People in the ranks of alltop, so-called "gurus" such as Scoble or Jeremiah are what we consider as "influencers" in the under-under-under world of web-oh-two(too)-cool. This guys have crept out of the background noise of the bloggosphere and twitterati and made themselves more prominent than the Nerdy Average Joe that lurks the very same services this influencers use.
With raging ranks of followers and some fans that would make Tommy Lee jealous (I've seen commenters praise and sustain some of the most outrageous and, dare I say, dumb remarks) the influencers get an amplification power similar to the one achieved by Spinal Tap's "mine go to eleven" boxes.
The effect of this is quite simple: more people listen (and reply) to this guys than they do to the other "participants in the conversation". Some call that higher reach.
The outcome is a paradox.
Remember the days of mass media? Remember all the Social-web-2.0-power-to-the-masses fuzz? The premise was that everyone could be a Journalist, everyone could have a voice.
Certainly everyone can have a voice. But not everyone's voice can be heard. Since there is so much content out there there is no way everyone can get an audience. I'll agree that there is content out there that is of little or no appeal to most of the audience, but there is quite a deal of excellent and original writing that goes unnoticed.
The issue becomes that the same means that was (allegedly?) allowing a revolution in communications is now fostering individuals and groups of people that resemble more and more traditional media. The only difference is that they never had their content in print to begin with.
All the top-ranked blogs out there have heavy editorial lines. On the other end of things many newspapers and magazines are relying heavily on blogs and have opened comments on their usual content. The difference between those is becoming harder to tell. There are hints that tell them apart, such as very segmented content (most blogs deal with one general theme, whereas newspapers cover tons of different topics), very visible faces / personalities behind blogs and a general lean on the side of bloggers to share opinions more explicitly.
The way Marketing bucks have to deal with this popular blogs is resembling more and more that of traditional media. Or maybe worst. But that's ok.
Now, to round up the paradox idea -if you haven't understood what the main paradox is so far: bloggers resemble journalists and vice versa, even when they both shout out loud that they are quite different- yet another issue pops up when bloggers monetize their content, and while doing so their so-called transparency is put to the trial. I'm affraid many have succumbed to journalism's worst sin: selling of. Of course this is not the case with all bloggers.
The other fairly visible tendency I see in some of this influencers is that they are tending to rely on repeating themselves and using the same couple of formulas over and over again. One of the overly-used ones is deceiving the readership into believing they are participants when, all truth be said, they are being leached.
There is a fine line between calling for interaction and dialogue and abusing those who follow you to get content and ideas.
It might be just that I am a cynic. Very cynic.This post belongs to the shifting times, blurring lines series. Read them all or learn what the series is about.
Edit: David, makes some similar remarks over his blog as well.
What is the difference between the online presence of traditional media and the new heavily popular blog driven sites such as techcrunch?
Do forums serve a purpose for support organizations within companies? Marketing? Public Relations?
Who should fund this things inside a corporation? who should be the stakeholders? Who is accountable for success or failure?
This and other similar questions pop-up like fungi on a hot wet day when working on Social Media Marketing.
The landscape of media and online marketing is rapidly changing. Most of the time changes happen just quickly enough so that people involved in them directly tend to have a feeling of being just one step behind what is happening. Traditional organizations, thinking and decision-making won't do it anymore.
I intend to write up a series of posts looking at things that I consider are changing, at differences that are becoming more pronnounced and percieved differences that aren't so.
Watching the markets lately has been a bizarre experience. I'm not an expert in economy by any means, but until recently I could understand and even forecast the market's general direction.
Right now I can't. I don't understand why it goes up or down. I don't get the roller coaster.
The only pseudo-logical explanation I can come up with is: hysteria. Those in decision making / buying and selling / trading understand as much as I do and go about buying and selling compulsively.
If anyone has any smarter explanations, feel free to put me out of my ignorance on the comments.
I have very seldom display my thoughts outside the social media / web / marketing world lately. The sheer amount of stupidity that I have been reading lately has called for an intervention.
The world is in recession. Forget about being politically correct and trying to avoid panic by not using terms that sound "so very negative" about the economic situation. Things are screwed, not looking good and policy makers are as lost as they usually are.
I had a professor that once stated: "Economists are the only professionals who see their theories being grounded on a daily basis and still abide to their discourse". The concept proves to be right now more than ever.
According to wikitionary Orthodox means:
Adhering to whatever is traditional, customary or generally accepted.
Well, if economy was written in stone "Orthodox Economy" would make some sense as a general concept, but people would hardly make any money. But that's not the case.
