Automation Killed the Social Media Star

Judy Dench looking over coffins in a scene from Skyfall, image by Sony

Has automation killed the social media star?

I think so.

The social media conversation paradigms of 2006 form a foundation for today’s online world. But Cluetrain Manifesto dreams have been bludgeoned and destroyed by the unrelenting advance of technology and corporate demands for better financial results.

The resulting technological imperative forces success-driven individuals and companies to use automation tools to drive online engagement.
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You’re Still Not My Audience

Crowd jumping!!
Image by being LarsLars

Let’s be clear. You’re not my audience.

We have a relationship here, and you can talk back. Further, I realize that I am just one of you, all members of the same community.

I’m just lucky enough to have you come here now and again, and read my posts.

The miracle of social media empowers this very public symbiotic relationship of equals.

It’s also why communicators who call their stakeholders audiences drive me crazy.

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How a Blog Reader Titled My Next Book


When I announced the revision of my book Now Is Gone, I published a draft of the first chapter, “Welcome to the Fifth Estate.” A reader, Ike Pigott, who is very familiar with the first book, thought the primary theory and content was so different from the first one that it should be retitled.

Here is Ike’s comment on the Fifth Estate post:

Geoff – maybe “Welcome to the Fifth Estate” would have been a better title for the book. After all, it appears to be such a substantial rewrite, with all new case studies, that it would go beyond Second Edition status.

In actuality, Ike’s comment is very correct. More than 50% of the book is new, and of the remaining portions at least another quarter is significantly revised. The Fifth Estate theory runs throughout the book, giving it a new more dynamic view of how traditional and social media work together.

I broached the new title with Jeremy Kay of Bartleby Press. Jeremy agreed: It would be best to retitle the book given the substantive changes. So there you are! A blog reader titled my new book!

Now the arc with Ike goes further. He was actually a blogger on the Now Is Gone blog, and wrote the last post on the site. So he literally had the last word on Now Is Gone, and the first word — the title — on Welcome to the Fifth Estate! Thank you, Ike, many times!

Generally speaking, one of the approaches to writing this book has been publishing some raw draft material here. I committed to considering all comments as pieces of information that can better the book. And now you see it in action.

Please, friends, if you have something to add on one of these posts, do so. I promise to cite you if it’s used, and there are already two citations in the current draft as a result of these comments.

Now Is Really Gone

Contraband - Now Is Gone

I’m happy to announce that I am currently writing the second edition of Now Is Gone (Bartleby, the Publisher), which will be released in 2011. Only a few hundred copies of the book remain in stock. Since the social media market has evolved so much over the past three and a half years when the first one was drafted, it will be retitled, “Now Is Really Gone.” You can read the draft of the first chapter — Welcome to the Fifth Estate — on Slideshare, as submitted to my editing committee.

Before describing planned changes for the second edition, it’s really important to thank Engage Author Brian Solis for his work in writing the introduction, consulting on direction and content, and promoting the first Now Is Gone. The book would not have succeeded without Brian’s help. If you don’t own Engage, you should. It’s your opportunity to get a great download from the leading voice in the business of new media.

Like the first one, Now Is Really Gone will serve executives and entrepreneurs, albeit the late adopters. This time the introduction will be written by Amanda Rose, the brilliant creator of the social media fundraising event phenomenon Twestival. Further, a new chapter will be added to the book on measurement, which will be authored by fellow Zoetica partner Kami Huyse.

Additional changes include all new case studies, each chapter with one cause and one corporate example. In addition to Kami’s measurement chapter, a new chapter will be added on cultural barriers to organizational adoption. The chapter on the future of social media will be omitted as will the interviews at the end of the original book. The remaining five chapters will all be revised.

Though the original book was generally well reviewed, the biggest source of criticism was the typos, a result of pushing the book to market to meet a 2007 publishing date and get our ideas into the marketplace. To significantly improve the new product, an editing committee has been created to proof each chapter ruthlessly. While we cannot promise a typo free book, I certainly hope to satisfy my staunch critics with the new product.

New draft material continues to be created, and some of it is blogged here in the Really Gone category. Comments that highlight weaknesses in the posts are appreciated, and if used, will be cited in the book. Like the original book, one of the features will be the citation of source materials. No one gets their ideas on social media in a vacuum, and I believe it’s really important to document sources.

