Social media is stupid

When you work so closely in the world of blogs, social media apps, new media, etc., there is a
tendency to get lost in the echo chamber. We all spend so much time staying on top of what’s new both for our own sakes as well as to be able to provide reasoned and educated solutions for our clients. Yet so often, many of us are still met with the same kind of resistance, skepticism and just plain lack of understanding when we venture out into the real world. I wrote awhile back how we, as podcasters, had made the mistake of going a little ga-ga over all the tools available to us and taking our eye of the ball of “why is this new medium a game changer for our clients?” When you take your car to be fixed, you don’t really care what the mechanic had to do to get rid of that pinging sound. You just want it gone. That’s how your clients feel, too. They don’t want or need to see how the sausage is made.

There was a great post on Read/Write/Web last week about using social media for social change. Blogging for the victims of the Chinese earthquake, supporting social causes on Facebook and MySpace, using YouTube to promote charities and using your mobile phone to spread news and effect change were just some of the suggestions. The point is, the only limit to the uses for social media are your imagination.

The next time I get the eye roll, exhale and 1000-yard stare about how dumb blogging, Twitter and YouTube are, I plan on removing this arrow from my quiver.


We’ve been blogging for a year?

Well, actually 13 months. Our first post went up on April 11, 2007 and this one you are reading now is post number 100. By themselves, those numbers reveal nothing. They merely chart progress which, in itself, is important.

I am grateful to those of you who are loyal readers, linkers, commenters and forwarders. For me, writing this blog has become a way  to sort out my thoughts, analyze trends and offer up what I hope is some useful and actionable knowledge to my readers. For you, my hope is that you take away some solid information about how trends in new media affect you on a day-to-day basis, not in some ethereal or theoretical way.

As we move into year two, I wanted to restate what this blog and podcast are supposed to be about. (I really hate the term “mission statement.” I write a blog. I don’t attempt to put people on the moon.)

As I stated above, the overarching goal of keeping this blog is to help people of all digital faiths, skill and engagement levels understand how trends in new media directly relate back to their daily lives and how these trends are shaping the future of communications, advertising and television. The blog has pretty much stuck to that mantra for these past twelve months and pace of digital change does not look like it will slow down anytime soon.  My goal is to post twice a week (usually on Tuesdays and Thursdays) but I never post for the sake of posting. If I don’t have anything valuable to offer up, it may just be once a week. People seem pretty happy with that rhythm and as a piece of side advice to would-be bloggers: setting yourself up with a posting schedule that is not overly ambitious is a way to keep your own interest up as well as not fall behind and then feel as though you have somehow “failed” because you didn’t post 24 times in a week. Set yourself up to succeed from the get go.

We also try and keep the posts short and pithy (which this one most certainly is NOT but, hey, I’m allowed. It’s our anniversary for goodness’ sake!), and that seems to be appreciated by the readership as well. We’re all busy and I try and respect that.

So, I say thank you again for your faithful support. I really love seeking out and synthesizing the information contained here on the blog. I love your comments and, once again, I am grateful to those of you who think enough about it to forward it to your friends, family and co-workers. Keep it up, and I will, too.

Man, China is killing the US in EVERYTHING!

Universal McCann has published the third part of its global study of usage and attitudes about social media platforms. This wave surveyed 17,000 internet users in 29 countries and the results, while not surprising to me, were certainly eye opening.

A couple of key takeaways:

  1.     Video clip platforms have grown from when they first began this survey in September 2006 from 31% penetration to 83% as of March 2008
  2.     36% think more positively about companies that have blogs
  3.     China has the largest blogging community in the world with 42MM bloggers, more than the US and Western Europe combined

It is a fascinating survey that I urge all marketers to take a look at as it illustrates that opinions about your brand are more than ever being formed in the social media space. As we have discussed here and in our podcast, buying decisions are seldom made in a vacuum. 32% trust bloggers’ opinions on products and services. "All companies and brands should consider employing them to create open and honest dialogue. Any blog that spins the truth will be found out. In a world of social media, honesty is the only policy." (Bold mine)

Much like gas prices, these numbers will not be trending downward anytime soon. Control is shifting to the user and people get more and more of their information their way from the internet. Are you going to be there to help them make up their minds?

Online content: free at last!

Jeff Jarvis has a great post on his blog, Buzz Machine, about the death of TimesSelect, the now defunct pay service of the New York Times. He makes several great points as to why it was a doomed idea from the get-go to put a pay wall around their columnists and other content deemed "premium." He points out, "There is no end of free competition. The value is fleeting in time. The cost of charging is too high."

But the real kicker for me is the lesson that we can draw across all internet media: music, video, news, opinion, etc. The lesson, as we have mentioned countless times, is that the value of social media is the creation and advancement of relationships. Jarvis puts it this way: "It’s the relationship that’s valuable. It’s the relationship that is profitable, not the control of the content or distribution. That is the essential media moral of the internet story. It has taken 13 years of internet history for media companies to learn that, to give up the idea that they control something scarce that they can charge consumers for, but they’ve finally learned it."

This is not to suggest that there is NOTHING worth paying for online. But you need to pick your spots.

Promotion of new media collateral

Inevitably, when we are in the midst of evangelizing to an existing or prospective client we get asked, "What is the best way to promote my blog or podcast?" The answer seems to be a bit of a letdown to clients or, at least, somewhat puzzling: Publish quality content on a regular basis.

