The company’s social graph – and how to benefit from it


I had a inspiring session during the Sweden Social Web Camp (SSWC) at Tjärö a few weeks ago. We were ca 50 social media evangelists that did discuss what ever a company has a social graph or not? And if it does exist; how does it look like, and how can the company use it?

At least my conclusion was that I don’t think the company itself nor the brand itself has a social graph. Because a brand is not a human being. Anyone may be connected to, and even have relations with brands but not social relations. Because you got to be human to socialize. But your brand is a social object and your products as well. Because people are talking about them. Some are more engaged than others, and some more angry than others. But people are sharing their thoughts about your brand. And I guess the sum of these people, that have your company (and/or your brand) as a social object, are the same thing as the company’s social graph, or at least the sum of the parts of their social graphs that are related or relevant to the company and/or their brand. We’re talking about the company’s employees, customers, stakeholders, and others.

Further on – if that’s the case – I do think the company can use and cultivate that kind of a social graph – with an extreme outcome. I’ll tell you why and how further down in this post. But first – let’s take it from the beginning:

We’re all human beings, right? We’re people. And people are social. We group ourselves into social networks, and talking to each other about different kind of social objects, and engage ourselves in communities.

It doesn’t matter if we’re consumers, suppliers, communicators or journalists. We all got to understand how we socialize, which is “the process of inheriting and disseminating norms, customs and ideologies through conversations, behaviors, practices, rituals and education”…. that “provide the individual with the skills and habits necessary for participating within their own society”.

A network is just elements connected to each other. But social network is individuals connected to each other.

And the Social Object is “the node” in these social networks. The Social Object is the reason why two people are talking to each other, as opposed to talking to somebody else.

And a group of individuals that have these social objects in common and share these interests with each other – are members of a community. Everyone on this planet is a member of a community, I guess?

Then Mark Zuckerberg took a part of this social environment to the web, and more or less invented the term “Social Graph” which describes the relationships between individuals online. Frankly it’s the global mapping of everybody and how they’re related.

My experiences are that companies and their marketing staff intellectually do understand the situation, and are in some sort of consideration phase, but that they are truly stressed about this “social graph” and the relationship-humbo-jumbo talk.

But if we do agree that “the sum of the people, that have your company (and/or your brand) as a social object, are the same thing as the company’s social graph, or at least the sum of the parts of their social graphs that are related or relevant to the company and/or their brand”. Then it wouldn’t be to hard for the company to benefit from this social environment. Let me give you a few examples what you as a communicator can do:

  1. Identify who’s connected to your brand.
  2. Find out if your brand is a social object (with sub subjects), and if that might have resulted in different kind of communities.
  3. Find out how these communities look like.
    1. Who are members.
    2. What exactly are they talking about.
  4. Become a member by yourself and serve the other members in these communities.
  5. Inspire those who are only connected to your brand but not talking about it, to become members and engage, the company’s employees in particular.
  6. Help these communities to grow and flourish as a whole.

I think for an example these guys (and organizations) might be connected to your brand, among many others:

  • Employees (and former employees)
  • Members of the Board
  • Owners
  • Customers (and former customers)
  • Supppliers
  • Retailers
  • Partners
  • Industry spokesmen and thought leaders
  • Industry colleagues
  • Competitors
  • Ambassadors
  • Journalists

They know your company. And they are all connected. And they all are important to you. But that doesn’t mean they are talking to each other nor with you or your staff about your brand. They might only be connected. They might be connected to your brand and talking to each other about it, but not with you and your staff. They might be connected to your brand, yourself and your staff as well, but not talking about it with anyone. Or they might be both connected to your brand, yourself and your staff, and talking about it with everyone.

These ones who are talking about your brand, have for sure different kind of needs and wants. And they probably talking about that specific angle of your brand in different kind of forum, in different sub communities.

No matter what group they belong, they all can be a member of these communities that talking about your brand.

Can your company own a such communities? Probably not. You can’t own a social object. You can’t even own your brand as a social object. They all are parts of the social environment!

But you can help an existing community to grow and flourish. Especially the ones who are connected to your brand.

You can be a proud member of the existing ones. You can invite other peoples to the existing ones. You can also set up “your own” (another) forum for an existing community to help it grow. And you can call that “your community” if you like. Just because that’s the community you’re involved in, or created a new forum for (as the owner / administrator).

