Is Twitter killing blogs?

I used to blog quite frequently but lately my blogging has tailed off while my tweeting has risen. This got me thinking about the impact of Twitter on blogs. Objectively Twitter is a great way to promote a blog. It’s also a great way to get across the key points that may otherwise have been in a blog in less than a 140 characters. This has two types of impact:

1. People seem to be abandoning their blogs in favor of tweeting or posting a comment of Facebook.

2. People are using Twitter to get their news and perspective rather than blogs. Twitter gives you a readers digest version of the blog. It cuts to the chase marvelously and makes savage editors out of all of its contributors. In other words people are often simply reading lots of small prices of insight instead of a few longer blog posts.

I’ve heard some people describe Twitter as a micro blogging site. If you agree with that I guess blogging is being replaced by micro blogging.

I have yet to find hard stats on how Twitter has affected the number of blogs out there. I suspect commercial blogs are still on the rise. Whereas personal blogs are disappearing as their writers become tweeters and their readers become Twitter followers. If anyone has robust data on this I’d love to see it. Until then, I’ll just Tweet this blog post.


Should PR agencies hire experience or raw talent?

The race is on for agencies to build their digital assets.  Get it right and PR firms will grow faster than they have in decades.  Get it wrong and they’ll have a struggle on their hands.  So as agency heads look at their talent base and their potential new hires, they have a tough question to answer.  Do they hire experienced marketing professionals who have some digital skills or the typically younger, more digitally literate who have only limited experience?  Sadly for the more experienced group, the answer appears to be that agencies are trending towards hiring younger digerati, rather than grey hairs.  This in turn is reshaping agency structures, product offerings, and pricing.  To twist an old saying, we are who we hire.  With agencies moving from a classic pyramid model towards something that looks more like a coat hanger, the opportunities for today’s experienced professionals are becoming fewer by the day.  Is this fair?  Probably not but this drive to hire younger, cheaper talent is in part the result of another force, not just digital.  Client procurement departments have acted like sand paper on PR budgets for years and have increasingly made it more desirable to hire doers over strategists.

Most agencies are racing to build a ‘new’agency on top of their existing one.  While they do need some experience to prevent the thing from collapsing in heap, what they need most is staff that can get on and ‘do’ at a price point that makes the investments the agencies are making viable.  This effectively forces agencies to hire lower cost staff.  These of course tend to be kids from college who have no real experience but can tell you anything you want to know about Facebook and Twitter.  For this generation, SEO is a form of grammer and html was a choice alongside Spanish and French at school.  Given a brand is now defined by the size and strength of its social network, it’s hardly surprising that many agencies will value these skills over someone who has known the editors at a business publication for a decade.

So is it all doom and gloom for us oldies?  Far from it.  We can start and build these new agencies, they do after all need some adult supervision.  We can also explore the boundaries of owned, earned and paid media.  These are the places where real value lies and where experience can really come to the fore.  But we cannot assume that because we have decades of experience that our futures are secure.  We have to bring something of value to the transition to digital.  Identifying what this is is crucial and could yet save the careers of many.  We are in an era of marketing where the value of experience is trending downward.  In years to come that will of course change as digital becomes the norm but for now the digital natives are set to become the new leaders.  That may not be what people want to hear but our industry is, like many, Darwinian.  In our case the fittest are the digerati.


Is Digital PR different for B2B than B2C?

The short answer is: yes and no.  Very helpful I know.  Before I explain, let me first say I am an unashamed fan of digital.  I think the way that it has transformed all forms of marketing is exciting.  After all, it offers brands a whole new way to create markets and sell products.  But I fear that little attention has been paid to differentiating the use of digital for reaching consumers versus business decision makers (BDMs).  Indeed it’s as if digital makes everyone a consumer and therefore regardless of whether you marketing shampoo or web servers, you should offer customers the same broad strategies and the same types of tactics.  I take issue with this.  Consumers have different reasons for buying your products and or services than BDMs.  When you market to consumers you are trying to get them to buy your products and feel good about your brand.  When you market to BDMs you are, more often than not, trying to convince them that your products will help them sell more products.  Perhaps the best way to help people think about this divide is to imagine a consumer campaign and then a B2B campaign.  If you were doing digital comms for a consumer brand such as a car you might:

1.  Monitor the conversations taking place around that type of car and decide if you wanted to join these conversations or start your own.

