On the advice of Micheal Mullen I decided to start exploring Empire Avenue, which is currently in beta.
Essentially, Empire Avenue is an influence stock exchange married to an advertising platform. The higher your level of influence, either as a person or an organization, the more you can convert your influence into advertising opportunities and gain revenue. At first thought, this almost like turning your personal or corporate brand into a commodity not unlike a television show. Your level of influence will end up being determined by the number of viewers or consumers of your content. Whether or not you garner “prime-time” advertising dollars will depend on your level of reach.
Empire Avenue believes that this kind of connection between advertisers, consumers and influencers has not yet been realized online. In some ways, it seems like the system is valuing reputation based on the feeds you claim are your own and the number of people who view those feeds and value you on the stock exchange. An interesting concept to say the least. It commoditizes social media output.
Of course, this does not necessarily mean that your content is of any tangible value in the real world (what’s that, right?). A lot will depend on the audience in the marketplace and what “they” believe is of value and what is not of value. When the system opens up, a tech-savvy group of initial traders could help to keep the content meaningful, ala, “no Justin Bieber tweets, please.” But if the market trading influence on Empire is too tech-centric, it could end up limiting the market entirely and stunt its growth and value for advertisers.
Advertisers want to reach the most amount of people possible, therefore, they are going to want a diverse exchange – and tap into a wide array of content providers / influencers and their audiences.
It will be interesting to monitor this platform as it emerges from BETA and launches. With so many media platforms emerging and more and more people becoming media platforms in and of themselves, the importance of expanding your personal brand, maximizing your reach and interacting with others is just another professional necessity. Using the marketplace to assign a “monetary value” to your image – could be a very effective tool to solidify your professional worth.
Here comes a bit of a mea culpa (and an overdue one at that).
Back in July of last year I wrote a blog post that fed off a couple of stories circling the Internet. One was about a man who claimed to have photographed a rare Tiger in China, which was proven to be false. The other story was about a tribe in Brazil that many media outlets identified as either being lost or just recently discovered, only to report later that they were never lost and the story was a hoax perpetuated by a non-profit organization.
In going back and reading my old blog post, I realize that at the time I was a bit harsh on Survival International. Although I did correctly identify that they never claimed the tribe was lost (see “Uncontacted tribe photographed near Brazil-Peru border”) and used the word “uncontacted”, I stated that they should assume the “most blame for the characterization of the story and also its fall-out.” (see “Social media spurs accountability, transparency and yes, honesty”)
Well, to be fair to Survival International – they did report the story and facts accurately. They certainly never intended to mislead anyone. Ultimately, it was a flock of journalists, starting with Peter Beaumont of the Guardian (UK) who spread the “‘lost’ tribe that wasn’t” story, which Survival International did its utmost to quash and set straight.
The point of all this is – I do owe the folks at Survival International an apology for not more properly identifying the media misrepresentation, which was the real problem. I also owe a special note of thanks to Matthew Linares, a web activist who first contacted me and has patiently awaited this blog post.
At the end of the day I need to be more careful about how I interpret events or statements. What’s more, I have learned I need to be more responsive – or just as quick to correct facts in error as I was to make the error in the first place.
A colleague of mine forwarded an article by Mike Bloxham from the MEDIA Post blog, entitled “At a TV Screen Near you: Facebook and Twitter”. In this article, Bloxham refers to social media as having a “benignly parasitical relationship with TV” and that this relationship was somehow benefiting social networking sites.
This irks me a little bit.
There is no doubt that more and more people on television are talking about social media. TV and radio broadcasters, as well as the rapidly decaying newspaper industry are all experimenting with Twitter, social networks, blogs and other forms of technology, and reporters are talking about the growth of online media and social networks. But they are not doing this because social media is the parasite (benign, aggressive or otherwise). That would not make much sense.
Is TV responsible for social media’s growth?
The truth of the matter is that social media has grown in popularity, because the number of people who use the Internet is on the rise. Broadband expansion into households all across the country and the world (see eMarketer) has made online interactivity, including photo and video sharing, easier. The more people online, communicating and sharing information, the faster social media gains in popularity.