Economy, as a general (and almost abstract) entity is always changing. People and companies find new ways to make and loose money on a daily basis. Markets adapt, laws change, conditions get altered. Prices rise and fall. It is a living and breathing animal.
This does not mean that crisis such as the one that's currently underway can't be foreseen; but rather that what has proven to be traditional, customary or generally accepted in the past might not be so as the world evolves.
I expect that as readers go through the previous paragraph I'll make a statement for the bailout.
The proposed bailout is too little, too late. The usual band-aid on a broken leg stuff. It will (if passed this Thursday) create little relief on the very short term and a big problem in the medium to long term.
Something must be done in the short term. Trust must be restored, credit must flow again. "Bailing Out" does not restore trust. Or would you trust the plane you just bailed out off?
A money injection into the financial system is just a minor thing, 700 billion can be sucked up almost overnight. But what's required is not a rescue, but a reform. Life without credit is not a nice thing, trust me. (Over Argentina mortgages have ~24% interest rates)
Over my 29 years I have witnessed 3 serious economic crises. To be honest I only have recollection of the last 2. The last time the banking system was so screwed up that the infamous "corralito" was imposed over all of us. People could not withdraw more than X amount of money per month. Things went down the drain, we had devaluation and now we live with inflation.
Things here weren't solved, just fixed enough to get going and sooner or later Argentina will be facing another economic crisis.
Final word is: timing for this crisis couldn't be worst. No politic wants to put out his head for chopping with less than a month left until the general election. But I'm afraid some serious and not-so-popular decision making must happen. And it can't wait 29 days, much less until Inauguration Day. Hopefully real leadership will surface as it has done in the past.
About 10 minutes ago I finished going through the draft posts on this blogs. The original number was 47, current number is 15.
Many of those posts where no more than a couple of lines long. Some I couldn't even remember what drove me to start writing them in the first place. Others would of never seen the light of day anyway, since they where pretty aggressive rants and reactions to certain experiences, cathartic words that rejoice my soul on the sheer thought of having the possibility to *maybe* (just maybe) push the "publish" button.
This seems to be a recurring fact of life with me and literature. I have started writing books (fiction) at least 3 times. On neither of those cases did I go over 100 pages. I still have those drafts, but, much to the demise of the characters frozen in time, I never found it in me to go back and continue those truncated stories.
I think the only way to be somewhat successful in writing for me is to do things Hemingway-ly. Not that I would even dream on comparing my literary skills with great Ernest (as I also wouldn't try to compare my Drinking habits), but in case you don't know, the guy really struggled to get his writing done.
Most of his original scripts have word counts all over the place. He forced himself to write at least a certain number of words every day. If I wanted (or had the time to) write the stories and non-fiction stuff I have in my mind that is the path I should follow. Guess I could call it a method.
Over time I have learned to assume that some (most?) things won't ever see the light of day. This statement is true not only for writing but also applies successfully to all things. If I had to estimate the percentage of ideas that actually become something tangible, I'd have to admit those account for less than 1% of the total.
Some ideas are plainly bad, some are non-viable, some just die because I don't pay enough attention or push hard enough. The latter category is painful. I'm haunted by some of those ideas for years. "Ghost ideas" I call them. The only exorcism is to see them realized (usually by somebody else) or refurbished into novel thoughts that actually make it into the real world.
I lack method, I lack time and I probably lack the will to transform ideas from gray matter haunting ghosts to living and breathing experiences.
Who would want to read another post on the latest soap opera that stormed through the geek-world? Most people won't, but that is not going to prevent me from writing one.
Yahoo played the part of tough cookie. I'm surprised that Jerry Yang didn't go back to Balmer with a note saying "its not you, its me. I'm so confused, can't commit!". The whole thing has been too hormonal, too teenager. And Y! trying to make the School's ugly nerd (Microsoft) jealous by going with the quarterback (Google) was just hilarious. Hilarious on an uncomfortable-to-watch, I-really-should-not-be-laughing way.
That being said, I must admit I'm happy that the thing didn't kick off.
Why is it good? Because I truly believe Yahoo can do a better job in trying to innovate and cut the advantage Google has on its own rather than with Microsoft. If it had happened, Microhoo would most certainly lost a lot of users (who'd have nowhere to go but to Google).
I think Yahoo! thought they were too good to be true for far too long. Now they realize they are in a tough spot. That is the reason why they now have a new strategic plan to start moving their engines. What I dislike about their plan is that its implementation so far seems to have relied more on accquiring than on innovating from within.
Someone recently told me: "Yahoo is the place where good apps go to die". The transition from Garage startup to big corporation didn't suit Yahoo well. Google is undergoing that same process in which they no longer are a bunch of kids doing fun stuff but a corporation that makes business. I want to see how they handle the first time they have to sack a good chunk of their employees.