But a community is boundless. Some of the members can easily pop up somewhere else, and the rest of the members will follow.

If you’re interested in this topic, please read “Your company has a social graph” as well.

Excel doomed as media relations manager tool


Social networking seems to be the best way to find, get in touch, and communicate with your buddies, no doubt about that. 750 million active users on Facebook, and recently a huge investment from Google to win the network battle, says something about that. Millions of discussion forums of all kind. People are truly connected to each other of thousands of reasons. And communities make perfectly sense for millions of people in millions of contexts. Not least professional. PR in particular. Communicators flock to networks, craving for likes and followers. Journalists as well. To meet their audience.

But what’s happening in the business of media relations in this amazing era of communication? Not much! An excel sheet seems to be the main tool for communicators, and journalists refer to their overloaded inboxes.

I had a great meeting with a PR communicator a few weeks ago. We were discussing the best way for her to find and organize her contacts. And not least get in touch and exchange experiences with them.
My prejudices became incorporated. She was working with an excel sheet. And as far as I’ve understood it is more of a rule than an exception. A wild guess says that 8 out of 10 of PR communicators are doing so.

Not the best media relations manager tool in the world - but the most common?

 

I recently run into a post on “The DIY PR blog – handle your own PR” which began with the sentence: “When you are doing your own PR it’s very important to have a system in place to track all of your pitching outreach efforts.” One of these “systems” was:

“Excel spreadsheet – Start an Excel spreadsheet media list to track all of your outreach efforts. You can have different tabs for each type of outlet – one for magazines, one for websites, one of local/regional media, etc. You could even set one up for editorial calendar postings that you find. Be sure to include the outlet, name, email, phone and any other relevant notes. Every time you communicate with someone make note of it in the “notes” column. Then, once a week or once a month (depending on timing of the outlet and your follow-up needs), go through each tab to be sure you are staying on top of it all.

The communicator I met said to me that’s exactly how she was dealing with media relations.

She said to me that she knew the most important journalists, and what they’re covering and writing about. She’s finding her contacts out of basic research of media. She’s making notes about their needs and wants in her sheet, and based on that she’s sharing her stories by phone and e-mail.

She said:
“As a matter of fact media relations isn’t much different from your personal relations; you’re trying to find out who you’d like to play with, and then start contribute with your life experiences based on what you’ve learned they and you have in common; your social objects.”

I said:
“Yeah, I agree, but you don’t organize your personal contacts in an excel sheet, right?

She started to laugh and said:
“Oh no… Facebook is taking care of that.”

We both realize that Excel isn’t primarily a communication tool. Not even assisted with an e-mail client.

So what would be the best place for communicators to keep and organize their most influential contacts like journalists etc? And vice versa.

Newswires like Cision? It says to be “the world’s largest database of media contacts with all of the information you need to uncover the influencers that matter”. Sounds great but the journalists (so called “target group”) are not engaged. Cision is not an engagement platform. It might even be a spam tool if used indiscriminately.
Facebook? Well, communicators (on behalf of their companies) might have a page and/or a group to meet and discuss with their audience (end customers, etc), but when it comes to media relations, they sometimes would like an exclusive exchange with one or a few of their journalist contacts. LinkedIn? Oh yes, that’s a great professional network. But hard to share content, and still linked to you personally.
Salesforce? It’s not a network on both terms, right? Hard to get a proper community with mutual exchange.
Google+? Maybe – we don’t know yet. Easy to synchronize with your G-mail contacts and create different circles of important people. But the communication is still widely open, and not content driven as the communicator often wants it to be.

And so on…

None of these and others seems to completely fit the communicators and journalists needs and wants when int comes to media relations?

What would you say about a network for journalists and communicators to exchange info and experiences with each other on both terms? I’m talking about a service that allows communicators to find their most influential people on the web, add them to their contacts lists, invite them to a network where they can organize them and communicate with them exclusively. Not least – a tool that allows journalists to find, follow, and send requests to their sources? A network based on the community that has been existing for many years, but still have great potential to flourish with new web service technologies.

How do your media relations look like, when it comes to find, organize and communicate with your contacts?

Please – feel free to respond to some questions in this survey. It just take a minute of your time, and I will send you the summary later on.

Before you plan to start a community – think twice.


Funny. Or tragic? It happens all the time. Still. People is asking me to explain for them how to build a community.
Guess what? I use to answer like Mark Zuckerberg did when Rupert Murdoch asked: “How can we build such a great community like Facebook?” And Mark said: “You can’t.”