2.  You would create content (blogs, podcasts, videos etc) that created an emotional and or intellectual connection between your brand and consumers

3.  You would build car enthusiast communities that connected your consumers to each other and to your brand (you would also join existing communities).  This is where Facebook and Twitter etc come in.

4.  You would optimize all the content you’d already produced and were producing so that it was easy for consumers to find and so that it helped you drive people towards a place where they can purchase the car that was after all at the center of the campaign.

In a B2B world all of the above apply.  However, if you now imagine that the product you were trying market was headlights that go into that car, then you create very different content, join radically different conversations, build different communities and so on.  This is partly because the communities you are dealing with are a lot smaller but also because, quite clearly, the people you are trying to reach are interested in very different things.  Of course good B2B campaigns also try and reach the end consumer to create some pull for their products through the channel.  This is called ingredient branding and is an approach Intel has used for years, with its Intel inside campaign.  Companies that run these kids of campaigns can easily utilize digital as a channel and people like Intel do just that.  I guess the difference that digital makes is that it’s actually possible for people to run ingredient branding campaigns using digital at far lower costs than they would have in the old world.  Intel has spent many millions (many, many in fact) on this campaign over the years.  This helped them lock out competitors and build market share.  But they were/are a rich company with a lot of cash to throw at this challenge.  Small companies can’t afford Intel-like ad budgets but they can afford to create their own podcasts, content for the web, YouTube video and host a Facebook community aimed at the end-consumers.  Put another way, they are less budget constrained and more ‘make it interesting’ constrained.  After all, if you are  a maker of car headlights, you may need to get pretty creative to make consumers love your brand or your products.  But if creativity is the only challenge, I know plenty of PR agencies who’d say:  “bring it on.”


Back to school

Across America it’s back to school time.  Families are getting used to packing lunches, the joys of nightly homework and arranging after school activities.  It’s also a time when work calendars fill up as people return from vacations, supposedly refreshed.  Of course in America they don’t take the long vacations that are common in countries such as France and Sweden.  Instead they stretch to ten days, or two weeks if they are feeling particularly brave.  Either way, Americans are now ready to do battle with the economy while their kids do battle with mathematics and English.  In the world of communications and marketing in general, the summer is a quiet period where only a real crisis will garner much attention.  The Fall on the other hand is a period where news floods out as businesses launch products and make acquisitions.  The flood of news does of course make it harder to get people’s attention.  You are, after all, competing with others for your fifteen seconds of fame (the Internet equivalent of Warhol’s prediction).  So does this make sense?  I appreciate it is difficult to get things done over the summer when so many people are away and the argument goes that: what’s the point of announcing things when nobody is around to read about it?  I’d argue that in the age of social and online media, the summer is no longer a dead time for getting attention.  It is merely a dead time for people seeking it.  While I was away I checked on the news, industry and otherwise, everyday on my iPhone and I’m not that unusual.  With today’s technology people hear about the news whether they are at work on a south pacific island.  So it makes me wonder whether companies should rethink summer media madness and use the fact that attention is easier to get to their advantage.  Perhaps, therefore, it’s time for us communications folk to go back to school…


How to make people pay for media

We all consume media on a daily basis.  We love the stuff but we are paying less and less for it as our parents die and we all get our content online.  And as we all know, news online is almost all FREE.  Free isn’t a business model that really works for media.  Good journalism is expensive and tough to support through online advertising.  Rupert Murdoch has responded aggressively to this by putting a charge on many sites such as WSJ.com.  This hasn’t worked too well in part because you can still get to the content through a Google search for free.  He’s threatening to change all that though for the simple reason that they are struggling to make the economics work even with an online subscription model in place.

I have a suggestion for Mr Murdoch and other media moguls.  In the same way that we pay a cable fee in this country and even a TV license in the UK, why not charge a monthly media fee that would enable you to access all the media without having multiple subscriptions.  You’d need an aggregator such as Apple’s iTunes to get in to the mix but I’m pretty convinced that in the same way as people will pay $10 a month for satellite radio, they’d pay $10 a month to access the top 100 publications in the US.  Now there’d be a challenge figuring out which magazine or newspaper got what out of that $10 each month but I’m pretty sure it could be worked out.  It would also enable one player to take over the challenge of managing the online advertising for a host of publications, instead of having a fragmented model as they do today.   It would also mean as a user that you would only need one login.  I’d almost pay $10 a month just for that as I keep forgetting what username and password I have for various online titles.


