Jason Preston, VP of strategy for Parnassus Group and instigator at several Seattle online publishing startups, posted some interesting observations about the need for distribution in online publishing.
A blog platform like WordPress, or a proprietary website, is a tool for publishing; Twitter is a tool for distribution. Using Twitter for distribution takes the published message a lot further.
This is a useful paradigm, but its limits got me thinking about the powerful role of subscription in the online world. You can subscribe to have Twitter deliver information from a blog just as you once had a paperboy deliver The Seattle Post-Intelligencer — but now you can also go directly to the publisher (blog) and subscribe by email (or newsreader), eliminating the middleman.
Whether I notice something as the teaser for it scrolls by me in the Twitter stream is pretty haphazard. However, when a post from a blog I’ve subscribed to via email appears in my inbox, I’m likely to read much of it.
Increasingly, I’m subscribing directly to the publisher and bypassing Twitter altogether.
I’ve noticed that groups like XYDO and paper.li have figured out the value of email subscriptions and allow you to subscribe to read a newsletter that displays teasers to your online friends’ favorite links. The XYDO and paper.li algorithms don’t always get it right, but, even so, I’m finding myself paying a lot more attention to the content in those emails than to tweets.
You don’t necessarily have to “do” social media — it pretty much goes ahead and does you. The question is how much you want to try to shape what it’s doing.
For those of you who weren’t at the presentation at the University of Washington last night, a little explanation: Every year I give a short talk to a PR class at the university about social media as it’s used in the PR field. As you might expect, this talk changes rapidly as trends in social media change (Remember when Twitter was the hot, new thing?). This year I nearly entitled it “Social Media for Facebook.”
This being a “new-style” presentation, the slides are meant to be used in conjunction with a talk that is pretty much counterpoint: questions for the audience, stories, and case studies. Molly Haas, head of PR for Northwest Folklife, joined me this year and she walked through the slides of Northwest Folklife’s social media presence (2010 contrasted with 2011), talking about what social media had been crafted by her team and what had “just happened.”
This slide deck is illustrated with examples of Northwest Folklife’s social media presence, but I’ve done customized decks for several of my clients and for prospective clients interested in “getting into” social media. As the presentation points out, you don’t necessarily have to “do” social media — it pretty much goes ahead and does you. The question is how much you want to try to shape what it’s doing.
The Definitive Twitter Guide is a must-have for contemporary marketers. Author Shannon Evans provides a substantive, thoughtful description of how the market has evolved to a place in which 140-word messages, carefully crafted and frequently sent, can establish, communicate, and reinforce a company’s reputation.
The Definitive Twitter Guide: Making Tweets Work for Your Business: 30 Twitter Success Stories From Real Businesses and Non-Profits by Shannon Evans (CreateSpace, 2010). 244 pages.
The only way to succeed in social media is to jump in, start swimming, and keep paddling, every day. There’s no alternative. Yet I watch businesses assign their receptionists to “do something with Twitter” and decide after a month that Twitter can’t do anything for them. (Would they have assigned the receptionists to design their TV ad campaigns? I seriously doubt it.)
If a company is avoiding Twitter, Facebook, and a robust, interactive web presence, chances are they are watching with growing frustration as their competitors the social media tools gain and serve customers.
“Twitter? Facebook? It just doesn’t make any sense,” one business owner I know, firmly “old school,” frets. Because she doesn’t understand why it works, much less how it works, she’s not going to do it—even though she can see it’s helping her competition.
Evans provides a substantive, thoughtful description of how the market has evolved to a place in which 140-word messages, carefully crafted and frequently sent, can establish, communicate, and reinforce a company’s reputation. Evans writes:
“As a marketing tool, social media presents a shift in thinking from the days of direct marketing and one-way communication. Instead, social media creates a different opportunity to interact with potential clients and to build rapport with a savvier customer base.”
With 30 studies of businesses and non-profits that have put Twitter to work to for them, Evans builds a convincing case for the advantages social media have over traditional forms of PR and marketing. These include:
Speed of production (you can get your message out in minutes, or even seconds)
Timeliness (you can play a role in discussions and reporting when current events involve your area of business)
Relatively low cost
Ability to target a specific audience (i.e., people interested in what you sell or do)
Ability to create and focus a conversation on a topic (using # hashtags)
Evans does an outstanding job of stepping outside the often self-congratulatory world of social media and approaching Twitter from the viewpoint of an established business professional. This is a great help to anyone who needs to assess the value of Twitter and social media work in relation to the value of their other PR and marketing activities.
The book includes illustrated step-by-step instructions to setting up a Twitter account for your business and using it, complete with examples of good and bad accounts and Tweets. (I loved her tip about reigning in your Tweets at 120 characters so you leave plenty of room for other people to retweet them.)
The book’s later chapters have deeply researched and sophisticated information on creating national and local Twitter campaigns, using multiple accounts, and developing audiences. In Chapter 12, Evans evaluates Twitter’s role in the context of business marketing (using as an example the experiences of my friend and client Joe Hage, director of Marketing Communications at Cardiac Science.)
In short, The Definitive Twitter Guide is a must-have for contemporary marketers and business owners—even if all they want to do is figure out what their competition is up to. You’ll find it on Amazon ($19.99) and also in ebook form.