I mean, let’s face it, you do not see commercials for Twitter sandwiched in between advertisements for diet soda and cars on your television screen, do you? Social media knows what it is about, and mass media is not its shtick.
Now, that is not to say that some people watching CNN, and seeing Wolf Blitzer read comments posted on Twitter to his cable tv audience, would not get curious about microblogging, fire up their computer and check it out. Could a bunch of people in the 40 and older crowd be responding to this trend through their television? I suppose anything is possible. However, when you think about the typical television viewer in higher age brackets, you realize that these people are the exception – they are not the norm.
TV = The real parasite
It is my belief that TV, not social media, is the parasite here. Wolf may be mentioning Twitter during the broadcast, but he is doing that to try and get people who use Twitter to watch his program. Wolf and CNN are trying to stay relevant by doing what television broadcasters always try to do – appeal to the masses. Only, they are doing it in a way that is uncharacteristic of television – engagement.
How we are changing is what drives changes to media
Plain and simple, TV is a passive medium, whereas the Net is active. When you think about engagement – television is not what springs to mind. There is a reason why we invented terms around tv viewing such as “couch-potatoes” and the “boob-tube”. But television is changing, in large part, because its audience is changing. This is where people who analyze the future of the television industry need to look if they want a clear picture.
Look at how society exists today and where it is going. In doing so, I am speaking in terms of how our generations are impacted by technology. What we’re seeing is a transitional period for television, for sure. But to pose the questions that Bloxham offers, “How will Facebook and Twitter manifest themselves on TV” and “Will CNN still use Facebook or will it develop its own means of going it alone” really misses the point of what the post-digital age is going to be like.
Think about it this way… On the one hand you have a generation that grew up in an industrial age – mass production, large institutions, standardization, etc (see Toffler). Now you have a new generation that does not respond to that structure. It’s built on demassification, individualism and customization. Television, at its core, is designed to push content to the masses, and it is not designed for telling stories and disseminating information… at least, not like the Net…
TV is more geared towards one-size-fits-all model that is perfect for mass advertising. TV is a classic product of industrial age technology.
The Net, meanwhile, is faster, easier to develop programming for and more customizable. The Internet is what has brought about the digital age, including the values, culture and mindset of the people living in its wake.
And as the Gen Xers get older and the Net Generation gets older, fewer and fewer people will turn to TV.
More channels = more niche programming = the demise of television
The systematic expansion of niche programming in television is part of the transition we are seeing, but it is in the early stages. CNN might exist in 20 years, but I would not count on it. Would you watch the kind of programming that appears on CNN now, if instead you could access reports on your own from citizen journalists you trust and have relationships with?
Social media connects people and builds relationships in a truly global sense. Within the next 10 years, people will start tapping into their global connections to access news from all over the world and use their computer systems to tailor news feeds, special interest stories, sports and entertainment. Your mobile device will be a key driver in all of this and your home entertainment system will be computer driven.
My bold prediction
So, what does this mean for the future? Well, for starters, we are not going to be watching TV in 20 years. What purpose will television have if my friend, Meena, who lives in India and used to work for the BBC sends me a message about a car bombing? She is live and on the scene and ready to file her report. And since I know Meena, I am not worried that she is conveying some network or hidden bias. I know her bias, because I know her and… most importantly… I have a relationship with her and trust her. TV no longer has that.
The bottom line is this… to think that TV will play an important role in maximizing Web 2.0 brands is just ridiculous. When you look at how technology is shaping the emerging generations, it is pretty clear… Web 3.0 and 4.0 will eat TV up and drive it to extinction.
It took a man just 150 helium balloons and lawn chair to become an instant sensation. The man I’m speaking about is Kent Couch, who pulled together the makeshift airship in an attempt to go from Bend, Oregon to Idaho.
(AP Photo/Jeff Barnard)
On the surface, this may seem like hardly the right imagery to describe using social media for innovation, but in a way its not.