Should boring = less newsworthy?

The sovereign debt crisis that started with Greek governments spending habits and has caused financial markets to take a beating in recent weeks has received remarkably little press considering it could result in the world being pushed in to a double dip recession.  Indeed a quick look at the major headlines of the NYT and WSJ in recent weeks will show you that they have covered the story for sure but that other items such as the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico have garnered greater attention.  Similarly you havn’t seen the debt crisis trend on Twitter.  I can only speculate as to why and my speculation is that the topic is both boring and complex.  Two factors that ultimately make it less likely to get picked up and talked about.  But just because something is dull and complex shouldn’t prevent it from being talked about if it’s important.  Surely?

I grew up in an era where the BBC covered stories because of their importance, not because they were easy to understand and interesting.  I learned to be interested in the Middle East issues simply because the BBC kept on covering them.  I worry that in an era of self publishing and an era where traditional media will do anything to get a reader/viewer, the complex and potentially less interesting stories will get short shrift.  This would be a terrible outcome.  Sometimes we need to be forced to consume news that we find tough to get through.  That may mean devoting less time to stupid human tricks on YouTube and more time to the complex economic issues going on in Europe right now.  I say this, not because a focus on Europe would necessarily improve the Greek debt crisis but because today’s Greek debt crisis is tomorrow’s equally dull story that has a more immediate impact, much closer to home.


Why social media is a measure of media consumption

Yesterday I wrote about how social media is increasing the value of traditional media.  It occurred to me today that social media also offers a great way to determine the level to which news from traditional media is ‘consumed.’  For example a news story that gets tweeted by 50 people has been ‘consumed’ by those 50, not just noticed.  If you follow this logic you could create an interesting set of metrics that look at the degree to which certain news items are blogged, tweeted etc.  You could then look to see if certain publications, or certain editors, or certain topics score better than others.  I appreciate that like all metrics there would be ways to influence the results but I suspect it would create a very useful way of assessing the power of media sources over time.


Laggard wants national upgrade day

So I finally made the switch to WordPress.  It has taken me a while.  Years in fact.  I can now see what all the fuss was about.  And there I was thinking I was an early adopter type…

It’s funny how you can get used to using a certain piece of technology and can in fact think that it is great, despite people telling you there’s a better toy on the market.  Indeed I have several friends with older Blackberry’s who think they are the perfect device.  I rest my case.  Of course what this shouldn’t mean is that we all switch to the latest greatest piece of technology all the time.  If we did we’d be forever having to get new phones, laptops, TVs, servers and software.  Life would be one constant upgrade.  But perhaps there should be one day each year that is designated ‘upgrade day’ when we can all switch from that clunky old Blackberry to a sleek new iPhone that has 5 minutes of battery life.  Perhaps when Obama has finished with the health system he can focus his attention on this oh so important problem.  OK maybe not.  Have a good weekend.


The social media triangle


I noticed Andy Lark’s latest tweet this morning, referencing his latest blog entry, which in turn referenced another blog entry. It occurred to me that the only thing missing here was a link to a Facebook page and then the social media triangle, as I’d like to call it, would be complete. It seems that one of the keys to doing good social media PR is to generate content on a blog or on a community site like Facebook and then link to it via another blog or community site and then top it off with a quick reference on Twitter for those of us who can’t keep track of all the blog posts and Facebook entries people make these days.

What does strike me as interesting in this triangle is:

1. That there is no dominant blogging platform in the way Facebook dominates the community space
2. That Twitter is becoming a great way to quickly see all the social media content changes that people have made that may have value


A Long Tale on the Value of Blogging

Excuse the pun but I recently came across a paper co-written by some IBM and Google researchers on the connection between blogging and the sales of products. The paper was written back in 2005 so is not new but it is one of only a few papers I’ve ever seen that have tried to draw a clear link between the impact of blogs on the sales of companies. The good news for bloggers is that there appears to be a connection. At least there was when it was written. While rather academic it is worth a read.

http://labs.rightnow.com/colloquium/papers/prediction_from_chatter.pdf


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