Ever since I’ve been inspired of Marks remarkable statements (and of course his work in particular). And in this case – he’s spot on. Of course you can’t.

Yesterday I got following mail from a friend – a smart guy that I do respect a lot:

“Hello!
Hope you’re doing well. I wonder if you can point me “right direction”.
I’m looking for a white paper, or person who can explain “how to think” of Facebook as a community. It’s simply about an idea involving XXX (which has a fairly significant facebook presence) and a twist on the community that I intend to try to YYY.
Any thoughts / ideas?”

I did answer:

“Hmm … sounds a bit vague to me. And I’m not sure what you mean, but I do believe that a “community” has nothing to do with the platform. A community is people who share a common cause. Who’s interested in or otherwise engaged in a common subject. Facebook is only a platform that might get communities to germinate and grow. Certainly a damn good platform. Try to catch and understand the engagement first.”

And after I’ve sent the reply, I was reminded of the blog post “Who owns community?” by Nick Tadd, that I read a year ago. I found it, and where he wrote among others things:

“You see, what I have learned from founding the Property Tribes forum, is that you cannot build a community.  Why?  Because it’s already there – you can’t build anything that was not yours in the first place. What you can do, however, is provide a platform and facilitate people using the site to have an enjoyable and rewarding experience. You can help them feel connected, you can help them feel valued, you can help them learn, you can help them feel that they “belong”, you can provide a space where they feel comfortable and among friends. Then let them run with it.  Let them make the community what they want it to be, not what you want it to be.”

He concludes his post with an conclusion:

“You cannot buy community and you cannot sell community.  If you are creating all the content yourself, and asking people to subscribe to that content, then that is a completely different business model and will not create community.  It’s also very hard work and time-consuming.”

And give us a few tips how to help people to organize themselves:

  1. Engage.
  2. Contribute.
  3. Pay attention.
  4. Let the community know they are valued.
  5. Connect people to each other.
  6. It’s about them, not you.
  7. Share.
  8. Don’t try and compete with your members.
  9. Be social.
  10. Be a friend.  Care.
  11. Don’t police or “moderate” the forum unless absolutely necessary.  The community will do that in their own way.
  12. Facilitate trust within the community.
  13. Understand that a community cannot be all things to all people.
  14. Celebrate the heroes in the community.
  15. Try and lead by example.
  16. Show respect.
  17. Believe in,  and encourage,  the wisdom of crowds.
  18. Enjoy it.
  19. Never stop trying to make it a better place for a community to organise itself – what ever your niche

So before you plan to start a community – think twice.

Facebook vs Twitter as journalistic tool?


Since I wrote the posting below partly about the brand new Facebook page “Journalists on facebook” and finished that part with the sentence: “I’m pretty sure that many journalist now will take the oppertunity to use this possiblity, to get more out of their daily work.” There’s been a lot of buzz regarding Facebook vs Twitter as a journalistic tool.

Justin Osofsky, Director of Media Partnerships at Facebook, says that the page has been created: “to serve as an ongoing resource for the growing number of reporters using Facebook to find sources, interact with readers, and advance stories. And that “the Page will provide journalists with best practices for integrating the latest Facebook products with their work and connecting with the Facebook audience of more than 500 million people.

I believe he’s spot on, but… I do respect the critics. Among other I got an e-mail from Daniel at Newsy.com who recommended me to see the video about the topic Facebook vs Twitter as a journalist tool.

The news anchor Jim Flink at Newsy, says:
“So, could Facebook challenge Twitter in the battle for reporters’ hearts? One blogger says – probably not:
“Twitter allows you to order the account you follow into lists so you can have all the information about one subject on the same feed while Facebook imposes on you the feed of every journalists you will follow, no matter the subject they are working on or they are specialized in.”

Gigom’s Mathew Ingram suggests the company might have to alter its image a bit to make this work.
“…many users still likely think of Facebook as a place to socialize rather than be informed — a place to play games … not necessarily a place where journalists are active. Those things may not be mutually exclusive, but it’s going to take some work to make them feel like they belong together.”

I do agree. But my point of view is that both services has some left to prove to be kick ass tools for journalists, and their audience in particular.