Couch is an adventurer, and willing to suspend conventional thought to try something a bit off the wall. At its essence, those are the qualities that get us all looking at the world with less routine and dreaming big.
Now, this may sound crazy, but think of Couch’s idea and how there may be parallels to your business – its marketing initiatives or product development. What did Couch do to get his balloon-lawn-chair to take off?
Well, we can speculate that he had the desire to do something different, and thought up the idea to travel by balloon in his lawn chair. Next, he probably evaluated how many balloons it would take to get him airborne, based on his weight and the weight of the chair, etc. After that, he figured out what was realistic in terms of how far he should expect to go with the craft he built. Finally, he set out to build, test, and launch his idea.
All in all, a pretty familiar process to many of us, right?
In fact, Couch is said to be equipped with a BB gun and a blowgun to pop balloons should his altitude get too high and 15 barrels of cherry Kool-Aid to release if he gets too low to the ground. So, for fun, we can round off this example and say that both those things, the BB gun and the Kool-Aid, represent customer response – designed to bring him down to earth when things get out of hand and to give him a boost of steam upward with ideas fueling innovation and growth.
When it comes to developing innovative uses of social media, we all need to think a little bit differently to solve conventional challenges. Social media is all about connection and communication with other people. The growth of social networks, interactive platforms, and technology that links people together has been phenomenal, and continues to move at a fast pace. This means there are no bad ideas, or unworthy experiments, because what seemed to be impractical or impossible one day could be the opposite tomorrow.
In yet another series of examples from the real world, we’re reminded of the power of social media and people to not only expose fraud, but also demand accountability.
Larissa Fair of Livingston Communications tweeted on an AP story that appear on CNN.com (Faked tiger photo sparks Web furor) recently about the use of a fake tiger in what appeared by the Chinese online community to be another example of the government ignoring common sense and using false images and lies in their never-ending propaganda campaign.
The story is a simple example of fraud. A poor farmer, responding to a contest, used a poster of a tiger and placed it in various angels in the forest. Using a digital camera, the farmer created the appearance that there was, indeed, a tiger in the woods. However, the shininess of the image and the fact that tiger never changed its pose or position, despite being photographed from multiple directions, immediately fueled speculation of a fraud.
The government, however, thought they had a propaganda coup on their hands. Instead of investigating the possibility of a fraud and the growing skepticism online, the local / regional Chinese government used the image’s popularity to promote tourism to an economically depressed area. When the challenges to the image’s authenticity grew, the government did not back down – remaining resolute in its affirmation. Ultimately, the pictures were so wildly recognized as a fraud, that government had no choice but to admit as much.
But the damage had been done.
The result of a poor farmer’s desire to make money from a government-run contest for photographs that showed proof of the rare animal’s existence, and the government’s effort to allegedly boost tourism to an impoverished part of the country with a story of a rare tiger sighting, only furthered the mistrust many of China’s citizens have for their government.
In a country where the disparity in wealth from those who live in rural regions compared to the cities is substantial, citizens were fairly forgiving of the farmer, who the government later punished for fraud. However, they were less forgiving of the government which failed to hear protests or assertions from the online community that the photo was faked, and later refused to accept real responsibility for the spread of the photo – only offering a meek acknowledgment that the photo was not genuine.
When a tribe and ethics are LOST
Another example occurred with the now infamous “lost tribe” photographed a few months ago. The media picked up on the photographs, and reporters identified the tribe as being undiscovered and not having interacted with people outside of their tribe.
(Gleison Miranda, Funai /AP Photo)
After some investigation by The Guardian, the photographer revealed that the tribe was not lost, but indeed had been known for over two decades. His efforts to demonstrate their presence was an attempt to force “Peru to re-examine its logging policy in the border area where the tribe lives.” The pictures were taken, he had said, to help draw attention to them and discourage development that may poach on tribal territory.
Many media outlets were hesitant to identify what many were considering a hoax and issue a retraction. So much publicity had been made of the discovery – some news outlets were fearful of admitting to having been duped.
