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One Facebook to rule them all, one Social Inbox to bind them…

16 Nov

One member of my family  informed me that they find Facebook so useful and convenient that they, essentially, only share family news via Facebook.  Which would be great, except that many members of that same family don’t check Facebook regularly, or (horrors!) don’t have Facebook accounts.

In other words, because it’s convenient, it’s OK if the communication itself is unsuccessful.

Which brings us to the new Facebook Social Inbox. As reported by Christopher Heine at ClickZ,

The Social Inbox will include regular Facebook messages, e-mail sent to @Facebook.com addresses, mobile phone messages (SMS), and Facebook Chat discussions.

Not only that, ClickZ reports,

When a brand sends an e-mail or direct message to a “liker” on the Facebook Messages platform, it will appear in an “Other Messages” section that sits directly below a “Messages” folder. In simple terms, the “Messages” folder will house conversations with friends while “Other Messages” will hold messages from entities that users have “liked.”

There is a part of me that suspects that I’ll find this insanely useful and part of me that asks, “what’s the point?”

The “insanely useful”  side sees how bringing email and Facebook comment threads together could be a lot of fun…and a way not to “miss” those vitally important family updates.  This is what my relative wants…has been begging for, in  fact. The Social Inbox is a people-centric system — your messages publish to them they way they want them — whether it’s SMS, email or Facebook chat. You don’t have to keep family and friends’ communications preferences in mind when you communicate.

On the other hand, what’s the point? Facebook already is a big ‘ol social inbox.  Would an enhanced Social Inbox that keeps me abreast of  the stream of social conversation throughout my day enhance my experience of life … or replace it?

I watched the video and I was moved…and I’m impressed.  And a little creeped out. Facebook’s Joel Seligstein talks about how with Social Inbox a couple can have a virtual shoebox of every communication they ever share — from, to paraphrase — making dates over texts to love letters to picking up the kids.  What he doesn’t say is that it’s all supported by the brands you “Like” — friendly folks from cool and useful places that you bring into an ever closer circle in your social orbit.

In the end, I’ll try it out because that’s what I do. Businesses and brands would be foolish not to want to be Facebook Liked, and thus to gain a spot in the social lives of their fans.

But my prediction is two-fold: 1) that heavy Facebook users are going to embrace this and will become even more deeply emeshed  in the Facebook ecosystem; and 2) the intensity of centralizing nearly all social interaction around Facebook will intensify the backlash…hastening the launch of “what’s next” … because you know it’s coming.

What say you?

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Measurable Social Strategies for Corporate Communications – Part 1

3 Aug

The question at hand is this:  In corporate environments — primarily B2B — where the only new communications and marketing investments are those that deliver a return, what opportunities are corporate communications departments missing when they don’t engage with online networks?

As I’ve noted in the past, even B2B companies where there is little online conversation about their producuts or issues need to recognize at minimum that the ways people want to interact with businesses are changing.  Which means that “getting the basics done” in corporate communications requires a new look at activities that once seemed like unnecessary distractions — like monitoring and participating in online social networks, managing company blogs and making use of RSS feeds and mobile features — are now part of “the basics” that need day-t0-day consideration by internal resources.

What are some initiatives that deliver a measurable return — either in advancing the corporate reputation or protecting it? I’m going to post some ideas each day this week.  As always, I’m available to meet, discuss and deliver excellent counsel and support to help you make these initiatives happen in your organization.

Today’s idea #1:  Doing a Better Job at PR and Media Relations.

Do the reporters and editors that follow your company post on Twitter? Do they have blogs? Are they using RSS?  Are you outsourcing all of this to the agency?

You may be missing out for a couple reasons. First, reporters and editors appreciate having direct relationships with representatives of the company. Next, tools like Twitter and blogs make it possible to reach certain reporters in ways that you never could through email — commenting on what they do, sharing ideas and more.

But what is more interesting to a reporter — a Tweet or blog comment from the director of marketing at COMPANY, or one from an agency representing…who knows? Use the agency for strategy, ideas and formal pitching…in between, if you’re not connected with them, you may be missing opportunities.

Measure by clicks to your website, search ranking on key topics and sales.

Tomorrow:  Getting in front of…or catching up to…your competitors.

The Vision Thing and the Crowd Thing

20 Jul

I was reading Jeff Jarvis’ post reacting to the news that BusinessWeek is up for sale, and it got me thinking.  It seems to me that The News Media have two editorial/journalistic paths to address what the Web hath wrought:

1) The Vision Thing — Have an editorial vision and express it.  Deliver great journalistic product. Build community around “fans” of that vision. See The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic and many, many independent news blogs.

