Category: Strategic Communication Media


When anyone puts anything out into the world wide web, there is always the question, “Who even reads this junk.”  This question has sparked an entire industry to come about.  All across of the internet, there has been a new profession of hunters.  They track down all kinds of data.  Some that is useful, lots that just seem like information for information sake, but every now and then, there is a tidbit that holds some value.  This bit of value is usually measured in dollars, as with all things of value.  So how does the internet provide dollars to the real world in the form of data?  It puts together the myriad of data into nice pie charts and the occasional bar graph.  These charts and graphs allow for the businessman to understand the statistician, thus giving birth to a new area of profit making.

You see how that works? Data can be put into graphs and boom, money, kind of.  In actuality, the information is sorted and measured to understand the people who read the aforementioned junk.  Everyone is putting things on the internet, but how do we figure out what the audience likes and dislikes.  True there is the thumbs up/down approach, which works when that option is available, but often that option is nowhere to be found.  So these statisticians found a way to track the workings of all the people out in the world.  Sounds expansive, but really they just figure out what the ones they care about are doing, which can lessen that stack dramatically.  So now you know that 10 people like an article you wrote.  Next step is to shake out the dollars and more likely cents from that bit of knowledge.

The cash value of it all is directly related to the way you can manage your audience.  That’s the ongoing part of anything.  If you can continue to get people who are willing to read what you have to say, then you’ll build a following.  If you can build a following, then you can manage a way to get their attention to make you money.  Data allows you know what gets the rest of the world’s attention or, less drastically, those willing to read your words.  Turns out people like the way you ramble on about nothing.  Guess that means you should produce more lines of ramblings.  It’s that simple, make your words work for others.  Creating art for yourself is rarely as profitable as creating entertain for others.  Though, if you’re lucky, your art is someone else’s entertainment.  But this works in other ways too.  If people trust your words and your opinions, then maybe they’ll trust your links too.  Then you become an opinion leader working not only for your own cause, but also for others.  And others like to pay for influencers to say a few nice things on their behalf.

The audience is in place.  Turns out people are actually willing to listen to you.  Data is in place. Now you know what they like more and what they like most. Money is in place.  Now you understand how to play to your crowd and how to get investors to pay for your crowd.  It seems like a simple process all brought to you by the middleman, the one that puts math into the entertainment and business.  Now if only there was a way to get people to buy into the rest of the crap you’re peddling.

Whenever anyone is writing anything there is only one thing to remember, it’s always about the audience.  That is a simple concept with a simple reasoning.  Whenever you or I write, we do so in order to communicate something.  Communication only occurs if both the reader is able to clearly state what the message is, and if the reader is able to clearly interpret the intended message.  Many things can be lost in language.  People misinterpreted each other all the time.  A simple text message can be read utilizing a change in inflection, analysis, and tone.  So how do we convey the message as it was intended?

Remember it’s always about the audience.  How do we get an audience to constantly engage and return for more if they cannot understand the words being directed at them?  The words that you write aren’t meant for you.  Many times a writer can feel that his or her words are his or hers alone.  That’s great for your diary, but horrible for communication.  When you’re with a group of friends and you talk about that inside joke or personal event that only a few shared, you get outsiders.  Everyone has been on the inside and outside of those conversations.  Do not make your audience feel like outsiders, otherwise what is their incentive to come back?  When Hoffman talks about return on investment in “Can you measure the ROI of your social media marketing?” the message is all about the audience.  If the audience can find a return on their investment of time, then they’ll come back.  Produce the message that gets the most to come back, and as a producer you’ll find a return your investment.

Producing a message that keeps the general masses interested is a tricky idea but with a formulaic result.  There’s a reason why television and movies always seem to be hitting the same topics in the same methods.  The last time you were enjoying some entertainment, were you able to predict the next event or scene?  That’s the understanding the formula of how entertainment works.  Words are able to produce many effects, but they require the proper molding.  Within Jim Sterne’s “Social Media Metrics,” one is able to understand the basics of people.  That is their need to be engaged through emotions, reactions, and interactions.  Often an idea seems common once you hear it, but often it is forgotten when there is no one around to repeat it.  Jim Sterne reminds us of how to engage an audience.

