MediaPost Gets It Wrong – “What Social Media Can Learn From Email Marketing”

It’s hard to be taken seriously when you don’t even get the terms straight.  The title of the article and its main premise should of course be “What Social Media MARKETING Can Learn from Email MARKETING.”  Very clearly when Stephanie Miller says “Social media pulls the marketer off the brand pedestal and drags her into the throes of the messy, wild, unpredictable community” she is talking about marketing, not building Social Media.  

It’s one thing when a clueless social media wannabe makes the mistake on Twitter, but MediaPost is supposed to be a bastion of journalism online.

(Do you need Social Media defined properly for you:  see my post from earlier in the week.)

Social Media, Social (Media) Marketing and Where the Difference Lies…

I’ve finally put my finger on what it is that’s been chaffing my britches about the new found popularity of Social Media; that is most people are using the wrong term.  They’re not talking about Social Media, they’re talking about  Social Media Marketing.

I’m sure a lot of you are saying the same thing right now: “What the heck gives this bozo the right to define what is and what is not Social Media?” Let me answer that for you.

I’ve been building online communities, doing user generated content, and generally fostering what you all like to call “the conversation” since 1995. That’s before most of you had Internet connections, and certainly before most of you ever thought about blogging, commenting, or the like. If you don’t like my opinion on what is and what isn’t Social Media, talk to Dave Winer, or Doc Searls, or some of the other folks who have been around since the early days.

So here are the defininitions I believe would be more correct:

  • Social Networking – anything having to do with the major sharing and online networking sites and applications.  Think about LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Delicious, etc. here.  Generally these are communication based sites.  Wikipedia does a good job of defining:

    “A social network service focuses on building online communities of people who share interests and/or activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others. Most social network services are web based and provide a variety of ways for users to interact, such as e-mail and instant messaging services. “

  • Social Media – development of and operation of content driven websites in which user generated content, comments, and discussion forums play a large part.  Wikipedia offers a definition, but I believe it is overly broad, although it does hint at the consumer generated content aspects:

    “Social media are primarily Internet- and mobile-based tools for sharing and discussing information among human beings. The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, telecommunications and social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. This interaction, and the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and “building” of shared meaning among communities, as people share their stories and experiences. Businesses also refer to social media as user-generated content (UGC) or consumer-generated media (CGM).”

  • Social Media Marketing (I’ve edited the post here due to concernes that the lack of the word media here was confusing – using either Social Media sites or Social Networking to sell, advertise, promote or develop “the buzz” for a product, brand, website or person.  Wikipedia prefers the term Social Media Marketing, which I don’t utterly hate, however their definition is somewhat mealy mouthed, so I won’t republish here.
  • Social Media Marketing Consulting (edited to add ‘media’) – telling other people, generally via Twitter, or at expensive conferences in out of the way place, that they should be doing Social Marketing.  If you’re telling people to “join the conversation”, you are probably a Social  Media Marketing Consultant.

My case in point is this: there is a fellow offering certification  in Social Media, yet when you read the prospectus, it’s obvious he’s pushing Social Media Marketing.  It’s more about how to game the system, than how to build the system, a rather fundemental difference in my mind.  

To recap:

  • Social Networking:  a communications service
  • Social Media : the consumer generated content aspects of content driven websites
  • Social Media Marketing(edited to add the word “Media” to avoid confusion): selling or promoting products, brands, people or things via Social Networking services or Social Media sites.

So please, if you’re going to consult on Social Media,  or Social Media Marketing, at least get your terms straight.

Google Social Toolbar

I’m ready to vent here.  Are we, as community builders, becoming so lazy that we don’t want to take the time to build in the social media features we want for our sites, the way we want them?  Do we really need to have Google package them up and provide them for us, the way they want them?

Two days ago, Google announced they were releasing the Google Social Toolbar, which is really a misnomer, as it isn’t really a toolbar at all, rather it’s a toolpack that site owners can embed in their sites.  From Techcrunch:

Basically, the social bar is a small strip that webmasters can layer on top of any web page, either at the top or at the bottom. That way, website visitors are provided with a bit of information, and the bar also lets them interact with any social feature the site incorporates through drop-down gadgets. As Software Engineer Christopher Wren explains in the announcement blog post, this is a good way to save on pixel space and keep putting the actual content of the site forward first.

