Bartleby the Social Media Scrivener

Helping a friend brainstorm entry of her marketing and design firm into social media consultancy without coming off all claim-jumpy or bloody-turnip-squeezy. It goes without saying that I have no idea what I’m talking about. But this is a blog and I am me, so talk I shall, har-char-aiee.


My Meta-Appeal for Work

Having a background in literature, it is my pleasure to go all meta on your asses, by quoting a post extensively featuring a quotation by BL Ochman on her blog of my email.

You Need to Hire Curt Hopkins or Help Him Get a Job

People! This is inexcusable! Curt Hopkins, experienced communications professional and journalist, needs a job. And you need to hire him or help him get one! Get busy.

This post is inspired by an email I got from him today, and L Eiseley’s allegory, “The Star Thrower“. Read them both and then contact Curt with work.


Social Media Not as Social as You’d Think

I’ve begun to realize that social media is not as social, on a personal level, as I had originally thought it was. Most people do not leave comments on other people’s blogs, or respond to them when they’re left on theirs. In Twitter @ statements are rarely answered except when the author is a close crony or someone capable of lending authority or traffic. There’s a fiction that social media is a great leveler; broadcasting is run through the spectrum of conversation, traditional authority is flattened. But the social media sphere is very hierarchical, both in terms of who is listened to and what they talk about (social media, mostly).

On a wide-spectrum, social media is interactive. On a personal one, rarely if ever. I’m beginning to believe that social media is very good for companies, and not very valuable for the overwhelming majority of individuals.

Your Company Should Not Use Social Media

If you agree with one of the following statements, your company does not need to, or should not, use social media.

  • You hold a monopoly on your goods or services and that monopoly is unlikely to be challenged.
  • You are successfully employing traditional marketing and public relations strategies and can afford to continue doing so.
  • Your customers are devoted to your company and promote and defend it using their own social media tools.
  • Your company culture is antithetical to transparency.
  • Your executives are obsessed with control of information and unable to delegate that control.
  • Your business is information-driven and your employees are likely to divulge that information.
  • Your customers are unlikely to be interested in a conversation with you.

The problem with these statements is that there is no single one of them that couldn’t go south overnight. A monopoly one day is a fiercely competitive sector the next. An adoring customer base one day is a furious one the next. Social media’s strong suit is its ability to provide you tools and methods to influence the conversations that are going on around you. If you do not have the inclination or time or need to do any active social media marketing, you may still want to consider participating in those conversations, by agreeing to interviews with bloggers, posting occasionally on forums and leaving comments on others’ blogs.

Needless to say, it’s your call.

The Social Music Site

So, I was looking for a place to share my recommendations for music, and get them from others. I realized that what I was looking for didn’t exactly exist. So I invented it. Then I named it. Beautiful Trainwreck. So, that’s pretty much it.

Uh, OK. I’ll describe it.

So, I discover a band, say, Bishop Allen. I’m excited by my discovery and I want to share it. So, I dial up Beautiful Trainwreck and fill out a Profile which includes fields for types of music I like, as well as specific bands, albums and songs, as well as non-music related fields.

Then, I fill out a Recommendation Card, listing Bishop Allen as well as describing the band and the music. The back-end adds music, either whole songs or song samples, based on whether or not the band has acceded to the request to file songs with the service. (Requests are automatically sent to bands that have been recommended. How? Oh, I don’t know how. Jeez.)

Someone else logs on and, based on the kinds of things they have said on their profile, the things they themselves have recommended, previous Recommendations they have accepted and a Random Factor, they get served up my Recommendation. They can elect to accept the recommendation or reject it. They also have the option of sending a Friend Request to me.

The next time I log in, I will have a Recommendation waiting for me, which I can elect to accept or reject, as well as a Friend Request.

You can send Personal Recommendations to people in your Friend Stream and they can send them to you. You can adjust the strength of your Recommendation Stream by choosing how many Recommendations you wish to receive and how often.
There are a number of feeds you can subscribe to, and share with other, including people outside of Beautiful Trainwreck. They include your Incoming Recommendation Stream, your Recommendation Card Stream, Friend Stream and your Music Blog Stream.

The recommendations and the music and bands behind them can also be browsed. You can also select a Random Recommendation to be sent, unrelated to your Profile Information.

The revenue model is, naturally, recommendation-based. If you like a band and wish to buy more songs or an album or other product, you can do so through the Store. All the artists, record companies and other vendors give Beautiful Trainwreck a cut of the things they sell due to one of the site’s Recommendations.

Web 2.faux

I love things like this. To my mind, this is the reason for technology.

Now, back in the day, you see (that would be pre-Day2.0), and, of course, these days, (well, up until I read this), we used to have to produce smart-ass stuff like this largely by hand. (The exception being the Web Economy Bullshit Generator.)

Now “engines” do it for you. Engines. Who knew?

Web2.o Logo Creator

Web Two Point Oh! company generator

The Web 2.0 Bullshit Generator

The Web 2.0 B.S. Generator


Update: But wait! There’s more.



Lately, I’ve noticed an increasing number of bloggers I used to read for coverage of, or comment on, social media tools and strategy have gotten odder, more bilious and petulant (and sometimes outright nasty), full of gnomic utterances and pronuncamientos; moving from a giddy sense of discovery and moment to self-aggrandizement, ad hominem attacks and embarrassing revelations.