Emotional writing holds a special connection.  It allows words to seem human.  If a reader can see themselves or at least relate on an empathetic level, then there is a higher level of interaction.  It provokes the reader in a stronger way and makes the message that much more relatable. If you can get someone to feel your message, then they’ll have no choice but to remember its cause.  Emotions are hard to convey through words, and the little techniques of nuance can easily be tangled.  Though once mastered, the world will listen to your passion, anger, and desperation as if it was their own.

Reactionary writing is an aggressive style of engagement.  Reactionary writing was once a method gained through threats and ultimatums.  Directly challenge the audience and they will respond with equal if not greater vehemence.  The new course of gaining a reaction is to rally people towards a cause.  Advocacy can be as strong a motivation as any threat.  People will rally behind a cause, whether it’s towards the same goal or against a common enemy.

Interaction is our final aim to gain the attention of our intended audience.  It tends to come after that initial reading.  It is to make sure the audience knows that the writer is listening and responding.  The two way conversation lets the other person know they’re opinion matters, and everyone wants to know they matter.  So we maintain that engagement with a simple response or one of more details if it suits.  Either way, the audience knows we’re there, listening and responding, and that makes them happy.

Everything we do to get an audience, we then have to put in as much effort to maintain that audience.  Building that relationship is an ongoing process.  People learn to trust the words they decide to read throughout their busy day.  Don’t offend them by ignoring or disregarding them.  Your words aren’t that special, and there are always other options.

How many ways can you say the same thing to a person?  At first it might come across as informative and interesting so the person listens. After a while it becomes stale and no longer has any immediate relevance and then the person starts ignoring it.  But then there’s a point where the message is now bordering on abusive and then that person because annoyed if not enraged.

We have to understand that a message isn’t guaranteed to hit everyone the first time it’s put out into the world, thus it gets replayed on the same medium and often broadcasted through multiple mediums.  But if you’re an active member of society, at which point should those advertisers realize you’ve heard the message?  Ken Martin and Ivan Todorov put together a nice model of the “Day in the Life Continuum” within their article “How will digital platforms be harness in 2010, and how will they change the way people interact with brands?”  Once you get past the title, the rest of the article is fairly short, but the one figure explains everything you need to know.  People are constantly connected with the media.  Smart phones bring the internet to your hip 24 hours a day. Digital billboards are now able to portray not only one image, but multiple up to date messages.  I drive by two billboards that tell me exactly how long the average wait time at the local emergency room is.  That rarely has any value on me, but it is always interesting to note the days and times when that minute count spikes.  Either way, I notice and I’m sure others notice too.  And while you’re seeing those billboards, you’re sitting in the car listening to the radio.  Then you go home and jump on the computer and have the television on in the background and you’re engaging with everything that can sell you something.  If you only interacted with each once during the day I would be impressed, but I’d be impressed if you only checked your Facebook once per day.

Now imagine if the same message was played on all of those formats.  You wake up and check the morning news and see that commercial.  You check your favorite website and you see that same message.  You get a new message or email on your smart phone.  The digital billboard lights up in bright letters repeating the same damn thing and the radio won’t even give you five minutes to forget about it.  At what point will that message go from hopefully interesting to downright painful?  People are forced to deal with producers screaming and begging all day, everyday.  As the future continues, society is becoming more and more connected.  Not just connected in terms of the amount of people, but also through the amount of time.  It’s a revolution to turn off your phone for a day.  I’m begging the advertisers of the world, don’t make me crazier than I already am.

 

My latest readings from Chris Brogan and Julien Smith’s book, “Trust Agents,” combined with the articles “Untamed Blog” by Kathleen Long et. al. and “Saving Disney” by Sarah Feldner and Rebecca Meisenbach has laid out pretty much everything you need to know about blogs.  Other notable social media were also referenced, but the key piece of analysis was centered on one of the older internet tools, the blog.  The standard concept was to create a format which can be taken as relevant and interesting to those that read it.  There are many things that will make a blog useful and/or entertaining to the reader.  The key is finding the right combination of tactics applied through the use of language meant for the audience.

