Use Of Twitter (Or Any Social Platform) Is Not Black And White

12 comments Use Of Twitter (Or Any Social Platform) Is Not Black And White

Mathew Ingram at GigaOm recently (re) shared some data from PEW Research Center, and added his own commentary on how media companies are still “doing it wrong” on Twitter.

While I agree with the premise that many brands of media could improve their use of Twitter, I don’t actually think there is a “right” or “wrong” way to use it. Or any social platform for that matter.

Let’s go through a few of Mathew’s comments:

Unfortunately, it also shows that the main thing most (media outlets) do with those accounts — and the main thing most of their reporters also do — is simply broadcast links to their own content all day long.

…I suspect this is because most media outlets have simply plugged an RSS feed or other automated process into their branded Twitter account, pumping links out and hoping to drive traffic to those stories.

Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with this. This report is only looking at data from a few major news outlets, but in fact many new, socially sophisticated media companies are using Twitter like this.

As an example readers here are familiar with, check out Techdirt on Twitter. Their brand account is basically a feed of content. Techdirt focuses their effort at the source and is interested in growing their community in a way that is platform agnostic. By doing this, they have nurtured an extremely active community across the web. Not just Twitter – their stories frequently receive in the 100+ range of on-site comments, break the hot threshold on sites like Reddit and Stumble and are mentioned / linked consistently at any given time by Twitter users as well.

The point? Your brand of media absolutely can use Twitter as a feed if you have a holistic digital strategy and provide a legitimate reason for users to join the community. If your source content and the people producing it are definitive leaders in your category and providing value, that value is and appreciated / reciprocated by an activated web community. For some approaches, Twitter might just be another path in to your community as a feed.

But one of the biggest flaws in the behavior that the Pew report describes doesn’t have anything to do with links: it’s the fact that none of these major news outlets are using Twitter to ask their readers or viewers for help with news stories, or for their opinions about something the organization has done.

I agree with Mathew, in an ideal world a brand would both listen and respond / solicit feedback across platforms. But there are many ways to ask your community to input on stories. My main problem with this comment is it is purely about Twitter. And the social web is more than Twitter – what about Facebook, Reddit, blogs, etc? It’s just one (albeit powerful) channel in a mix of many.

But apart from the other factors that hold many outlets and individual journalists back when it comes to engaging with readers through social media — fear, a lack of time, a lack of knowledge about the benefits, etc. — some organizations have only themselves to blame, because their blinkered social-media policies handcuff most of their staff by preventing them from acting like human beings…

This last comment is spot on. Media professionals need to be set free and empowered to thread, research and connect in public on the social web. Unfortunately this seems to be the exception, not the norm. The recent story of Men’s Health editor Larry Carlat being given the ultimatum between keeping his job or deleting his Twitter account is just the latest example of a generation of media who cling to the past.

But overall, I don’t agree that there are hard and fast rules to how you should use other people’s platforms. Each brand should flesh out a digital strategy at the macro level, then translate it into use of other networks. It might involve engagement in social outposts such as Twitter, but it might not (pending resources, goals, etc). The answer, as it always is in a changing media landscape, is ‘it depends.’

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Platform Agnostic Is Still The Smartest Web Strategy

With the launch of Google+ pages for businesses I can tell many brands (and marketing professionals) had the same reaction: seriously, another channel to manage?

If you had that reaction too, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re doing online marketing wrong.

On the other hand, brands with a solid digital strategy and marketing professionals fluent in the web didn’t bat an eye. And not just because the savvy among us embrace change. Instead of worrying or getting flustered, we calmly integrated another social outpost into our workflow of content on the web.

Any of you reading this able to execute the above were in such a position because your approach to online marketing is to be platform agnostic. You don’t rely on any single network, search engine, ad campaign, email list or other organic (or even paid) asset for attention. Rather, smartly, the mix you rely on for awareness is distributed.

If, through the changing tides of user preference you continued to self-publish, you kept accruing equity. And that equity wasn’t denigrated through the creation of new platforms, rather your brand was made more valuable. Use new platforms to grow community, but don’t neglect your most valuable asset: an owned presence which plugs in to the rest of the web.

Independent publishers remain beacons of signal in a changing landscape, and the social web is still very much a problem in search of a solution. Publishers who are positioned as a solution and have an activated community continue to win in a world where no single network, web service or technology has a monopoly on attention.

The notion that every company is a media company remains an accurate mindset for how brands should be telling their story and building opt-in audiences. And if you pay attention to how the most successful media companies approach the web it’s simple: to focus opt-in at the source by integrating emerging platforms, using them as micro communities and ultimately leading back to a hub.

The future will continue to bring additional networks, ways of sharing content / connecting and new corporately owned and independent tools, channels and services. This shouldn’t worry you, it should excite you.

Your long-term path for digital success is simple: don’t be lured into banking all your equity in someone else’s platform. Continue to embrace a platform agnostic approach, and thrive.

image credit: Shutterstock


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Anil Dash has an unmissable post titled: Facebook is gaslighting the web. We can fix it. Indeed, if this description of Facebook’s latest actions is accurate, it should be cause for concern among all web content producers.

After all, Gaslighting, according to Wikipedia (emphasis mine):

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making a victim doubt his or her own memory and perception. It may simply be the denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, or it could be the staging of bizarre events by the abuser with the intention of disorienting the victim

The term “gaslighting” comes from the playGas Light and its film adaptations. In those works a character uses a variety of tricks, including turning the gas lamps lower than normal, to convince his spouse that she is crazy. Since then it became a colloquial expression which has now also been used in clinical and research literature.

 …gaslighting can be ‘a very complex, highly structured configuration which encompasses contributions from many elements of the psychic apparatus’.

The trends Anil presents about Facebook are clear. I invite you to read the whole post linked in the first paragraph, but the one which irks me the most has to be when you’re in Facebook, click an external link and are presented with a dialog box like similar to the following:

To quote Anil’s comment about this:

What’s remarkable about this warning message is not merely that an ordinary, simple web content page is being presented as a danger to a user. No, it’s far worse:

Facebook is warning its users about the safety of a page which incorporates Facebook’s own commenting features, meaning even web sites that embrace Facebook’s technologies can be marginalizedFacebook is displaying this warning despite the fact that Facebook’s own systems have indexed the page and found that it incorporates their own Open Graph information.

With this action, Facebook is basically saying: Facebook = safe, the rest of the web = dangerous.

The hypocrisy is stunning considering previous data has shown Facebook attracts more phishing attacks than Google and the IRS and it is a regular story that Facebook has been hacked /spammed.

Can you imagine if every web service, content producer or email client presented you with such warnings before clicking links? You wouldn’t stand for it. But in Facebook you do, because to leave Facebook is for many to remove themselves from all their social connections.

Content producers need to stand up for themselves. Facebook’s actions communicate very clearly how they view its users: as clueless and defenseless. Although, as users are Facebook’s product, not its customer, this may not be far from the truth.

It’s not so much Facebook treating its users as cattle that bothers me. It’s more the fact that Facebook is conditioning the average user to view their network as a safe-haven and the rest of the web as a “dangerous” and “scary” place. It’s not only false, it’s harmful (and hostile) to the rest of the digital ecosystem, made up of many who openly market Facebook and their products.

My request to Facebook: work with the open web, don’t demonize it. We already have let you underneath the fabric of our sites, why make us your enemy?


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