I would say that the biggest headache right now for both this services, within this matter, is that most people has only one newsstream (or wall) for all their interests, topics, networks, etc (discussion in groups excluded). And most of the people is as a matter of fact interested in several topics and member of many communities. Do you really want the latest news from the revolution in Egypt on the same wall as where my cousins birthday party shows up? I don’t. And these lists feature is too… time-consuming. The same applies for Twitter. Ranking system, like Facebook Edgerank, might make the updates more relevant, but doesn’t solve this problem.

Personally, I love my Google RSS Reader with an extensive but careful selection of sources (social networks included)  in combination with Flipboard.

B t w – what happened to the service “LinkedIn for Journalists”? What I can see is pretty much no more… Or it ended up as a tiny group.  And LinkedIn Today…? Well – we won’t start our days with that kind of news aggregator, do we?

To be continued.

First radio reporter using iPhone as primary field recorder


Journalism has truly turned up side down. And I think that’s just great. I just ran into a few great examples of that:

First of all check out the WTOP reporter Neal Augenstein, who has replaced his heavy radio equipment on an iPhone. He’s writing about this interesting change in MediaShift. And it’s truly inspiring. In particular for those who want to go out on the field to cover, create, and distribute remarkable stories direct to their audience. It hasn’t been easier than now.

Neal describes himself in his Twitter bio as follows:
“Believe I’m first major market radio reporter using iPhone as primary field recorder.”

And he says:
“Now, with the Apple iPhone 4 and several apps, I can produce intricate audio and video reports, broadcast live, take and edit photos, write web content and distribute it through social media from a single device.”

“With the VC Audio Pro app from VeriCorder, I can quickly pull cuts, edit and assemble audio wraps, and adjust volumes on a three-track screen similar to the popular Adobe Audition used in many newsrooms. The amount of time saved by not having to boot up the laptop and transfer audio has been my single greatest workflow improvement. The finished report that used to take 30 minutes to produce and transmit can now be done in 10.

This is a rundown of all the key ways he’s using on and with his iPhone.

Neal Augenstein hasn’t a journalist page – yet. But Nicholas D. Kristof has. He’s one of the top journalists that might got inspired of the possibilities that Justin Osofsky, Director of Media Partnerships at Facebook, talking about on the brand new Facebook page “Journalists on Facebook”. The page has been created: “to serve as an ongoing resource for the growing number of reporters using Facebook to find sources, interact with readers, and advance stories.”

Justin says that “The Page will provide journalists with best practices for integrating the latest Facebook products with their work and connecting with the Facebook audience of more than 500 million people.

I was actually one of the first to like that page, now one day later, they are ten thousands of journalists. And all of them are now asked to create professional pages on Facebook, for both reach and interact with their audience, listen to them, work with them, get ideas for articles of them, and so on. Some of them might already have done that, like Nicholas D. Kristof, that already has more than 200.000 “fans”. And some of them also bring their page to their newspapers bylines like Robert Fisk at The Independent. Why not?

I’m pretty sure that many journalist now will take the oppertunity to use this possiblity, to get more out of their daily work. Some of them will be CNN journalists if they haven’t already joined “the Facebook revolution”. And the media itself is no exception… Look at NPR or the very small local news blog Rockville Central.

When I talked to Nick Wrenn, vice president of digital services for CNN International, during the conference Social Media World Forum, in London, he said that Facebook is an equally obvious that common source of information and meeting point. But he would rather emphasize CNN’s iReport and Open Stories as the public Forum for meeting, collaboration, and sharing, between CNN journalists and their audience.

Communication a huge and confusing melting pot


Everybody in communication business talks about it everywhere! The new and ever-changing communication landscape has turned the media industry on its head. The confusion is now complete. Much of what we have learned and become accustomed to is no longer valid. This applies particularly to media, journalism, public relations, marketing, and sales. The professionals within each of these fields are either desperately holding on to their old identities, or are groping around for new ones.

The role of journalists is questioned. Previously clear concepts such as “journalist” and “journalism” have become blurred. The same goes for “media”. What is a media today? And “PR” … what is PR? It’s obviously something else today than it was yesterday. And what about “marketing”…

“Markets (and marketing) are conversations” as the Cluetrain Manifesto puts it. Conversations are based on relationships. Just like PR. Because PR’s is all about relationships, right? It’s all about relationships with both the market and those who influence it, including journalists. However, since all consumers now have access to almost exactly the same “tools” and methods as traditional journalists, it seems like the market has in some way also become the journalists. The market represents a long tail of new journalism and new media that perhaps has the greatest influence on a company’s market and might perhaps be their key opinion leaders. “Put the public back to public relations!” as Brian Solis put it long ago.