The tactics can range, but idea about the community that is trying to be established is the core of their intent.  How do we build a central hub for the world to engage about the topics that the blogger presents?  The writer will offer the right words and tone.  The audience must be able to understand the message and be not afraid to interact with both the writer and those that are also willing to engage the writer.  If others are responding to the message, then that messenger must also be willing to reply.  This results in dialogue, the two-way messaging that the internet is all about.  People not only want to be able to read and discuss anything and everything, but they also want to feel as if they’re being heard.  Simple enough.

Now the aforementioned literature focuses on the public relation capabilities of blogs.  Public relations is the bottom line aspect that businesses like to use when viewing the potential of a blog.  Public relations is suppose to equate to dollars at the end of the day, thus a business blog needs to find where that dollar is hiding.  This can also follow for personal blogs, because both are seeking out the same result: more readers.  This can be developed in many ways, and if you wished to know each and every one of those methods, go read these items, but if you want to start with one, just be available.  That relates to the dialogue bit.  People are going to read.  They’re going to comment.  They’re going to ask questions.  Your primary role is to be there to respond.  Update often and be read to engage any kind of audience you can find.  If you can’t find one, then there are plenty of other tricks to learn, but start slow and try to find someone willing to listen and willing to share.  Just think, if they’re willing to engage with you, they’re probably will to tell a friend (or maybe even two).

 

It’s interesting the many different ways we can deal with our consumers.  We can pretend that they’re simply figures in a spreadsheet laying out our generating revenues, or we can realize that there is a fully functioning person on the other end of that number. Groundswell introduced two concepts, which really are nothing more than common sense, but it is a clear picture of how businesses should work with their customer base.

Energizing is simple. Convince the consumers that they should be happy enough about the product and/or service that are willing to spread the good name throughout their network.  Happy customers tell their peers, that trust their opinions, about their happy experiences.  Boom! Third party recommendations (word of mouth) are the most effective marketing.  You trust your friend’s opinions more than you trust the television, or internet, or [insert other media format].  That makes sense. You’ve developed trust your friend for a much longer period of time than any marketer that is being paid to tell you nothing but the good things (anytime is longer than your time with the random marketer). So if you can energize one customer to tell all his friends you’ve just have a great endorsement. Now if only you can convince all your customers to tell all their friends about all the great things your company.

Energizing your customers is good, but also embracing them is great.  Embracing your customers is simple too.  All you have to do is listen to what they have to say, and then do something about it. See how simple that is.  Embracing your customers shows you care. Businesses that listen and respond have a way of energizing people.  If you’ve ever gotten a response from a company, you tell people about it. It’s like getting a response from a celebrity.  It’s completely unexpected, so you share it with everyone around you.

So lessons to learn and incorporate: energize and embrace your consumers.  It makes them feel special, and everyone likes to feel special.

While exploring the world of internet public relations, I was presented with three articles: Abbey Levenshus’s analysis of Obama’s internet campaign, Ric Jensen’s discussion of internet environmental campaigns and transparency, and Rosemary Thackeray’s look into youth advocacy through social networking sites. Each presents an issue and a tool that the internet provides. The question of building upon these points to form a more cohesive look public relations and the internet is highlighted throughout their works as well as a general feel for an industry moving forward.

Levenshus’s views on Obama’s internet campaign provided an understanding about how an audience interacts online.  The internet has always been scene as a new media that gave a new look at two way communication.  User generated content is about dialogue as much as broadcasting, or at least allows for greater two way discussion. Understanding Obama’s internet uses shows another side of how the audience engages.  People were drawn to his content.  People watched Youtube videos and read Facebook articles.  People responded in such a massive volume that it overshadowed all other political campaigns and shined a light on the ways that the internet could be harnessed. Celebrities, ranging from entertainers to athletes to politicians, have managed to make a expansive message sound like a conversation.  Followers from all different realms of social networking are able to interact as if they were singled out for each announcement.  The relationships that are built and maintained can reach unimaginable numbers.

The relationships that are formed are developed from transparency. Transparency is just imagery for trustworthy.  If you can trust a person, you can build an honest relationship. Public relations is about establishing trust in its targeted audience.  Jensen pointed out a new level of deception with the internet.  Much how everyone used to believe “everything on TV” now it finds its hold on the internet in the ways.  Transparency and constant communication gives allows for the internet to build trust, yet at the same time the message can be misleading if not completely deceitful. The internet can challenge the foundation of trust as much as any media tool.