The Google Social Web blog explains:

  • On the far left, visitors can join your site, see their identity, and edit their profiles and settings.
  • Your visitors can also delve into your site’s activity stream to see what’s happening throughout your site. It includes links to recent posts made anywhere on your site, helping other visitors quickly find where the hottest conversations are taking place.
  • The wall gadget can host a discussion for the whole site, a section of pages, or each individual page, letting your visitors easily read and leave comments.
  • Lastly, visitors can see the other members of your site, check out their profiles to see how like-minded they really are, and even become friends.

These are for the most part functions that you should have addressed on your site by proper design (have I not told you that social media is an important tool in your toolbox?).  Why would you want discussion about your site going on at another site, where the readers are seeing ads from which you do not profit?  If discussion is needed on your site, add it, but for God’s sake don’t hand that traffic and it’s revenue over to Google for free.

We are looking for good value adds for our sites, such as the ability to share content ala Facebook Connect.  What we don’t need is a convenient way to off load our revenue generating traffic.

If you’re going to build and manage a site, then do it.  If you want Google to do it for you, then don’t come running to me when you want to “monetize it”.

Monetize This…

As our economic downturn continues, it’s become very apparent that the buzzword for the year is going to be Monetize.  That means just about anything we’re doing (as web developers, designers, community managers, etc.) is going to be expected to pick up the yoke and plow the fields from the start.  That’s a lot to ask in a field like social media and social networking where the 800 lb. gorilla, Facebook, has just entered it’s 5th year, with 110 million registered users, but has yet to produce a net profit.

110 million users, no net profit – that’s right.  

Esteban Glas shares my concerns on this in his post “Train Wreck: Social Media to meet Commerce in 2009.

I’m prepared to witness a ton of experiments that will make me want to go and live as a hermit in some obscure and inaccessible cave with no internet access. Dire situations require desperate measures. This can be the recipe for:

  1.  unprecedented originality or, much more frequently:
  2.  nasty efforts that smell, look and taste like desperation.

That is exactly the smell I am picking up around the web right now: desperation.  

The other day I saw a post on twitter that astounded me from Mack Collier (via Tony Santos):

“Communities do not come together around the idea of being monetized.”

My comment to that was very simple:

“Smart onliine communities realize they risk becoming unsupported or orphan communities if they can’t be monetized. “

I’ve seen it in several situations where an absentee owners community was purchased and the community was generally thankful to know that someone was placing some value on them, and at the very least, would continue to pay the server bills.  Notably, the was generally quite positive during the acquistion of the site last May for exactly that reason.  I don’t know how many realized how close they came to becoming digital orphans, had that deal not gone through.

The problem is that not all our actions can (or should) be subject to monetization.  Sometimes our actions are simply for the betterment of the community, and that, in the end will have an affect on our bottom line, but we’ll have a hard time tying that action into a concrete line item on a balance sheet.  

The other problem we end up with is that ideas get rushed through to market before they’re even half baked.  Again, I’m seeing some initiatives online that I can tell were never specified properly, or even run through a few rudimentary use cases, because if they had, they never would have seen the light of day.  

Yes, we should be able to monetize the sites and services we provide.  This isn’t public radio, it’s commerce and we have every right to make money of our creations.  That said, the question of who really owns a community comes into play.  I’ve often heard cries of “free speech” while I moderate my forums, and my answer is almost universal: it is not free, and I have the hosting bills to prove it.

We’re going to be seeing a lot of new “monetization” experiments this year.  We need to stand firm, shine a light into the dark places, and call out the efforts that are wrong.  Social media is still an experiment, and if we don’t take ownership of it, we’re in danger of someone creating a mutant virus that will infect the lab and kill us all.

Facebook Privacy Settings – a Must Read for Facebook Users

The Unofficial Facebook Blog brings us a post that all Facebook users should read “10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know.”  It’ll help you navigate the proper settings for your Facebook account and help you to find a way to show your work compatriots one level of info, while showing your personal friends another.  It’ll also allow you to friend your family members without worrying they’ll be reading about all your antics with your friends (Hint, hint, hint – Christina?  This one’s for you…).

A sample:

I can’t tell you how many people are not aware of their friend lists. For those not aware of what friend lists are, Facebook describes them as a feature which allows “you to create private groupings of friends based on your personal preferences. For example, you can create a Friend List for your friends that meet for weekly book club meetings. You can create Friend Lists for all of your organizational needs, allowing you to quickly view friends by type and send messages to your lists.”