People have started to talk to each other in social media at the expense of, or sometimes in tune with, traditional media. They’re no longer writing letters to editors. They would rather publish their news ideas directly on the Web. Media consumption, and production, publishing, packaging and distribution in particular, have rapidly moved in to the social web. And both the PR and Marketing communicators are following, or are at least gradually beginning to do so.

As the market moved to the web, and the web has become social, marketing communication has become “social” too. Companies have started to talk directly with their market. And I mean “talk”, not pushing out information. Campaigns with no social component become fewer and fewer. “Monologue” ad banners, with decreasing CTR and increasing CPC, are becoming less acceptable. Google revolutionized with Adwords, Adsense and PPC. Press releases written by former journalists synchronized with Adwords and presented as text ads, turned things upside down.

Aftonbladet has been very successful with advertorials where only a small ad-mark distinguishes the ad from an article produced by journalists. This method is about as successful – and deceptive – as “product placement” in TV and film. That method has gone from small product elements in parts of a program to a complete sellout of the entire series or film. (In Sweden, think Channel 5’s Room Service and TV4’s Sick Sack.) But what can the television business do when the consumer just fast-forwards past the commercials, or worse still, prefers looking at user-generated TV like YouTube?

What will newspapers do when consumers ignore their banners? They will convert advertising into editorials. Or vice versa: they will charge for editorial features and charge companies to publish content on their platform, without involving any “investigative” journalism.

IDG calls their version of this “Vendor’s Voice”, a medium where companies publish their “editorial material” (it used to be called press information) directly on IDG.se and its related websites. The service is conceived and hosted by Mynewsdesk. It works pretty much like the Apple App Store; it is possible for any media to set up their “channel” (the media) on Mynewsdesk, promote it, and put a price on its use.

Essentially, when companies publish their information in their own newsrooms via Mynewsdesk, they can also easily select any relevant channels for the information in question. The service still has the internal working title “Sponsored Stories”, which today may seem a little funny when that is the exact same name Facebook uses for its new advertising program, where a company pays for people in its network to share information about that company with their own friends.

Isn’t that pretty much what PR communicators strive for? It’s in the form of an ad, but this type of advertising is simply bought communication – just like some PR seems to be – with the purpose to “create attention around ideas, goods and services, as well as affect and change people’s opinions, values or actions…”

But the press release… That’s information for the press, right? Or is it information that is now a commodity, often published in the media, directly and unabridged, much like the “sponsored stories”? Maybe it is information that can reach anyone that might find this information relevant. They might not be the press, but they are at least some kind of journalist, in the sense that they publish their own stories, often in same media as “real” journalists, in platforms created for user-generated content.

Everything goes round and round: side by side are readers, companies and journalists. All collaborate and compete for space and reach.

The causal relationship is as simple as it is complicated. People are social. People are using the Web. The Web has become social. People meet online. The exchange is rich and extensive. The crowd has forced the creation of great services for production, packaging, processing and distribution. These are exactly the same building blocks that have always been the foundation for traditional journalists and the media’s right to exist. Strong competition has emerged, but there is also some  interaction and collaboration.

People have opted in to social media at the expense of the traditional media. They rely on their own networks more and more, which has forced advertisers to find a place in social media too. Traditional ads are replaced by social and editorial versions that are designed to engage or become “friends” with your audience, talking to them as you would talk to friends.

The media are in the same boat and are becoming more social and advertorial. Users are invited to become part of both the ads and the editorials. UGC (user-generated content) is melded with CGC (company-generated content) and even JGC (journalist-generated content). Journalism goes from being a product to being a process characterized by “crowd-sourcing”, before ringing up the curtain on a particular report or story. As the newspaper Accent writes on their site:

“This is a collection of automated news monitoring that we use as editors. The idea is that even you, the reader, will see and have access to the unsorted stream of news that passes us on the editorial board. Please let us know if you find something important or interesting that you think we should pick up in our reporting. ”

This is similar to how companies today present their increasingly transparent and authentic communication in their own social media newsrooms, where the audience is invited to contribute their own experiences and opinions, and partly acts as a source of story ideas for journalists.

All in all, it’s a wonderful, fruitful, but oh-so-confusing melting pot.