From Mike Arauz’s Thoughts on Spreadable Media.
Reminds me of Emmanual Quartey’s axiom: “Each post should be a gift.”
Kallen casually tosses out that a fire hose of real-time news makes for “a better informed citizenry” with absolutely nothing resembling a fact to back this claim up. I’m certainly unaware of anything that suggests the rush of breaking news equates to better democracy. In fact, everyone I know who seriously studies how breaking news affects news comprehension hypothesizes the end result is a net loss.
The fact is, we don’t yet know whether, as Kallen claims, “a real time account of events” actually does make for better citizens (and democracies) and probably won’t for some time. I suspect, though, that the proliferation of “slow news” we’ve seen as a response to the Chinese water torture of news-like updates is an indication that our fellow citizens yearn for, and deserve, better. And, let’s not forget, those stodgy old newspapers often still manage to tell the story best.
We place ourselves squarely among those in favor of slower media. We do not believe that an increased volume of available information creates a better informed citizenry.
Our goal is to help organizations with deep expertise share their expertise directly with the public. We’re proud to help organizations like the World Wildlife Fund, Department of Energy, and Government Accountability Office do that. But the way we do it is by creating a quiet space – set apart from the real time Internet – where they can think about what they have to say.
Organizations are different from people, and they communicate differently. An edit button might not make sense for Twitter, but organizations need to understand that their value on social media comes from being trustworthy. It takes thoughtfulness and time, but it’s worth it. It’s the only way to create a better informed public.
Somewhat related to this, the Knight and Gates Foundations are teaming up to measure the impact of the media and journalism.
My rise to internet fame started as many climbs to prominence do: I had something to say, and I thought enough people on some small corner of the Internet would be interested in my views. In 2006, as I surveyed the New York City blogging scene and noticed a glaring absence of transit coverage, I started Second Ave. Sagas. At first, I viewed the site as my own personal outlet. I wanted to keep writing creatively in a job that wasn’t in journalism, and construction on a long-awaited subway along New York City’s east side finally kicked off. I followed along.
Earlier this month, the SEC formally approved the use of social media tools for official corporate communications. Marketplace’s Sarah Gardner interviewed Joseph Grundfest, a former SEC commissioner, about the new rules. This exchange about how corporations are using social media to broadcast news updates stood out:
Gardner: at what point can you still call it social media if these sites are basically another distribution channel for corporate news? Are we taking the social out of social media, and it’s becoming corporate media?
Grundfest: There is a sense in which Facebook and Twitter are becoming new forms of doing corporate press releases. But even if that’s true, what’s the matter with that? These are channels that began as social media, they’re now social media and more, and I think that speaks to the great success of the medium.
This is important. Gardner’s question betrays confusion of social media as a genre rather than a medium.
Social media’s power is based on interpersonal sharing and conversation. Interpersonal being the key word – it makes it very easy for people to spread information by sharing and talking with each other. Organizations can fit into those conversations, but they do best when they understand what they have to offer and how to do it. For many organizations, issuing news is exactly what they should be doing.
In general, it’s not worth spending much time worrying about how social media is “supposed” to be used. Everyone has different goals, and there aren’t many rules that can be applied broadly to all kinds of organizations.
One thing is certain, however: most people will not want to chat with most organizations in any way that resembles chatting with family and friends. That doesn’t mean that they don’t want to hear from organizations. When organizations use social media to distribute news worth sharing, people will gladly spread far and wide.
One poignant example: as I write this, the Boston Police Department’s tweet announcing the arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been retweeted over 143,000 times.
We are excited to announce that Measured Voice is now open for business! You can sign up for a 30-day free trial of Measured Voice right now, no credit card required.
We built the first version of Measured Voice in 2009 to help us work with our clients to manage their social media messaging. It saved us a ton of time. We thought other people might like it, so we opened it up for others to use. People loved it.
Social media writers from government agencies, media companies, brands, and non-profits from around the world discovered Measured Voice and found that it helped them focus on what matters most in social media: their voice. We got to know our users and learned a lot from them.
Last year, we decided that we wanted more people to use Measured Voice. We think it’s a good thing to have in the world. We’ve watched the rise and fall of various social media services and trends over the years. Throughout all of this, one constant has remained: professional writing is hard, and it requires focus.
Social media gives organizations the chance to develop a voice and communicate their value and expertise directly to the world. For most organizations, this is entirely new, and there are countless social media professionals out there working hard to do it the right way. We wanted to create the tool for them.