After the Guardian story came out and more media began to call the discovery a hoax, the organization that employed the photographer, Survival International, protested the Guardian’s characterization of the tribe being “lost”. According to a piece on ABC.com, Survival International’s director Stephen Corry said in response that “The [Guardian] article claims to ‘reveal’ that the tribe photographed was neither ‘lost’ nor ‘unknown.’ The reality is that neither Survival nor the Brazilian government claimed they were.”
So, who is REALLY at fault here?
The mass media is at fault for not fully vetting the story, but at the end of the day, Survival International bares the most blame for the characterization of the story and also its fall-out. Just because Survival International never said the tribe was “lost”, full disclosure in a discovery of that nature is paramount. Making a more detailed disclosure after release of the news created the appearance that the organization, much like the Chinese farmer and the government, had perpetuated a fraud. Parsing a few words and being “technically” correct, however subtly, is not a valid excuse anymore.
What do both examples teach us?
What I found interesting about both stories is that they remind us how fast information can travel on the internet, and how important listening to your audience and taking responsibility can be.
While the Chinese government claims to have learned from the situation, the only real lesson is that command and control does not work when people have access to the internet and social media tools. As much as the government works to suppress communication, it continues to fight a losing battle and in the process, alienates itself from its citizens prompting revolt both virtually and in reality (one wonders why the US does not employ the same strategy with Cuba, but that’s a blog post for another day).
Survival International had a strong opportunity to draw attention to its core mission, but failed by not providing enough information and making sure media outlets received the full story. At the end of the day, a fascinating discovery and the plight of indigenous tribes in the Amazon was overshadowed by weather or not Survival International and its photographer had misled the world.
Last Friday, June 13th (yes, Friday the 13th), I ventured to Blog Potomac, where Geoff Livingston and his team at Livingston Communications, the folks at Viget Labs, WordBiz.com, Inc., and others put together a premiere social media marketing event for the greater Washington DC area at the State Theater in Falls Church, VA.
First of all, I should probably change the title of this blog entry to read “DC Marketing and Communications Professionals Gather for Blog Potomac”. When asked who was in marketing, communications or PR, close to 200 hands went up, prompting the emcee, Josh Hallett, to say, “Holy shit!”
But true to its form, Blog Potomac was exactly what marketing and communications professionals needed – a solid event geared around social media.
THE STARTING POINT
One topic discussed over and over again during Blog Potomac was about starting a blog at the corporate level. For anyone who has tried to get their company more engaged in using social media, writing a blog has been the logical starting point. With bloggers permeating mass media and popular culture, the chances your corporate executives have heard about and even read a blog or two is pretty high. Whereas, going to the CEO or division head about initiating a company Twitter account might get a more skeptical response.
Before your blog initiative gets underway, there are some important factors you need to take into account, which the speakers discussed during Blog Potomac.
ONCE YOU ARE ROLLING
Assuming you have built an initial strategy, have your team assembled and everyone is ready, willing and able to contribute (no small task in itself), another critical component is measurement.
If your organization is remotely skeptical about the value of blogging, being able to identify some return is going to be critical to continued support and future development. To that end, no one’s presentation was more anticipated than KD Paine’s talk on measurement and value.
One of the most important things Paine discussed was how measurement to many marketing and communications professionals is equated with monitoring. Paine noted that “measurement says, I’ve done something over here… I’ve started to listen and as a result something over here is happening…” Marketers certainly monitor web traffic, PPC advertising campaigns, and the like, but the key is not watching results as much as it is measuring how something has happened based on some other action that took place earlier – and evaluating those results against the goals you have set.
It all starts, according to Paine, with identifying what return you want from your marketing initiatives, what investment you want to put in, and start with some kind of benchmark for evaluating your success.
An important point Paine stressed in this context was that you “cannot measure via eyeballs.”