2) The Crowd Thing — Have a brand that attracts an audience.  Have a brand that attracts and engages those readers — and encourages them to contribute. Deliver content that drives community reaction and builds audience.

The Vision focused media will need to see getting people to pay for their content as their primary source of revenue.

The Crowd focused  media will need to view delivering an audience to advertisers as their primary source of revenue, whether that is through links and clicks, affiliate relationships or advertising.

The Vision folks will reduce costs by not being over concerned with perfect  alignment with their readers, as Stephen Baker recounts the typical editorial process at BusinessWeek.   They will create ways to listen to readers, and for readers to interact with each other and the editorial staff, so that editorial is inherently in touch with readers, readers feel “a part of something.  And the product may challenge and annoy the readers as well.

The Crowd folks will play the vital role of filtering the news to meet the perceived interests of their audience. They will give up a measure of control to the audience itself — putting journalistic effort behind what interests the crowd and and bringing editorial standards to crowd-sourced reporting.

Newspapers cling to a Vision while dipping their toes into the chilly waters of the Crowd.  Media with a Vision risk trying to hard to activate a Crowd that would prefer to be engaged.

And since these days, every organization is a media organization — what path will your company take — will you drive your Vision, or run with the Crowd?

Murdoch on Newspapers

17 Nov

The media are reporting some Insightful and provacative comments by media magnate Rupert Murdoch on the predicament of newspapers in the web 2.0 age.  Murdoch believes traditional news organizations have been far too contemptuous of bloggers in particular.  In an increasingly engaged media environment, being contemptuous of bloggers is essentially contempt for your customers — never a good marketing plan.  

However Murdoch does believe that “the news” has a future…as reported in c|net

Despite the blemishes, however, Murdoch said newspapers can still count on circulation gains “if papers provide readers with news they can trust.” He added they will also need to embrace technology advances like RSS feeds and targeted e-mails. The challenge, according to Murdoch, will be to “use a newspaper’s brand while allowing readers to personalize the news for themselves-and then deliver it in the ways that they want.”

“The newspaper, or a very close electronic cousin, will always be around. It may not be thrown on your front doorstep the way it is today. But the thud it makes as it lands will continue to echo around society and the world,” he said.  

For the most part, major papers have taken some strides in doing what Murdoch suggests in terms of RSS feeds, emails and personalization.  It hasn’t led to financial stability.  But his overall point is a good one, and one I’ve made before in this blog:  the market will eventually find a way to support professional news organizations that deliver trusted news … in ways that will allow bloggers to complement “the news” rather than replace it.

Google and the Human Brain

12 Jun

One day, my eight-year-old asks me, “Daddy, who invented the swing set?” I immediately answered that much like Samuel Morse invented Morse code and Thomas Crapper invented the toilet, the swing set was invented by Alexander Swing back in the late 1700s. He didn’t buy this (or the suggestion that it might have been Esmerelda Set) for more than a couple seconds, so I said what I usually say in these situations: “OK, let’s ask the Internet!” Which means to Google it.

The cover of the July/August Atlantic magazine reads, “Is Google Making Us Stoopid?” It’s a thought I’ve often had as I find us using Google — and the Internet as a whole — like Dumbledore’s Pensieve to hold information outside of ourselves that otherwise would overflow our ability to contain them.

Carr makes a compelling point about how technology structures the way we think:

…what the Net seems to be doing is is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: In a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in a sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski...

It’s as if the more we can find out through a simple search, the less we need to know, the less we’re required to discover something unknown, the less need we feel to create something new. It’s true when you’re a part of a network as well — back when I was at the Big Agency, we talked so much of experience from anywhere in the network, we sometimes neglected to train and empower teams to be experts.

Carr says that like mechanical clocks and every other major communications technology, our minds are adapting to the Net. In the process, some things are gained, and some are lost.

In Google’s world, the world we enter when we go online, there’s little place for the fuzziness of contemplation. Ambiguity is not an opening for insight but a bug to be fixed. The human brain is just an outdated computer that needs a faster processor and a bigger hard drive.

But maybe the competition will do us good. Facts are a commodity — junk food for the brain. Thinking, inferring, and imagining are what propels us, and gives each of us something distinct to contribute to our worlds. Carr says that this is where deep reading benefits the brain.

The kind of deep reading that a sequence of printed pages promotes is valuable not just for the knowledge we acquire … but for the intellectual vibrations those set off within our own minds. In the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by any other act of contemplation…we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, foster our own ideas.

So, I’ll tell my kids to Google the facts, and to keep reading, and even see if they can discover something new. Because the Net doesn’t have all the answers.

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