It’s my intent to have the book rewritten by September’s close. Because of the forthcoming birth of my first child later this autumn (November 4 due date), after August I will be on a speaking moratorium until well into 2011. Even then, there will be no in-person book tour, all promotions surrounding Now Is Really Gone will be online. Family first.

Thank you to all of my friends and online supporters who have made this possible!

The Long Tail of Media Grows


When I wrote Now Is Gone, Long Tail theory was prevalent throughout social media conversations. Applied, WIRED Executive Editor Chris Anderson’s economic theory did a great job of visualizing the ascent of new media forms in context with old traditional media. Since that time, social networks and mobile media postings have arisen to assert their place within the world of media.

Just to recap what Long Tail theory that with a large population of customers the selection and buying pattern results in a power law distribution curve (Pareto distribution). A market with a high freedom of choice will create a certain degree of inequality by favoring the upper 20% of the items (“hits” or “head”) against the other 80% (“non-hits” or “long tail”).

Head of the Tail

Let’s go back to the power curve for media now that the dust has settled with the ascendancy of some new media forms. The above chart plots the effectiveness or the weight of various media tactics in the current 2010 media environment.

Red hits have the most impact (top 20%), while the long tail (yellow, 80% of media) still makes up the majority of the media marketplace. This chart defines the marketplace as word of mouth power and readership.

Like my original chart three years ago, this is subjective and various earned media forms have disparate degrees of weight. General classification is the best we can do without the correct measurement tools using a real world full on case-study with all types of earned media opportunities. Further, this assumes PR owns social media within a company. As we know, social media is often divided amongst the larger marketing department.

As you can see at the head of the tail we have the following media forms:

National broadcast – ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX

Major newspapers – New York Times, USA Today, etc.

Top magazines – BusinessWeek, Fortune, WIRED

Major social networks – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Foursquare, etc.

Top cable channels – CNN, ESPN, etc.

Top 100 blogs – Huffington Post, Techcrunch, Treehugger, etc. Generally speaking, blog content can vary from print to video.

The Turning Point and the Tail

At the turning point in the tail, roughly the 20 percent mark, you have several other forms of traditional media, which reflects the fall of some media, and the rise of new online and mobile media.

Major trade journals – Obviously, the powerhouse in any industry still holds sway, but the secondary journals have suffered quite a bit

Secondary social networks – For every FourSquare, there’s a Gowalla, not as popular, these secondary networks still drive tons of traffic

Regional newspapers: You don’t hear about the Denver Post much nationally. Still very powerful in the Rock Mountain region.

Secondary cable & TV: A&E, TBS, VH-1, etc.

National radio: ESPNRadio, FOX, etc.

Leading vertical blogs: And the winner here, no question. In PR for example, Brian Solis (who wrote Engage, and the intro to Now Is Gone), will get as many or more reads as a Secondary PR journal.

Major “influencer” profiles: Finally on some of the social networks, you have highly “influential” profiles which either through mass followers or strong engagement can set of tidal wives of action via their profile

After that, you have the long tail, the vast majority of content. From the old world, I think you can list the following: Local TV, local radio, local newspapers, secondary journals, corporate web sites, email newsletters, and press releases. From the newer social media world, you can list: Social network profiles, secondary blogs, videos, photos, maps, and mobile updates & check ins.

The Taxonomy Problem

The issue with this chart is the taxonomy, which seeks to isolate individual media forms and tools and their weight. In reality — given today’s fractured media environment — one hit in any of these areas can trigger successive hits in others. When a word of mouth campaign has actual substance it usually cascades. Smart communicators understand this. That’s why integrated outreach — not just social media or traditional PR & advertising — matters so much.

In Chapter Four of Now Is Gone, we talk about this “ping pong match” between traditional and new media outlets. From the draft material in June of 2007:

One great way to promote your new media initiative remains traditional media, who often use well-respected blogs as sources or even the subject of stories… [Social media attention] drives information into the spotlight forcing traditional media to pay attention – or look like they’ve missed the news, and most importantly the conversation. Blogs [can be] a more effective way of reaching and inspiring traditional media to react than most PR professionals and wire services combined.

Ping pong matches demonstrate that weighting one tool by its actual total community and eyeball impact fails. As Seth Godin said in Meatball Sundae, “It doesn’t matter if the socially generated earned media only gets one percent of the hoped for attention if it’s the right one percent.”