by Ed Van Herik
Recently, an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times took aim at the blogging world, stuffily proclaiming that it was “no substitute” for journalism as it is practiced today. As you might expect, some bloggers took offense and fired back, pointing out that the author of the LA Times article, a former journalist, hadn’t even checked all the facts in his own article. (The Times ran a correction.)
While the dustup was fun to follow, it didn’t have much real meaning. And the issue – are bloggers going to be a replacement for MSM – probably isn’t the question to be asking.
The basic question is this: Will communications and the spread of information become easier because of blogging? And the answer, of course, is yes. Social media will make it much easier to both find information and follow up with further questions and observations. And it will, by and large, give more of a human feel to this information.
It’s part of that “human feel” that irritates some journalists and can frustrate public relations professionals. In both realms, the printed word is tightly controlled. Publications generally have several editors review a reporter’s work to ensure accuracy; PR people spend hours crafting any written material they produce.
On top of that, both professions pay reasonably well when you get to the top, but it generally takes time – like years – to get there.
And, now, here come the bloggers. They generally haven’t spent a decade or more learning their craft, creating sources and connections, and sucking up to those who can help them get the next story or next client. They’re often just somebody with a grudge or a complaint. Or maybe they’ve got a hobby and they want to talk to others like them. They just shoot from the hip – loud, sloppy, fast, and sometimes wrong. It’s got to be frustrating and a little scary for journalists and PR professionals to come up against that.
In the last few years, many journalists have become accustomed to going on line to find sources or arcane information that would have taken days to ferret out before. And PR professionals are realizing that social media brings trust, a real prize for companies that can successfully create it.
Social media can bring the confidence that comes when one person talks to another and believes their recommendations and insights into politicians, products, or processes.
That trust is an element that journalists and PR people are finding very difficult to put into their work. How many people really believe that journalists will give them a fair shake, or that a press release can be trusted 100 percent?
For journalists, that lack of trust is in part the result of self-inflicted wounds. Stories like that of Jayson Blair, a New York Times reporter who made up a lot of his stories, and Dan Rather, whose career nearly came to an end as a result of dubious reporting, (a fact uncovered by bloggers).
And PR people sell stuff, whether it’s a company, commodity, non-profit organization, stray puppies, whatever. No matter how sincere they are, they are still putting the best, not necessarily the most accurate, face on their project. Who would trust that, even if the information is accurate?
Frustration has been a key driver in the blogging world as well. Many bloggers go on line to complain after they’ve brought legitimate complaints to companies or politicians and had them ignored.
Ownership of news media are becoming concentrated in the hands of a few large corporations, and political parties are now giant machines with huge fundraising staffs, millionaire candidates, slick voter materials, and their own staff of spin doctors. It was becoming nearly impossible for the average Joe to get his thoughts, much less his legitimate complaints, heard beyond his social circle.
But bloggers found a way to be heard: They expanded their social circle. Really expanded it. And they’ve become a political force to be reckoned with, plus a headache to MSM, marketing departments and PR people.
The adage that people trust others like them is age-old wisdom that’s being demonstrated anew in the blogosphere. Professional reporters may find renewed trust in collaborating with citizen journalists. And companies can certainly benefit by candid discussions with their customers.
So, rather than some giant face-off between existing methods of communication (Picture a mud wrestling pit with a giant newspaper editor, a poised PR professional in a pin-striped suit, and a horde of teeny bloggers), it’s possible that better forms of communication may emerge from these frustrations.
by Timothy Moenk
Adapted from the post “Facebook Rocks Firefox” on my personal blog.
One of the major reasons that Facebook has been making the headlines recently is that the Facebook Platform benefits third party web applications by making them viral in the same way user generated content (such as blog posts, video, etc) is viral.
This major innovation is leading to a large number of success stories, failures, and best practice scenarios that are far too numerous to cover here. (There are a number of blogs that have been started completely focused on this very topic!)
What I would like to discuss is one particularly unique Facebook Application that has me excited.
Some people at Mozilla, stewards of the highly influential Firefox web browser, has created a Facebook app called “Rock Your Firefox” that essentially takes advantage of the Facebook platform to give Firefox Add-ons the same viral effect of Facebook apps. This is great news for Firefox developers, and it’s also great for the entire web ecosystem!
Two years ago I was a bit struck by the fact that the Mozilla Add-ons community wasn’t all that Web 2.0. This was supposed to be a revolution, and Mozilla was supposed to be spearheading it, right?! I had the realization then that Mozilla was missing a huge opportunity in not using the power of the network to spur adoption of third-party add-ons and increase awareness. “Rock Your Firefox” changes that.
This application is basically a mirror of the Mozilla Add-ons Directory that let’s users browse/search through Firefox Add-ons and save them as favorites to share with their Facebook friends. After you have your favorites selected, they show up in a widget on your Facebook profile, they also show up on your Mini-Feed and consequentially the News Feed of many of your friends (this is what makes it viral!)
You can also browse through the Firefox Add-ons that your friends have selected as Favorites and try them out yourself.
As with all Web applications nowadays, “Rock your Firefox” is still undergoing development. Among the features they are currently working on is the ability to auto-detect your Firefox Add-ons. This is a most exciting development because this Facebook app could very well represent new innovation within the Web browser itself!
