wrong audience. They don't appreciate your gift. Move on and find the right people.

2. You're not as good as you think you are. You need to improve your performance with the needs / likes / wants of the audience in mind. (HT author, Seth Godin)

The goal for content creators should be a focus on delivering value. Ask yourself, does this have value to me? If so, it's worth doing. Then ask, does this have value for others? If so, it's not only worth doing, it might result in you being able to pay your rent or possibly even changing the world.

So what's in it for the giver? What's the value of getting involved and supporting the creator?

First, a few harsh realities IF YOU CHOOSE NOT TO GET INVOLVED:

If you fail to support good content -- wherever it may be (PBS; Youtube; what you perceive as a small-time blog...) and however popular or not in the view of the masses -- IT WILL SOON CEASE TO EXIST. Same thing happened to a bike shop and local coffee house near my office this year.

SIDE NOTE: There is a shallow dark side of sharing content for selfish reasons. To be clear, aggregating or sourcing great content does provide real value. But if you're only retweeting what you think is good without reading it, please stop.

If you're posting things that never happened "At the beach again -- #grateful" because you think it will make other people jealous of your actual less-than-glamorous life, please refrain. Quit the ridiculous humble brags, "I'm so honored to have been selected to speak with the Mayor about tech at Silicon Beach..." And for the love of everything good, please stop telling us about your Cross Fit work-outs.

In reality we are being judged by the content we share. Let's just make sure we have the best intentions and our focus is on providing value.

What are some of your barriers to subscribing to someone's Youtube channel?

Are you one of those folks paranoid about privacy? Afraid to get one more email in your overly crowded In Box? Understandable. Everyone remembers being excited about getting emails 3x per day from Groupon -- then not so excited. But this is very different.

If you use Google or have Gmail, "subscribing" should not set off privacy alarms. Your inbox will get limited pings when there's something new and you control notifications.

The ideal relationship between giver and creator is symbiotic where both need each other and thrive better together. The creator makes his art and delivers it like a gift with the goal of providing value. The giver has a responsibility to pay (in some form), whether it's free or not, for the content as a sign of gratitude. They create a social contract of sorts.

For example, if you watch and find an ounce of value in one of my free Youtube videos (like this one w/Seth Godin -- the right thing to do is to subscribe to my channel. Why? Because that's the best way to compensate me.

Watching one or more videos -- finding value -- then leaving without a trace is like going to Costco just because you're hungry; sampling all the free food stations -- then leaving without buying a thing. Selfish.

Free content, or at least content you consume for free on broadcast TV, cable or Youtube, is paid for by advertisers who want to reach you. Advertisers are particularly guilty of judging value solely based on social proof or fame. It's basically the origin of the CPM, which is a system to determine the cost of an ad, calculating the market value, reach and frequency.

However, you can help balance the scales. When you support great content, no matter how many other people have already "affirmed it" you're ensuring the creator can keep creating and you can continue consuming for free.

My two cents. Would love to hear from you. Tweet me or better yet, Subscribe to my Youtube channel and leave a comment.