I had the opportunity to attend a Facebook Small Business Boost seminar this week. I wrote a more detailed post for the brass blog, but here are some key takeaways:
A coworker sent me a link to this graphic, illustrating the complex web of social media tools available for marketers. It was created by Buddy Media at the unveiling of their suite of monitoring tools.
It’s an interesting graphic, but I think it misses the point for social media marketing. I see this as a warning to “me-too” companies who want a piece of user’s social time and attention (and it’s also effective to make a case for content monitoring).
Social media marketers only need to know a couple of things to get started:
My take is the biggest reason content marketing fails to deliver for many is – if they’re honest with themselves – the story just isn’t compelling.
My friend Jason posted a comprehensive list of items to consider when crafting a mobile strategy for local media. It’s solid, and I found myself drawn to the “Audience approach” portion of the post:
- Recognize mobile users are task driven and formulate everything around that
- Know what users are doing on mobile devices in the market
My takeaway from the list, and the audience-centered approach in general, was that it outlined not just a mobile strategy, but a real set of targets to shoot for across an organization. I got a little picky about this in my response to the post; after some further thinking, I’d like to elaborate.
I live in Salem, Oregon and work about an hour south in Corvallis. Of course, when I worked as a reporter here, I knew pretty much everything that was going on in Corvallis. About Salem, however, I knew very little. Part of the curse of commuting, I suppose. My wife is active in the community and plugged in to a range of groups, but we decided to take the local paper, thinking it’d help us broaden our knowledge of chicken dinner stuff.
Keep in mind that we decided to subscribe for three primary reasons:
Also keep in mind that this would be a bit of an experiment for me: reading a paper in a town I lived in without working in the newsroom that produced the product.
It didn’t last long. I found the reporting incomplete with just a few local stories and all the usual national and international stuff I’d read elsewhere fully 18 hours before my paper arrived. The papers kept getting thinner, with less room for the events and community information I wanted. A few months after we started subscribing, the paper went on a major campaign to promote their columnists, none of whom I found very insightful or entertaining. The truth is, the useful information just wasn’t there and we decided that it wasn’t worth the money we were paying.
This week, I read that the paper had been recognized by APME for “Digital Innovation in Watchdog Journalism.” The award-winning story was of waste, corruption and fraud in a local education service agency. It was a great series: deeply reported, with great online tools to sift and visualize data, and led to overhaul of the agency staff.
I don’t mean to detract from their good work, but my concern is that an award like this will tell the editors and managers that what they are doing is just right. We were subscribers when this story unfolded. Award-winning watchdog journalism couldn’t overcome the paper’s lack of day-to-day utility.
I read or heard a long time ago that journalism is information people use to organize their lives: who to vote for, what to do Saturday night, things to talk about over dinner. It’s all about utility and it’s only as good as it is useful (newspaper’s called fishwrap for a reason). In a competitive information market, we all have too many choices to put up with mediocre options.
In my experience, starting with what’s essential for maximum utility and relentlessly simplifying around that core makes for a more focused and useful product. For media companies, that utility generates habit and trust. You’re there when they needed you. And when you have deep or broad stories to tell in a narrative and multimedia way, you get the eyeballs and time you’ve earned, without reservation — even pride. Without the recognition of a customer’s real needs, you do your finest work and lose them anyway.
A mobile strategy is essential. When it’s the starting point, it’s even better.
If you can get through the panda and lobster analogies for how we interact with Google and Facebook (it took me a little time, but I’m onboard now: pandas are searching, eating machines; lobsters find a trap and get stuck), Adam Rifkin has an interesting post about corporate culture at Google and how the company’s focus on search makes them less suited to building killer social applications.
Rifkin’s got good points and if Buzz was any indication, Google’s probably not the company to build the next super-wow social app. Rifkin’s concerned because of a list of stats about ad traffic on Facebook and Twitter as a growing force in search. It’s true that the online market is more diverse than it was even a couple of years ago. But while Google would be crazy to sit idly by while others slide into the driver’s seat, especially in the search market, I think it’s most critical to understand whether you’re creating for pandas or lobsters and embrace that completely.
