Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Being an early adopter

Blogger: July 2, 2003 (previous blog - May 5, 2002)
MySpace: December 2005 (I think) September 2004 (thanks Rachel!)
Facebook: May 2006
LinkedIn: July 2004
SecondLife: December 2005
Dogster: June 2004
Twitter: December 2006

A friend was giving me grief later today about my concentration on community (bc of this post) and calling me a commie (which is funny). He then said he knows I care about monetization, but that you cannot have monetization without community - one goes along with the other, and if you ignore community there is not going to be any monetization.

But, I explained to him what the deal is to me.

I have been blogging for four years - my anniversary was July 2, but I did not feel the need to make a big deal about it. I started blogging because a friend recommended it to me (for work); prior to that, I started blogging because I thought it was something cool to try out - and I realized that while friends always thought I had an interesting life and good stories, I found it boring.

But, I didn't start blogging originally for work, or because I thought it would make me famous - like other PR bloggers - but because it interested me.

Yes, I am a secret geek. Always have been.

I joined MySpace because a friend of mine recommended it to me, because she knows I like music and that I would find it interesting. I have - and keep it sorta active, with at least communicating and adding more friends when I find them there.

I joined Facebook because I was already playing around in the community about five months prior, checking it out with a friend's account and seeing what it was about, and formulating thoughts about it. Back then, I did not think much - and I still think there are problems - but the new applications are great, and I think the site has a lot of great potential to be bigger and bigger.

I joined LinkedIn because I thought it was a cool idea, and I was always open to new opportunities that I could find through the network. It helped a friend come damn close to a dream job, so it could work for me.

I joined SecondLife because Eric Rice was having a New Year's party, and he always talked it up to me. So, I had to check it out. I didn't check it out because I thought it was a great community to corrupt or use for PR. I joined because I thought it was something cool to use, and something cool to see, and something that could be fun if I wanted to geek out.

I joined Twitter prior to SXSW, because I read that it was Odeo's new service, and I liked Odeo enough - and love Blogger - to test it out and see what it was about.

You see a pattern? I join these sites out of an interest in them. Not because I am looking at it from a PR view point, but because I like to learn and see what is new out there, and to see what new communities are being formed. Hell, I was early to Orkut and Friendster as well, and see what did and did not work there. There are sites that I join to test out and try, and I forget that I am a member there.

But, this is about walking the walk, and being part of communities. There are tons of bloggers out there - and that's another thing, where I read blogs and watch podcasts to see what is being said, and out of interest - that like to talk about community, but unless it has to do with him/her, they could care less. And, that's what makes bad PR counsel: selfishness, and lack of caring or understanding of communities. And, that is what bothered me at the conference today - it needs to be about the community. You can't just expect people to come anymore, but you need to go where they are and want to be part of that community.

And, you know, the public is starting to see through that - that some bloggers don't really care about community, just themselves and their rankings, and that they are trying to use communities for their own personal and professional goals. You know why I go to BlogHer? Because it's a great event and great people and a wonderful community. And, it's that type of community that we are all looking at, and need to be involved with. You cannot rely on just pitching bloggers and hope for the best. You have to be part of the community - all communities - or you're going to fail.

Remember that the next time you are trying to force something over one community, or pitch bloggers. Think about it in their shoes, what that community might want, and then you will be more successful.

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Widgetcon - the emphasis is on the Con

The basic premise of Widgetcon can come to this - it's the very basic difference between New York City and San Francisco: monetization versus community.

NYC is about monetization. San Francisco is about community. Or, NY is about style and SF is about substance - either would work. And, at this conference, no one seems to care about the community. I came to this on my vacation, so just stayed for the two key panels - and walked away with the realization that while advertising and marketing (the majority of the people at the conference) are in deep in widgets, they are the last people that should be touching this space. Why? They don't communicate - they push content, and don't seem to care about community.

Consumers suck - that was the comment that was made to me when I noted that the panel was all about monetization and marketing, but not about the consumer. Yes, I hate the term consumer, but it fits best for now.

Think about it: you are a blogger (or a vidcaster or podcaster), and you are being pitched a widget. Just like any outreach, though, there needs to be a reason I should care. There needs to be a message there that makes me want to put the widget on my desktop or on my blog - but this is the missing idea at the conference. Right now, it's about marketing, monetization and measurement.

While that is important - and I know that I can be Pollyanna-ish about social media - and it is not black and white, there needs to be some concern for the audience (or users, or whatever term you want to use). These are the people that are going to use your widgets - desktop or deskbar or web-based - and there needs to be a reason why they should care. Right now, there was barely anything said about that audience, and when they were brought up, it was in the context of "measurement" and how to be "monetize".

Um, I ain't your tool to be monetized and I ain't your tool to be measured. I ain't no tool - and, well, as a PR/marketing professional, I do understand the client needs for measurement, but there is still a chance to be part of the community and work within the community to value the community.

And, that's the key - here, there seemed to be no value of the community. It's something to be monetized and used for your end-goals. Let's not forget Kantian principles - people are an end to themselves, and not a means to something else - and that is a good point to remember when working in social media. It is about community, and working with the community. Yes, the CMOs want measurement, but does social media need to change, or does marketing need to change its thinking process?

But, people keep talking about pushing out content - pushing out messages. Not about listening, but how to push out messages with widgets. What about developing widgets that people would want? In recommendations, I have suggested widgets that would be viral and people would want - and they are not necessarily client-based, but rather client-branded that ties into a message that would resonate, and is not just marketing.

Because, even if a consumer does it - works with widgets - it does not mean that it is authentic marketing or messaging. It's about that consumer and audience, because it IS about what matters for the consumers. Right now, advertising has its hold on widgets and you can tell, because it is only about pushing messages. It makes more sense for PR to push forward, as it would be about communications and two-way dialogue. And, well, I don't hear anyone talking about listening to consumers and widget users ... like me, who does use desktop and deskbar widgets, yet I can't imagine any of these people asking me what I would like to see. But maybe it is because "consumers suck" as one person joked at the conference.

And ... still waiting to hear someone talk about Facebook applications ... and waiting, and waiting. Maybe I'll just bring up the name Dave McClure, and say to read his post today. Okay, I brought up Facebook applications and waited for their answers ... and interrupted the answer to bring up the community aspect.

Update: Okay, I left the conference right before lunch, because there was no reason to stay, and I knew I would learn nothing at this keynote. But, on the way out, I was talking to a reporter and talked about the NY vs SF vibe. He then got all NY media elite on me ... which I have never had happen in all the years in PR.

He went off on NY is real money, SF has none. NY controls the world, and SF just talks about community, but had to learn community from LA and MySpace and look at that failure that was Friendster. I guess failure means outside US success means nothing ... sorry Orkut and Bebo. That community does not matter in NY - that it is all about money.

Well, that's just great. And, you know, for a long time I never bought the battle of old media versus old media - to me, it's just media. Well, this was the first time I ever saw the fear and/or jealousy of new media ... as it doesn't matter because it's not New York.

But, this is just from a kid from the middle of the country - the part that doesn't matter to NY media elite.

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