Perhaps social media has both an aggregating and an amplifying effect, so that simple mood swings seem like personality changes, and collective mood swings seem like trends. Perhaps the insulated world of social media produces the same hothouse effect that results in the cruel crones of a Lorca play or the bitter, back-stabbing faculty in any University you’d care to name. Perhaps it attracts the kind of cranks you used to see only in a newspaper’s letters to the editor. I don’t know.

Perhaps it will pass and they’ll remember that social media is a tool; that, in itself, it’s nothing, and the gatekeeper to nothing is nothing; and that social media is, by definition, inferior to the uses to which it is put and the content which it enables.

I imagine I’ll continue to find people who are still more excited by the possibilities of innovation than they are entranced by their own authority; people who think of the service they provide in surveying and analyzing new tools as a contribution to our larger public conversation, instead of as an end in itself or as an avenue to puffery. I imagine I’ll continue to find enough bloggers who don’t confuse traffic with merit (or who get too little of it to make that mistake) and that I’ll always have the information I need to continue to participate in the conversations I think are necessary and valuable in a difficult time.

And perhaps I’ll even learn how to fall quiet myself and restrict my opinions to the written page, where such things are perhaps best kept after all.

When Does the MSM Lose Its MS?

A lot of the criticism of the traditional (or mainstream) media in the last few years was one of unacknowledged bias and fear of dialogue. Social media, such as blogging and media sharing sites, were said to be the corrective for the MSM, as well as “citizen journalism.” But what happens when these giants of MSM start using blogging, comment fields, RSS, citizen journalists, Twitter and various other tools that were once thought of as the province of the new citizen media? Should it be acknowledged that they’ve learned and changed?

An interesting element in the results of my survey on the news media’s use of Twitter was the fact that he top answer to the question on how the organizations used Twitter was for News Delivery, at 43.5%. Dialogue with Readers was a distant second at 26.1%. So only a quarter of the respondents use this social media tool for its most prominent feature, and the one that might be considered the least “old media.”

Under the question about how many other Twitter accounts an organization followed, the top response, at 29.2% was Over 50 (!). A quick glance at the MSM Twitter accounts on I’m With the Press indicates the great unlikelihood that this is accurate. Randomly: CNN: 1. Spokesman-Review: 6. Times (London): 133. Times (Johannesberg): 0. Contra Costa Times: 0. Financial Times: 0. Radio New Zealand: 0.

Yea for those (like the Times of London) that do follow others’ updates, but boo to the rest. It’s not much of a lesson learned if you use social media but without any desire to find out what the big deal is. (Social media has the word “social” built right in.)

Use social media for promotion? Don’t mind if I do. But if that’s all you use it for, you’re stone cold MSM.

That is all.

Update: Huffington Post’s cofounder bragged about how he’s never going to pay his contributors, thus showing us how the “alternative” media can get its MS on. That’s always been my reservation about “citizen journalism” organizations. It’s very rare indeed that they don’t sell advertising, make business agreements with other for-profit companies and do various other types of revenue gathering. It’s rarer still that the people who give them both their information and their “alternative” cache get paid.

Here’s a simple rule of thumb. If you are reporting for someone else who is getting paid while you are not, you are a sucker.

Survey Results: News Media Use of Twitter

I’ve conducted a survey of the use by the news media of Twitter, the microblogging service. These results are what I’ve gotten after a week of having the survey open. I’m going to keep it open in the hopes that those in charge of using Twitter for their newspapers or broadcast companies will jump on. If that happens, I’ll issue an amended report.

This survey was based on my attempt to find and subscribe to the updates for every Twitter account I could find that was maintained by a general news organization. I came up with 72, which you can see at I’m With the Press. A number of these accounts are moribund.

I had 21 respondents to 10 questions. I am listing out the questions and the top responses below. Full data will be available to download.

1. What is your role at your organization?
Online editor: 30%

2. How long have you used Twitter at your organization?
Less than six months: 38.1%

3. What is its main use?
News delivery: 50%

4. How many of others’ updates do you follow?
Over 50: 33.3%

5. What additional Twitter applications do you use?
None: 42.9%

6. Who proposed the use of Twitter at your organization?
Online editor: 50%

7. Who is responsible for Twitter use at your organization?
Online editor: 50%

8. How useful has Twitter been to achieving the goal for which you began using it?
Somewhat: 47.1%

9. How many Twitter accounts does your organization have?
One: 55%

10. How likely do you think it is that media organizations will make Twitter, and other microblogging applications like it, a part of their day-to-day business in the future?
Somewhat: 55%

Well, let’s hear it for the Online Editors out there. The only really odd response was the claim that over 50 Twitter updates were followed, since that is not borne out by casual observation. It might be useful in the future to aim a more complete survey at those only editors. It might be illustrative to find out how size of the organization effected the use of Twitter, for instance.

Full results for download: News Media Use of Twitter full survey results.

Update: Jemima Kiss of the UK paper the Guardian, did her own (rather more thoughtful) analysis of the survey results. I think she’s right, that this is obviously only a start. I hope someone at a J-school designs and conducts a really complete survey of the news media’s use of Twitter.