With trust being such a complex concept, it becomes difficult to build certain relationships.  Youth advocacy has always been tricky, whether it is a backyard grassroots campaign or a new media internet one.  Uses a medium that the youth is used to can provide more access to this group, but at the same time motivating them will always remain multifaceted.  The general skepticism will always remain, but the way that we build trust will need to reach a new level of clarity as well as transparency.  Understanding must be the next item for the internet to provide.  You can trust a person while not understanding them, but if you understand them you know why you can trust them.

Reading articles about the internet can teach you many things.  Like why can’t I get paid like everyone else?  You showed up late, and it’s all about being first. Why does so many free services exists that so many people use? They have value to the programmers, they just don’t tell you what kind of value.  Why do people do the things that they do?  People are random.  People do all kinds of things for all kinds of reasons, but we still think we can figure them out.

Reading Jeff Howe’s article on crowdsourcing explained how people can make money off the internet and businesses are more than happy to pay.  Crowdsourcing is a method where businesses pose problems to the internet and ask for assistance.  Solutions are then compensated by the businesses.  Lots of money can be made in this way.  Little bits of money can be made this way as well.  In the end, it adds up to a lot of money spread across multiple avenues.  Crowdsourcing is just one method that the internet community can be used as a tool.

Jose van Dijck looked at internet tools in a different way.  He presented what the tools themselves gain from the community.  Popularity is nice, but it is also profitable.  What a tool may lose by being free to the general public, it gains through connections and data.  Users sign up to these sites and turn over their rights to privacy to varying degrees.  Sites are able to track usage of their tools and how those tools are being used.  The sites gain demographics and behavioral statistics.  These bits of information turn into data that is sought out by other businesses that are interested in how people are using the internet.  That data can also be used to motivate business to work themselves into the tools.  The tool may be free upfront to the community, but it takes away something worth more than a simple subscription fee.

Lastly, we have to understand why people use the internet and its tools in the way that they do.  Terry Daugherty and his team decided to research into those motivations.  People can have many reasons to interact with internet, and Daugherty’s test was to analyze those reasons using the standard motivation tools that have been developed over decades.  Those reasons are broken down into four main points: utilitarian function, knowledge, ego-defensive, and value-expression. The survey added in a social component to add another layer based on how social media chooses self-described. This analysis relates to rewards (utilitarian), for knowledge sake (knowledge), for people’s well-being (ego-defensive), for self-expression (value-expression), and socializing with others (social). The survey was sent out and they received a sample of more than 300 people.  The results were fairly predictable.  The leading reason for people doing things across the internet: social.  People like to connect to others.  Ego-defensive and value-expression came next and those falling to the rear were utilitarian and knowledge.  People first wanted to be social, then helpful and entertaining. Ego-defensive and value-expression can be taken as social aspects as well, at least more so than the other two.

People like other people.  Recluses are the oddities.  It only makes sense that human beings will gather and share.  The internet only makes it easier to find like-minded others. We want to speak and be heard, and if people are listening to us, we’re more likely to listen to them.

 

Next on my reading list is “Groundswell” by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff.  The book introduces the concept of the groundswell.  The writers come up with some elaborate definitions, which I applaud.  But for my simple mind, I’ll just say that the concept talks about how the programs become popular not because of themselves but because of the people that choose to use it.  It is about the community that builds up and around the various tools that the internet provides that is the groundswell.

That makes sense.  People are the driving force behind popularity.  Popularity is what makes something useful.  Popularity can be measured within the community that is targeted.  Niche communities can drive a site if everyone sees that site as a meeting ground.  The greatest program in the world can exist, but if no one wants to use it for whatever reasons, then it doesn’t have any use in the social world.

The social components that make these things useful build from understanding the community.  Communities can range in their characteristics within and without.  Generalizations can be made about groups of people.  What separates fans of one page from another?  Does that difference reflect a specific aspect of that group?  Can we measure or define that aspect?  These are the questions that were posed early on in “Groundswell,” and the answer was very interesting.