There are a few very important things to remember about friend lists:

  • You can add each friend to more than one friend group
  • Friend groups should be used like “tags” as used elsewhere around the web
  • Friend Lists can have specific privacy policies applied to them

I’ve been working with social media for a long time, and frankly, I’ve seen few things that were so convoluted and hard to understand as Facebook Privacy Settings. I suspect the space shuttle, or even an IBM Websphere server might fall into that group, but not much else.

The DeFacto Contact Hubs

It’s probably not news to most of you that we have defacto places we go to contact people;  Facebook for the personal and LinkedIn for the professional.  Over the past could years, LinkedIn was a pretty active place for me, even though I found it to basically be a spot to hang your resume online and not much more.

Facebook was generally a wasteland for me.  I’m a bit older, and from my generation, it seemed the only folks I really knew were the other early adopters of my age, like Jim Louderback or John Decker.   Your see, when I graduated from College, we didn’t have PCs, and the majority of computer programming was done in Basic or Cobol.  Some of us got into tech, while others learned to avoid it; many  missed the tech wave.   In the past couple weeks, though, I’ve seen a huge trend towards my college friends moving onto Facebook.  In that period I’ve connected with at least 20 folks I haven’t seen in 28 years.  That’s a long time no matter how you look at it. Continue reading “The DeFacto Contact Hubs”

Branded Community or Sponsoring Niche Communities

Paul Gillin posted on a topic that I’ve been mulling over for the past few days: Branded Communities.  I’ve said it in the past and I will say it again here and now: why would you buy a build a branded community when you can rent one instead?

From Gillin’s post:

Pssst… is intended to bring fans of General Mills products closer to the company by inviting them into a members-only space where they can receive inside information, get coupons and samples and share their opinions about the company’s products. This is all the stuff that I preach organizations should do with branded communities. The site is produced in collaboration withGlobalPark, a company that manages online panels.

Pssst… is good in concept but bad in execution.

David Churbuck posted on the issue and asked one very pointed question:

Begs the question of who does a decent job with a branded community — aside from the usual product support forums, etc. — I can see some reasons for stumbling, but begs the question: who joins a community about bad yogurt?

The classic example would be Nike+ – where they’ve built a fairly successful brand community.   However, I  think a yogurt community might be a tough sell.

That said, building a branded community is a daunting task.  Potential issues:

  • Time to Market – do you have time for a 6-9 month dev cycle?
  • Core Competency – do you have people who can actually build and manage a community?
  • Expense – do you have a budget to build, and even more importantly, a budget to maintain a community?

At NameMedia, I work with Niche Community Sites, and we’ve been coming up with interesting ways to put companies and their brands in touch with the customers they want to reach, and we’ve got some compelling stories about new and innovative ways in which we’re doing this.  A couple brief examples:

It took Nike over 2 years to build their community.  We were able to get the Brother campaign up and running over night on

Okay, this isn’t meant to end up sounding like an ad.  My point is that you can get real results fast working with Niche Communities and Niche Social Media.  While I’d love to tell you that NameMedia has the market cornered on creative sponsorship, there are a lot of other creative folks out there.

Or course, we’ve  got 20 million visits a month, over 30,000 conversations a day across our sites, in niches like outdoors, photography, technology, gardening, crafting, and astrology.  Our list of sites.

If you’d like to hear more about the creative campaigns we’re doing, get in touch with me or leave a comment here.  I’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg and there are probably better folks than me to tell the story.

New Journalism in Action – Using Twitter as a Photoblog with the Iphone

The idea: to run a live Tweet stream from the varied events of the Sutton, Ma Chain of Lights, a celebration that happens at many different locations thoughout the town and its villages.  I used my Iphone with the Twitterlator Application that lets me post pictures direct to Twitter with pictures that I take on my phone uploaded right at that moment.  The tweets all contain the hashtag #suttoncol – short for Sutton Chain of Lights which make them searchable via the Twitter search function, formerly known as Summize.  You can check out the full tweet stream here.

Additionally we (my 9 year old daughter Mackenzie helped me with this) took photos at the events we attended with my Canon Power Shot A530 5 megapixel point and shoot camera.

Why Would You Bother: Sutton, like many small communities, doesn’t get a lot of coverage in the local paper, The Worcester Telegram, and substantially less from the television stations.  Even if they did send someone out to cover the events, they’d have gone to a single location, took a quick couple pictures, or did a quick standup talking to some happy kids, then they’d have been off to their next assignment.  Local events are naturals for crowd sourcing, and what better way to do it than live tweeting with a hashtag, posting a photo gallery, etc.