I’d be interested to compare traffic across all of Google — especially their API — with Twitter and Facebook. I’m not sure what you’d find, but my experience is that I’m searching on google.com much less but their applications (especially on my Android phone) are so much more a part of my daily life than ever before. So I’m an even more efficient panda thanks to Google’s ability to put leaves right where I need them. I’m also pretty protective of the relationships I’ve made on Facebook and Twitter and very aware that the three don’t often cross very naturally.
My point in this, really, is threefold:
“App is the new Web.” What happens when the 25-year-old Internet meme “Information wants to be free” bangs up against the power, ease and financial promise of the app?
I’m usually pretty skeptical of claims of “x is the new y,” but the phrase came from a trusted source and linked to an interesting piece from On the Media featuring Michael Hirschorn talking more about his recent article in Atlantic about the future (end?) of information freedom.
IWTBF is credited to Stewart Brand, who made the observation at the first Hackers Conference in 1984:
On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.
The notion of information wanting to be free also changes depending on how you define “free.” Free as in “no cost,” or free as in “no boundaries?” Most of the Internet world chose the former definition on the way to the latter. Now, it seems, apps might offer a way for those companies to get paid for content again. Says Hirschhorn of the New York Times:
I think that The Times will be able to offer what is more a reading than a browsing experience through their apps. It’ll be a more organic multimedia experience. It’s something that feels like you should pay for it. And they will stop putting that content on the Web. They haven’t said that yet, but it’s pretty inevitable because otherwise what’s the point?
There is no point, if you’re the Times. Or any number of media companies that start salivating at the notion that readers will pony up cash for news and information. And Hirschorn more than hints at the image of Apple’s Steve Jobs and his squeaky-clean version of the Internet (in partnership with content producers) battling it out with Google’s approach to wrangling the Web’s chaos.
That’s a fine image, and it probably fairly describes the current landscape. But let’s take a bit longer view, say, 2012, and look at the vision laid out by Robert Scoble in TechCrunch, in which information silos break down into a seamless integration of location-awareness, consumer patters, social connections and spontaneity, an idea that highlights the middle of Brand’s statement and, in my opinion, the most important one: “The right information in the right place just changes your life.”
I’m not sure my life has been changed by an app yet, but I’m incredibly pleased with the idea that I can find nearby restaurants and know how they’re rated. Or make note of places that I want or need to visit and have a reminder in my pocket. None of this continues to get better, however, if information remains in proprietary silos. Maybe you’d get one app-reality on the iPhone and another in Android, each with their own officially-licensed database and user interface. Blah.
All of this may be more true of “produced” content than of We’re only beginning to address the potential of millions of tweets per hour, the 72 percent of bloggers who write for fun and the 24 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute.
The fact is that much of the really interesting and powerful information being leveraged in apps is created by users: Yelp reviews, Tweets, Facebook updates, blog posts (and recommendations) and more. I’d add that the issue of ownership of that data remains to play out.
I think the specific note here is that shared information wants to be shared. I don’t care whether my sister has a Blackberry, my friend an iPhone and myself an Android. If I click to share, I’d like all of them to be aware of it. If not, I (and most others) will look for some way to make it happen. Because one thing we all should have learned about disruptive technologies by now is that they, by definition, won’t favor the status quo.
Subscribers to a full-content RSS feed are among the readers paying the most attention, but generate among the least web page views.
A reader asking for a full-content RSS feed is a reader who wants to pay more attention to what you publish. There have to be ways to thrive financially from that.
Thanks to @danielbachhuber for the tip-off.
Thanks to the folks at IGNITE Corvallis 2 for taking video and posting my presentation from the event.
So I submit to you my mini-manifesto for why I think the best times for journalism are right now:
I’m really pleased to be part of an interesting panel discussion happening this afternoon on using Twitter for journalism. The discussion was put together by University of Oregon Assistant Professor Tiffany Derville Gallicano (@derville) and Instructor Suzi Steffen (@SuziSteffen) and features a great range of folks.
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I’ve been a little slow about posting here, for a variety of reasons (mostly that we bought a house that has required a significant amount of work — and so when I don’t have a paintbrush or wrench in my hand, we’re asleep).
More to come.