I read this quote today from Jeffrey Zeldman, a well-known web designer and blogger, talking about the difference between being a loud-mouthed self-promoter and sharing valued information about work; either yours or others:

“There is a difference between being arrogant about yourself as a person and being confident that your work has some value. The first is unattractive, the second is healthy and natural. Some people respond to the one as if it were the other. Don’t confuse them. Marketing is not bragging, and touting one’s wares is not evil. The baker in the medieval town square must holler ‘fresh rolls’ if he hopes to feed the townfolk.”

“But direct self-promotion is ineffective and will go unnoticed unless it is backed by a more indirect (and more valuable) form of marketing: namely, sharing information and promoting others.”

I couldn’t help but think that this nuanced difference was one of the most recognizable trends (and, dare I say, problems) with the way that many people are using social media. Many people perceive tools like Twitter not so much as communication devices to have a meaningful dialog with people whom they find interesting, but rather as a sort of super-charged megaphone through which they are engaged in a virtual game of “look at me!”
If people (read: marketers) don’t tone down the rhetoric a bit, they’re going to find that no one is paying any attention to the increasing amount of noise and channels like Twitter will become increasingly less relevant. The trend is already in full swing, evidenced by the number of people who are ‘following’ thousands of people, but not engaging with any of them.