They have a good core of nice applications, and did some smart shopping (del.icio.us, flickr), but they need to start doing something to take stuff a step forward. Integrating logins is not integrating applications, and that is all they've done. Besides, can anyone tell me what serious never-seen-before innovations yahoo has come up with on any of the stuff they own and run for the past... 6 years?
Now, when I read Jerry's post on Yodel I know things are wrong:
We know the spotlight will probably stay on us for a while. That’s fine — we have a clear path ahead and momentum to build on. And thousands of dedicated Yahoos around the world who have held up well to scrutiny. It’s now up to us to show what we Yahoos can really do.
Dude, having the spotlight on you is not "fine". It is awesome. You should leverage that to motivate your people, inspire your engineers and get you out of that nowhere land where you've been so comfortably sleeping in and start build that "momentum" you talk about. You are on everybody's mouth and not because of a sex or drugs scandal, that can't be that bad.
I reserve the opinions on Microsoft's web applications for myself. But let's just say that if my yahoo mail started looking and working like the live.com one, I'd drop it quick. If it started working like their latest OS, I'd go hermit and never taouch a computer again in my life.
Bottom line is: If yahoo! gets its act together an Google starts behaving more and more like a "large corporation" (I see the signs already) there is still a chance. That chance wouldn't of existed if Microsoft got its hands on Yahoo!.
See, Mariano, told you I smelled a post coming.
I recently ranted about the Copyright laws and how little sense they make. Coincidentally (like coincidence exists!), I found myself browsing TED, as I do every once in a while, and came across an awesome speech by Larry Lessig.
It lasts about 20 minutes, but it is well worth every single second. I think it expresses my own opinions on this regard quite closely.
Two concepts that reached deep into me: the line of thought on how sound recording created a read-only Culture and how the Internet is helping revert culture back to a read-write status. The second bit is almost at the close of the conference. Larry brings up a really serious question: "We live life against the law". In our everyday (digital?) life we brake the law, and that, in a democracy, is an unacceptable state.
Here's the video:
Quite inspiring indeed.
Social Media Marketing has a different approach than traditional marketing does (Ain't I good at stating the obvious?!). This is not due to any sort of altruism, but by a clear and simple business need. As people started having conversations, companies were left aside, losing influence, eventually loosing market share and, more importantly, falling in positive public perception charts and brand influence.
I won’t quote any comeback examples for this, those are well known: companies that were getting a lot of heat, started listening and acted accordingly. It paid dividends for a couple of companies so we witness how the trend becomes mainstream on a daily basis.
Why is social media marketing effective? Because it treats human beings not as potential buyers, but like people who do more in life than carrying a credit card. We all like to be treated in a special way, the small details matter. Mark noted this after a vacation. Personalized touches can mean everything. It can turn a detractor into a promoter, an angry and unpleased customer into a brand loving individual.
Of course such turnarounds are only achievable if words are backed up with actions. It is the combination of the human touch (saying “we care”) and a swift resolution (demonstrating “we care”) that makes this possible.
Customers with voice don't cope well with canned replies from a call center, or the rigidity of traditional press releases, just to give a couple examples. That model will not disappear, but rather reduce the place it occupies in companies. The great disadvantage of more human interactions is that they cost more. For example, a help desk employee that can try to solve an issue and think by himself is prone to require a higher salary that those that can only stick to a pre-written script.
The days of the automated customer and the automated reply are over. Technology has given everyone the potential to be listened. Sure enough, there are changes that will occur. As novelty wears off and ranting your guts out if you had a lousy experience with a company becomes mainstream the signal to noise ratio will, most certainly, change. Yet there is a lesson to be learned, a lesson that can be applied not only online but throughout all areas of a company that ever get to contact customers: the human touch, the one on one interaction is a powerful force that we have only started to unleash.
Social media in general is only bound to get more important in the future. The straight talk of blogs, the peer support of forums and the collective knowledge of wikis will only grow in importance over the next years. Being mainly human-driven activities pinpointing the right resources is as important as the ideas themselves. Building a blog, for instance, is relatively cheap an easy. Getting the right people that can talk in a way that reaches people is much harder. Individuals become key. Great individuals working together build great companies.
This changes should mean a profound change in corporate culture. The minute customers become more than just walking targets for cheap advertising for the decition makers a transformation in much of how we used to do business needs to change. If the change is just superficial, all text and no substance people will notice it and regard the efforts as what they are: lame attempts to mimic what others have done.
Part 3 of this series will deal with the approach to analytics under the light of this line of thought.