The discovery was understanding that different groups breakdown differently.  A=A so what? The breakdown was the fascinating part.  Li and Bernoff’s research dissecting the internet communities into Creators, Critics, Collectors, Joiners, Spectators, and Inactives.  They labeled this the Social Technographics ladder and from that they could build profiles about communities.  Being able to understand a community in regards to how they choose to interact within themselves shows an insight into how to target that community.  If a group prefers to interact amongst itself as joiners, then the marketing should be aimed at that.  Knowing where the majority sits is a great tool.  This is another part of a simple concept, targeting your audience.  If dog lovers prefer to upload pictures of their mutts, then target creators.  If your targeting audience likes to read forums and rate posts, then target critics.  Each community has a preference.  Preferences are not all-encompassing, but it does show a place to aim.

 

Just read a couple of articles pointing in a common direction. Consumers have gained a level of power in the retail world.  First, Rachel Demerling wrote “Twitter Me This, Twitter Me That” where she talked about the consumer’s desire for customization.  That people wanted to be an individual within a group conforming around an idea or product.  Odd how that work, yet it does. Secondly, Andy Hobsbwan discussed the need for action by the brands in his “Brands 2.0 – brands in a digital world.” Accepting the fast paced movement of the consumers is the first step.  Understanding that consumers are now controlling where they go and what they look at is the next. Now how do the brands find ways to get those consumers to look at them and keep looking at them day in a day out?  Interactivity is a great pull.

Both articles expressed the power of the consumer.  The consumer has so many options, that the brands need to pull out all the tricks to gain their attention and hold their attention.  Often it is understanding the need for two way communication.  It is no longer about broadcasting the brand’s ideas to an awaiting public, but rather establishing a dialogue for the brand and the consumers as well as establishing a safe forum for the consumers to discuss among themselves. There is a new found respect for consumer and the competition between brands is becoming more drastic as the world’s options become easier to access.

If you’ve been keeping up with the recent posts, you’ve noticed that I’ve been reading “Here Comes Everybody” by Clay Shirky. Well now I’m done. Good read. If you have ever wondered about the things that people do, especially within the age of the internet, then you should pick this up.  Read the first chapter while you’re standing in the bookstore, I bet you’ll walk out of there still holding it (while hopefully paying for it).

To wrap up the book, I’ve learned many things.  I’ve learned about the internet and some obscure stories that were interesting and some stories that have affected the lives of millions, if not billions.  One thing I found at the tail end of the book gave a little bit of insight into business and people as well as the business of people.  It was a simple process of analyzing failure.  Failure isn’t something we can just cut out of our lives.  “You win some. You lose some.” “It’s not about whether you get knocked down. It’s about whether you get back up.” “Everything tastes better with ice cream.”  Not sure if last one holds up as well as the first two, but you get the point.  These clichés exists because they’re true (though ice cream could be argued against).  People as a whole have come to terms with failure.  The next step is how do we find the successes?

Business had failure down to a science.  Business has to do it that way in order to avoid it.  Maximize success while minimizing failure.  That sounds like as good a slogan as anything else.  But what do we miss out on while trying to minimize failure? Minimizing failure takes priority over maximizing success.  It’s too expensive to have big failures.  And that is where the solution laid.  Business was afraid of the rate of failure.  Too many for too long and you get no where, except broke. If you can’t affect the rate of failure, because failure happens, then maybe something can be done with the cost of failure.  That was the method of the internet: free collaboration.  And the internet is big enough to have everything happening at once.  There is lots of room for failure, lots of room for success too.

Another point of interest is the communities on the internet.  Three are communities that are strong enough to control the programs they exist within.  There were a few examples, but they all showed one thing.  Social capital can and does exist in the internet.  It showed how members of a community see themselves as that, members.  As such, certain members can be showed a higher level of deference by others.  Inside jokes can form and bond these members.  Also, many people find themselves within these niche corners of the internet finding people they just like talking too.  These niches expand to cover the members rather than just the topic.  People come together under an idea, but they stay because of the people there.  This allowed the people to control the programs.  The community was more important than the topic.

Here comes everybody.  Everybody seems like infinity. It has a meaning, but it can’t really be conceptualized.  But once you realize all the things that exist, and all the things that people do.  You start to understand that “everybody” is a whole hell of a lot of people.