All that’s missing from this equation is the ability to automatically install Firefox Add-ons from the Facebook app. Building this functionality directly into the web browser would do two things: 1) Make it easy for users to sync their web browser settings between multiple computers just by logging into Facebook (or a similar service that has yet to emerge). 2) Harness the power of social sharing of information by aggregating your friends Firefox Add-ons and making it dead simple to benefit.
In many ways, Firefox is the most significant web browser because of how it enables us to experiment with new functionality and discover where web browser innovation should go next. From an end user point of view, Add-ons let us take a basic browser and make it much more powerful based on our needs. The difficulty lies in discovering how you can best enhance your browser experience when you don’t have a starting point. Through the “Rock Your Firefox” App on Facebook, the discovery is done by your network, and browser innovation happens at the grassroots community level.
If you are a Firefox user on Facebook, give this app a try! For maximum results, have your friends start using the app as well, and check back every few weeks to discover something new to enhance your web browsing experience!
by Judy Knight
As What a Concept! has become increasingly successful and sought after, Sherry and her team, like most agencies and consultancies, grapple with the issues of growth, more clients, more sales, and how we continue to deliver the quality results the group is known for. This challenge is universal among those of us who sell our know-how in hourly increments of course, and was beautifully described by Seth Godin in a recent entry to his blog. Says Seth, “Marketers of all stripes are discovering that acquiring a reputation and permission to market to people isn’t as expandable as they might hope.” Ahmen (namaste), brother!
Like Seth’s example, we too have some terrific clients. These clients give us credibility to talk live, in the blogosphere, and with the media / new media. Over time, What a Concept! has gained a following and reputation among bloggers and organizations around town. As as a result, we get read, Sherry is invited to speak all over town, and lo and behold, new clients show up! Our temptation is to grow the business. To take on new clients. To work our magic for an ever larger group of people. To finally start making some of them thar big bucks!
And as Seth Godin says, this creates a problem that all companies like ours face: “The people who most want to be your clients are the people you should least want to represent. As you promote the unpromotable, the permission you have to talk to the media (or the new media!) doesn’t go up, it goes down. Better to be the agency that only represents bestselling authors than to be the biggest agency. In the long run, the pickier you are, the better you do. Same thing goes for online merchants, brokers, church groups and just about anyone else who markets with permission.”
So what are the limits to growth, and when is it appropriate to be so picky that you actually turn away business? An interesting dilemma! But we also know that Seth’s cautionary tale has been proven true time and again. In the case of What a Concept!, we argue over this problem endlessly . . . Sherry loves to hunt, the rest of us love to farm, and not surprisingly, we all enjoy our creature comforts. As a team of progressive thinkers who are conversant across the philosophical divide from Nietsche to Buddha, we have also learned we can be patient because we plan to be here a very, very long time. And when you are committed to being patient, it’s easier to be picky
by Sherry Heyl
I often get many people asking where they can go to learn more about Social Media. The reality is there is not a shortage of information, the struggle is in the abundance of information. Many people do not know where to begin.
Here is a glimpse into the journey I took into the social media wilderness.
About two years ago I learned about Google alerts. At the time I was working in the streaming video industry and so I set up an alert about streaming video.
This led to finding some of the early blogs and the leading industry newsletters that discussed the future of interactive marketing. At that time I started reading a lot about blogging. Even today blogging is considered that gateway into social media.
To learn more about blogging I began attending and sometimes organizing the Atlanta Media Bloggers Group. This was a group of passionate grassroots bloggers. At these meetings we discussed the power in getting your message out via blogging, the culture changes and disruptions that blogs were causing, the responsibilities that bloggers had to face, the role businesses should and should not play in the blogosphere and the technology surrounding blogs. This group shaped my way of thinking about the blogosphere and later social media.
Although the group faded into our collective memories, new groups have arisen that seem to fill the void:
- Social Media Club
- Social Media for PR Professionals
- And many other meetings throughout the various associations
As I began to see more and more of a business opportunity for social media consulting, I began to refer to some books. Mostly books about the theories of social media and the Internet and the culture shifts we are seeing. There books include:
A fascinating look into human behavior and phenomenons that create trends and epidemics.
An incredibly forward thinking book that was written long before social media made it’s mark. It hits all the targets in predicting how the Internet would change the world.
Real examples of how blogs have already begun to shift the way we view businesses, or perhaps why people have begun to turn to blogs for their information as opposed to traditional communication channels.
The book I have recommended more than any other. This book ties together how all the pieces that work for mass collaboration. How mass collaboration accelerates innovation and how accelerated innovation changes the competitive landscape.
These are only a few of the books that have made an impact on my view of social media. There are many more out there and many more currently being written.
I also keep up with the social media experts by reading their blogs and their twitter messages. Yes twitter has lots of value. The value of all information is in direct proportion to both the giver and the receiver.
How do I find who I want to follow? Through discovery. Either they are listed on the blog roll of someone I respect
or I find them through online communities, or they find me, or through various alerts or RSS feeds. The key is once you find a good blog that you can relate to, subscribe to it and find out what that blogger is reading. This is a great way to use the peer to peer links to get information that is relevant to you.
Once you are reading these blogs, start participating in the conversations. There is nothing like getting involved in order to learn more. Sign up for a few social networking accounts, explore, ask questions. If it’s not for you, you can move on to the next one. You will learn from each online community you interact with which will make you feel more comfortable as you explore each community.
The point is, just like everything else in life that we have to tackle, the best way to learn more about social media is to break it down into smaller goals and take one step at a time, keep it relevant to your world, and most importantly keep it fun.