When I sat down last week to add pictures to the National Gallery and Gift Shop site to help publicize the event, I was surprised to find there were no pictures online anywhere from the Chain of Lights last year, save a few marketing shots by The Vaillancourt Folk Art Museum. Continue reading “New Journalism in Action – Using Twitter as a Photoblog with the Iphone”

Experiments in New Journalism – Live Tweeting the Sutton Chain of Lights Festival

I’ll be live tweeting today from the various events of the Sutton Chain of Lights celebration, in Sutton, Massachusetts.  You can find my tweets at or by searching in Twitter for the #suttoncol hash tag.  

My tweets throughout the day will include pictures of the event via my Iphone, and later today I’ll up load a photo gallery of the pictures.  If your out and about in Sutton, I encourage you to tweet using the same hashtag and I’d be happy to put your photos into the photo gallery I post later.

I you aren’t tweeting and just want to catch up, I plan to be that the National Gallery and Gift Shop on Putnam Hill Road at 1pm.

PC Magazine To Kill Print Version

PC Magazine announced last week that their January issue would be the last issue they actually print, from then on, they’re a web-only publication.

From The New York Times:


It is the latest of several magazine publishers to drop a print edition, as advertising plummets and the cost of printing a paper version rises.

“The viability for us to continue to publish in print just isn’t there anymore,” Jason Young, chief executive of Ziff Davis, said in an interview.

While most magazines make their money mainly from print advertising, PC Magazine derives most of its profit from its Web site. More than 80 percent of the profit and about 70 percent of the revenue come from the digital business, Mr. Young said, and all of the writers and editors have been counted as part of the digital budget for two years.


There are only two surprises here, first that it took them so long to realize that online was the only viable medium for them, and that they continued to call themselves “news” got so little play to begin with.

I’ll leave the inevitable “if it’s online only, can you still have ‘magazine’ in the title” snark alone for the day.  The real news here is that some news is best delivered over the web, and Tech News is one of those things.  The long print cycle lead times ensured that by the time the magazine would turn up on your doorstep, the news content would be old and moldy, having been macerated to death by various blogs, news sites and forums.  The key factors for moving Tech News online:


  • Tech readers definitely have computers and high speed access to the web.
  • Tech news cycles move too fast for print.  Web news can be delivered in minutes or hours, while print is right for 3-6 week delivery.
  • Tech news in print demands the most costly of print, high quality glossy magazines.


In the end, doing tech in print now means deep analysis and rigourous testing (both of which PC Magazine has always excelled at).  Yet, those can be offered online, and with a richer presentation.  Back when I started editing I remember new writers would always ask “How many words do I have?” when we talked about their weekly columns.  I always had to laugh, the notion of specific column length being so “print-centric.” On the web, we are free to throw as many pixels as we need at an issue.

I believe we’re seeing the tip of the iceberg.  Those that can make the jump will start to make that jump quickly.  Notably, I expect to see trade journals become a relatively rare beast.  Ivory towered experts lecturing professionals about their profession is a thing of the past.  Instead, users will gravitate to profession-based niche social media.  The journals will slowly cease to exist, and the magazines that remain will be serving the less technical of the professions.

For all the talk, er, converstation, going on about Social Media, we really haven’t got there yet.  I think the next year will the telling time, when we see more application of the prime tenets towards the professional space.  Where as we may have proposed a network for surfers last year, which we might monetize someday, this year, we’ll be proposing a network of plumbers, which we’ll be monetizing starting day one.

Once again, we’ve had a “Genie is out of the bottle” moment, and things have again changed for print.  There’s a digital diaspora going on, and we’ve seen a steady wave of carpetbagging print journalists, so it only makes sense that the institutions themselves attempt to make the move.  It’s the publishing equivailent of breaking down the presses and moving them where the money is.

So, if you’re in print, think about this: how can you better leverage social media online now to allow you to make a transition later?

And one bit of information to remember: in the 1970s print still used Linotype machines for typesetting.  There were tons of highly skilled linotype operators out there setting type for everyone.  When the first Atex systems came along, they started to put those guys (my grandfather was a life-time linotype operator by the way) out of a job.  About a decade later, the job no longer existed anywhere.  

Are you a potential digital carpetbagger, or will you go the way of the linotype operator?