Measuring the amount of eyeballs, Paine said, was one of the most common mistakes people make. For example, if you developed a website or launched a widget and measured strictly on eyeballs, what are you gaining? In business, eyeballs are never the most important factor; leads and business opportunities are. Items such as downloads of a white paper, purchases of a publication or software solution, clicks on advertising, and the like are all specific results stemming from goals your team sets. At the end of the day, it all comes down identifying your goals and then measuring based on that criteria.
KD Paine’s points were all about getting back to what you and your business / organization want to do, and making sure you are keeping track and measure the right things.
Some questions for consideration along this line are:
Lastly, Kami Huse, MyPrPro, gave a very solid presentation on blogging ethics. As with many of the presenters, Kami was quick to point out that “blogging is not a sales channel. It’s a conversation channel.” If you treat your blog as just another sales tool, you are going to miss the point of blogging altogether.
Kami included a number of examples in her presentation, but the main take away, from my perspective, is that when managing a blog you need to stay away from manufacturing things (ie, fake outrage or a fake persona or online identity), and stick to building an honest identity and honest relationships.
If we accept that social media, and blogging as a subset of that, are about building relationships online, trust is such an important factor. Misleading people online is deadly, because it can destroy your company’s credibility in ways you cannot calculate. Huse suggested that we become anthropologists of social media – in the sense that we study the culture of the communities we are participating in, so we know what is acceptable online behavior and what is not acceptable. The same holds true of the standards you create for your own company and its blog initiative.
As with any one-day conference or un-conference, a lot of material tends to get rolled into the various presentations, experiments take place with speakers, topics, and formats, and challenges occur (the lack of wireless was the only real frustrating element). But as this was the inaugural Blog Potomac event, it was an exciting start to what I, and many others in the DC region hope will be an annual event for many years to come.
Though the focus was overwhelmingly on blogging, everyone recognizes that there is more to social media than just a blog. However, taking that first step in using social media for your company or organization is not easy, and blogging can represent the easiest way to step forward. In that regard, Blog Potomac accomplished a valuable service – stressing the fundamentals marketing and communications professionals all need to consider.
The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) 2008 Show is now in full swing, stacked with an agenda that is heavy on digital technology, video, social media and the latest product innovations. But those are not the only things going on this year at NAB worth noting.
In an effort to expand its marketing reach, not only does NAB have a very active Show Blog up and running, but they also have a NAB Twitter feed that you can subscribe to. Whether you are at the show or not, these are great ways to stay informed about what is being discussed on the show floor and in the sessions. Since the 2008 Show takes over the entire Las Vegas Convention Center, and is expected to draw over 102,000 people – it’s safe to say that you can’t be every where you want to be. Using these tools should help keep you informed and improve your overall experience.
Another way to maximize your time at NAB is to get some insider knowledge. In fact, last week, I helped organize a Webinar that provided an “Insider’s” view of this year’s show, including perspectives from Chris Brown, NAB’s Executive VP of Conventions and Business Operations, Peggy Miles, President of Intervox, and also Gary Arlen, President of Arlen Communications and author of many books on digital media. Even though the Show is currently underway, I highly recommend you take a few moments when you have some down-time to view the Webinar and see what our expert panel recommends (http://www.bia.com/webinars). Of course, exactly how much down-time you will end up having in Las Vegas is probably pretty minimal, but it is worth a shot, right?
The other idea (and less time consuming) is that you can refer to Rick Ducey’s blog entry at BIA’s blog, Perspectives (click here to read). Rick is not only the Chief Strategy Officer for BIA, but he also has been named an official NAB Show blogger. In his post, Rick outlines his Top 5 things to get out of NAB.
Lastly, BIA has it’s own Twitter feed that allows you to receive updates from NAB, Peggy Miles, and BIA’s Rick Ducey, Mark O’Brien and Ed Czarnecki – all of whom are tweeting and blogging from the Show. The feed can be pulled into an RSS reader, if you want. The main url is: http://twitter.com/BIAfn.
I’ll post more about the Show as word trickles back to me. However, given the rapidly changing environment of the broadcast media industry, NAB is certainly stepping up and using social networks to its marketing advantage.