Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Building towards social networks

Social Media

I was talking with a colleague today who is preparing to take on a new role as editor of a bimonthly (every two months, vs. semimonthly, twice a month) journal.  It’s been run as a traditional media product up to this point, paper stories mailed to subscribers.  The new management wants to create a more colorful and relevant publication, improving quality and involving readers more directly.  New media ideas such as online forums and social extensions are suggested.

 It seems to me, I started, leaning back as though preparing to light a pipe…Cambridge casts it’s spell…

Model 1It seems to me that the publication is a static entity at this point.  Every two months it touches it’s subscribers, then goes quiet for another two months.  Simply putting the journal online won’t change that: the content will still only be updated infrequently and there’s no motivation to look in.

Model 2Similarly, it seems like your not ready to push the online presence into social media, where your subscribers interact with one another.  There’s nothing for them to talk about, no community or tribe that draws them together.  Seeding a forum with surveys, provocative letters to the editor, and event notices may generate heat but not the sort of quality and light that the publication wants to build.

I think that there’s an intermediate step that needs to happen, creating dynamic content. 

First, the journal needs to offer simpler content that is updated more frequently.   Pre-publication, post story ideas, articles that didn’t make the cut to print, pointers to relevant news and events.  Post-publication, post article updates, links to enhanced content, audio or video follow-ups.

Second, offer interactive features.  Make the author available for discussion on-line, invite guest specialists to post perspectives and commentary for questions or comment, offer ways to get involved or to share stories within a short, moderated format that can be summarized in newsletters.

Third, make the subscribers special.   When an institution is featured, add special offers for admission, access to programs, or advance notice of events.  Collate information of interest to them; invite contributions and opportunities to make their special interest into a special feature.

Model 3In effect, the dynamic content draws together the writers and specialists with the subscribers and naturalists.  Once people are engaged, then they may be ready to interact.

Our local Meetup groups held a ‘Social media and Startups’ session recently,  emphasizing the need to see past the tools to the goal: creating self-organized communities of like-minded people.  Seth Godin made the same point in his discussions of Tribes, and I’ve seen it work (sometimes) on LinkedIn.

18 uses of social crm

I think that the benefits of social networks, and their desirability as mediums for branding and marketing, are now  well understood (above). You have to learn to leverage the new medium.

But I think I’ve also learned that a growing community with vigorous conversation doesn’t start with a Facebook page.  Rather, it has to start with frequent, relevant, interactive content that generates (and shows) interest and engages audiences. 

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