Blogs and podcasts are, at their core, a conversation. How long would a conversation last if only one person was talking? When you publish positive content, you begin to build an audience and that audience comes to expect to hear from you regularly. ("Positive" in this context means useful to your readership or listenership.) So many blogs and podcasts are like a bonfire- as Joni Mitchell observed, "I’ve seen some hot hot blazes come down in smoke and ash." This can be either a welcome or disappointing development, depending on your point of view. The point is, if you want to continue to build and grow connections, you have to consistently bring something to the table. The ephemeral nature of the online community attention span dictates that you stay current and active. But if you are really passionate about your blog or podcast subject, that should not present a problem.

Final thought: you are what you publish. And how often.

Blogging for CEOs

Despite the, ahem, misguided efforts of Whole Foods CEO John Mackey in the blogosphere, more and more top executives are venturing online via signed blogs or webpages. Corporate behemoths like GM, IBM (which also has set up an innovative employee blog), Marriott and Pitney Bowes as well as many medium sized and smaller companies (including this one) have begun to reach out to investors, employees and customers and even to defend themselves under fire- all in real time.

Obviously in larger Fortune 500 companies, it isn’t as though CEOs completely lose their minds, forget who they are and cannot wait to engage in the kind of unfiltered dialogue that characterizes blogging. (Although roughly 40 of the 500 biggest US companies now publish corporate blogs.) But for smaller and medium sized companies, think of it as a way to let people find out about your values, who you are and what you do by releasing a serialized narrative. As we have remarked previously, here and here, blogging and podcasting is a way to both present yourself but, perhaps more importantly, find out what your customers want or need.

Just building it will not make them come. You need to give them a reason to come, stay and come back again.

Technology let us down…but we’re back!

If you live by the new media sword…

Thanks to all of our subscribers who wrote in wondering why they had not received any e-mail from us lately. Seems as if there was a slight problem with our feed which prevented e-mails from going out. All is well now, but the problem came about at the worst time, so let’s recap:

We are proud to announce the launch of the Clearcast Digital Media blog en Español. Responding to the dearth of solid technology and new media communications information on the web, Fernando has taken matters into his own hands and is the author of a fantastically written, compelling and informative blog for those who prefer to get their info in Spanish. Please check it out and forward the link.

Also, we released another podcast episode featuring an absorbing interview with producer and webby award winner Chi Chi Pierce. She now teaches television production at a Turner Technical High School, and we spend some time talking about the role of new media across the generational divide.

Lastly, but not leastly, we have redesigned the blog to make it a bit more eye-catching. We hope you like it.

Please check in on the blog if you don’t hear from us for awhile. We try and post at least twice a week. And if you are not already an e-mail subscriber, go ahead and sign up. Same goes for our podcast- you can subscribe via iTunes. It’s all about staying in touch, and thanks again to those of you who wondered where we were. We haven’t gone anywhere, but sometimes the wires get crossed.

Getting to Know You

We get asked a lot about the benefits of podcasting for businesses. Once again, it comes down to meaningful connections. Advertising and traditional marketing efforts have their place in branding your company or product, but at the end of the day, they are just print or electronic messages that disappear into the ether.

A voice is much more effective at communicating emotion and a distinctive personality. Speaking from experience, we use podcasting almost as an ongoing audition tape for potential clients. The "getting to know you" period can be shorthanded if someone has already gotten a feel for your personality and style of doing business since they have listened to you or seen you in a podcast. Now, more than ever, people crave that one-to-one connection that is often lacking in our digital world. Lift the curtain just a little bit and let your customers feel like they know just a little bit more about you, or your company, than what one might glean from a print ad or TV spot. It can do wonders for your bottom line.

When you lift the curtain a little, you might be pleasantly surprised at how people react. I know we have been.

A different kind of ROI

A critical factor that separates podcasting from other, more traditional forms of communications is the level of engagement between creator and user. It has been referred to as ROI- Return on Influence, or sometimes Return on Engagement. The depth of engagement is the critical factor separating podcasts and other, more shopworn forms of communication. The focus of podcasting metrics is less about quantity and more about quality. The equation is obvious: shotgun approach vs. rifle approach. TV is incredibly effective, if prohibitively expensive, for most. But would you rather have 1000 or 5000 people who are passionately involved in your message and have voluntarily opted in to your distribution platform? Or would it be better to spend the money on a media buy that might "reach" 500,000+ people, but only inspire a tiny fraction of them?

It is all about efficiency.

Podcasting is probably the most cost effective media channel of our time and the qualitative benefits include thought leadership and the ability to build strong and lasting relationships. Among the quantitative benefits are low customer acquisition costs and the aforementioned depth of engagement. Broadband adoption is too prevalent to miss this opportunity.

Organizations of every size now have the ability to become their own media outlet.

We are Clearcast Digital Media

Many of you have been following our posts from our blog at Pin High Poductions. We want to thank everyone who subscribed and participated.

We are pleased to announce that Pin High Poductions is now Clearcast Digital Media, Inc. We feel that the name better reflects the services we offer our clients both in the online and offline realm. We will continue to provide video and film services to our corporate and broadcast clients, and we are extremely bullish on the future of podcasting as the future of television.

Our expansion from our Miami headquarters continues and we are looking forward to providing some exciting updates in the very near future. Keep subscribing, keep posting, and be sure to stay in touch.