So we’ve spent the past 12 months rebuilding Measured Voice from the ground up. We talked with our customers a lot. We talked with people who we want to be our customers. We got really accelerated by participating the first ever Code for America Accelerator. We’ve worked with a wonderful group of beta testers from around the world.
We’ve built a tool that we’re proud of. It’s fast. It’s secure. It’s easy to use. It makes social media writers better at their job. It helps organizations find their voice. Today, it’s open to everyone.
If you haven’t already, sign up for a 30-day free trial of Measured Voice, no credit card required.
I hope you’ll give Measured Voice a try. If you have any questions, you can write me at email@example.com.
Last week, Instagram reported that it has 90 million monthly active users who collectively post 40 million photos a day and like 8,500 photos every second.
Instagram’s usage is truly phenomenal. Many companies manufacture exciting metrics, but Instagram’s raw engagement numbers reveal that they’re onto something significant.
Instagram’s success rests on two fundamentals:
1. Images are an essential part of communication.
We have no choice but to be drawn to images. Our brains are beautifully wired for the visual experience. For those with intact visual systems, vision is the dominant sense for acquiring perceptual information. We have over one million nerve fibers sending signals from the eye to the brain, and an estimated 20 billion neurons analyzing and integrating visual information at rapid speed. We have a surprisingly large capacity for picture memory, and can remember thousands of images with few errors.
If you want to communicate to humans, you’ll benefit if you can do it with imagery. Instagram’s usage is evidence of this.
2. Instagram is built for “most people”.
The tools required to create and distribute evocative imagery have historically been very expensive. 10 years ago, image editing software was either extremely expensive, or extremely limited. None of it was very easy to use.
Instagram makes image editing extremely easy, and ubiquitous broadband makes sharing images trivial. Yes, Instagram is extremely limited in functionality compared to Photoshop, but it is a prime example of a “goldilocks solution”: it’s just right. It provides just the right number of features for most people to create and share photos they’re proud of.
That’s nice, but it’s also significant.
As we’ve observed before, “most people” use social media because it lets them to stay up-to-date on the people and things they care about.
By focusing on ease of use and playing to the human brain’s ability to receive visual information, Instagram has created a service that millions of people love to use. It’s no accident.
If your organization has the capacity to communicate through imagery, you might want to consider using Instagram. Otherwise, experiment with creating images and mixing them in on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook. The new Measured Voice supports native image posting to Facebook and Twitter.
The Huffington Post has posted a profile on 27-year-old Kate Frasca, a Con Edison public affairs manager who has been using the @ConEdison Twitter account to keep Con Edison customers informed of the power company’s response to hurricane Sandy.
It’s a perfect case study of the value created with previously terse organizations are empowered to communicate more fluidly with people. Before Sandy, Frasca had never tweeted from the @ConEdison account. In the aftermath of Sandy, @ConEdison’s follower count has grown nearly 30-times, from 800 to just over 23,000.
What’s the secret to amassing such an audience? Frasca provides a clue: “…we’re really just trying to put everyone at ease and trying to bring some information to them. Everyone is so scared and they just want to know what’s going on.”
Con Edison’s position is that of many government organizations. It has official information that no one else has, but many people desperately want. Previously, it likely relied on news organizations to get the word out. This hasn’t always been a reliable strategy, as many news outlets have strong incentives to draw attention to themselves and away from their competitors. This means they might be more inclined to push sensational stories rather than simple communiques about the status of Con Edison’s disaster response. Indeed, some media outlets benefit from making their audiences more scared.
Con Edison is simply motivated to keep people informed. It turns out that Twitter is a remarkably powerful way for them to go direct and not rely on the media to relay their simple messages to the public.
Con Edison spokeswoman, Sara Banda is quoted saying that social media “allows companies like us to be part of the media. We can get information out directly to our customers, and that’s a great thing.”
Yes, it is a great thing. The media landscape improves as more organizations like Con Edison use social media to communicate briefly, frequently, and directly to their customers.
Audiences no longer have the patience and attention span to listen to you clear your throat (metaphorically) for 7 minutes or even 3 minutes before you start actually delivering stuff they want to hear.
Nick Morgan gives sound advice on public speaking that applies equally well to social media communicators. Social media gives you very little time to capture people’s attention and explain something to them. Learn how to get the point right away – you’ll never get another chance.