Much of the advice about growing a business online, especially a real estate brand presence, centers around the idea of curation. Specifically, the tenured growth of sharing links, at scale, over time.

It’s very often a way that we demonstrate collective value to the customer, and position ourselves as experts in our particular locale. It shows that we’re taking all the hard work out of the sharing process, proactively seeking out the most interesting pieces of information, and distributing them to the social stream in a way that cumulatively builds value and sparks conversations.

In short, it’s one way that we differentiate ourselves competitively in an era of commoditized listing syndication, where all listings are available everywhere.

However, a recent study by researchers at Old Dominion University suggests that curation might not be an effective long-term strategy because, simply put, the Web is decaying and aging in ways that destroys our old work.

In "Losing My Revolution: How Many Resources Shared on Social Media Have Been Lost?" authors Hany M. SalahEldeen and Michael L. Nelson analyzed a number of recent momentous news events, such as the Egyptian revolution, the Iranian protest movements, and even Michael Jackson’s death, and tracked the links shared on Twitter.

What they found was that after two and a half years, almost 30 percent of the original sources had disappeared, 11 percent of that having taken place within the first year, and then accelerating as the content continued to age.

While it’s still unclear how or why the information is disappearing (if it’s being archived, moved or just deleted), what’s essential is understanding how critical this kind of information is in documenting how information spreads, how events unfold, and which accounts were the most accurate (or not).

Many Facebook timelines within the real estate industry, especially for brands and brokerages, are already beginning to experience this as Facebook and Twitter continue to deprioritize archived search in their user experiences, making access to older content inherently difficult.

As Mathew Ingram suggests over three wonderful articles, information decay is simply eating away at our collective online histories, with linked content either being deleted, moved, or edited in ways that destroy the original source and create broken links.

If information is, as Ingram argues, perpetually being replaced, overwritten and deleted, often at the same pace at which it’s being created, then the notion of long-term investment in content strategy and the building out of libraries of information becomes much more problematic, especially if such efforts leverage social and are primarily curation-centric and link-driven.

This poses interesting challenges for those building digital businesses predicated upon volume of content over time, as it calls into question notions of legacy, scale and ultimately, the longevity of online relationships. How much of the 2002 Web is left online? Compare that to how much you think of what you’re doing today will still be around this time next year.

Interestingly, initiatives in the United Kingdom that would allow for the detailed and consistent archiving and storage of websites are currently being discussed, with The National Library of Scotland urging the government to allow rights for such a project.

Indeed, social archiving is becoming a greater issue as the Web shifts towards a stream-centric approach. It raises some fascinating questions about how such an archive would work, as there’s currently no standard protocol (like the Dewey Decimal System) for indexing digital content in a way that would level the playing field across all platforms. For many, the notion of circumventing this problem and working with independent or third-party archiving, outside of the realm of the platforms themselves, is fast becoming a reality.

Take the open-sourced ThinkUp, for example. It lets you store all your social activity from networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus in a database that you can control, search, sort and analyze, solving a very real business problem.

This counters the notion that the services can delete or reorganize, even repurpose, your content at any time, based on their terms of service, and returns that content’s use and maintenance to its originator — or at the very least, those who discovered and shared it.

For many building long-term business and brand presences on social platforms, not abdicating control over the data to the platforms themselves becomes something critical to consider, especially in an age where the content is decay at 11 percent each year.

The power of archived content, if it’s sales data, marketing content, or even customer activity over time, is always in the ability to be able to spot patterns of behavior and tailor your marketing appropriately, especially if it’s predictive. Having a stronger, more detailed sense of what you’ve built and how much of it actually still exists is key.

And in an era of extremely corrosive digital information decay, in order to strengthen existing relationships, grow new ones, and ultimately break away from the tyranny of the stream, this is something many brands are beginning to take into their own hands. It might be time for the real estate industry to consider making those same decisions.

Further reading:

Andy Baio: "ThinkUp Hits 1.0!"

BBC News: "Warning Over Digital Archive Black Hole"

Anil Dash: "ThinkUp 1.0 And Software With Purpose"

John Herrman: "So, Is The Library Of Congress Still Archiving Twitter?"

Lev Grossman: "Iran Protests: Twitter, the Medium of the Movement"

John Hudson: "The ‘Twitter Revolution’ Debate: The Egyptian Test Case"

Mathew Ingram: "Twitter Is A Stream, But It’s Also A Reservoir"

Mathew Ingram: "New Twitter Search Is Nice, But Still Needs Work"

Mathew Ingram: "The Disappearing Web: Information Decay Is Eating Away Our History"

Natasha Lennard: "Twitter Histories Of Events Are Vanishing"

Matt McGee: "Twitter Inching Closer To Giving You All Your Tweets"

John Mitchell: "ThinkUp Reaches 1.0: Own Your Social Network Data"

Steve Myers: "Andy Carvin’s First Tweet Was About His Daughter, But Islam Soon Followed"

Open Library: "About Us"

Rob Pegoraro: "Topsy Knows What You Did On Twitter Last Year"

Physics arXiv Blog: "History, As Recorded on Twitter, Is Vanishing From The Web, Say Computer Scientists"

Brian Reilly: "Re-targeting and paid search coming to Facebook. Will you be ready?"

Teresa Smith: "Social Media Proving Difficult For Archivists"

Derek Thompson & Jordan Weissmann: "The Cheapest Generation"

Gina Trapani: "ThinkUp Archives and Analyzes Your Social Media Life"

Jenna Wortham: "Does Technology Replace Memory, Or Replace It?"

Jenna Wortham: "Michael Jackson Tops the Charts on Twitter"

Jenna Wortham: "Twitter Is Working On A Way To Retrieve Your Old Tweets"

Matthew Shadbolt is the director of interactive products and marketing at The Corcoran Group. He leads the charge in Corcoran’s initiatives for social media, advertising, video, mobile and search. Website: Twitter: @Corcoran_Group.

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