By Clyde Bentley, Ph.D., 2009-2010 Donald W. Reynolds Fellow, Associate Professor, Missouri School of Journalism
This was a panel about how to get content read in the massive social media world. (Rough notes, not verbatim.)
Is it worth doing the iPhone app or not?
Josh Belzman, Senior Editor, MSNBC.com - (who decided not to do a Facebook app) Measuring success is social media and mobile is very much an evolving thing right now. In turns of apps, they provide a bit of brand recognition. CNN was late to the game, but getting a lot of buzz for its new app. It says you are technically aware.
But how difficult was it?
We outsourced it.
Lawrence Coburn, CEO, RateItAll – We went out to hire people, but found out the good developers don’t want to work for a company ($140,000/year. It costs us $50,000 to develop a fully functional app by outsourcing.
You don’t want to just replicate your Website. Take advantages of the advantages of the platform.
Joan Walsh, Editor, Salon.com - We don’t have one yet, but will. Our site is in the middle of a redesign (in beta) that has all the interactivity functions. We focused on Twitter and Facebook with some Digg. It is not just spewing out all your content everywhere, it is about developing a presence. All of our people are stressed out an busy, but if you teach them well you will get a lot back. We have tripled our response. It has changed the nature of Salon. We added our own blogging platform a year ago; earned a lot of member loyalty and multiple visits per day.
We have thousands of active members now sending out Salon links, which was an incredible advantage to us. (Why are people blogging for you free?) People say it is partly for the audience they get, partly for the community. It is a supportive site, not snarky. They don’t people down. We have 500,000 visitors/month.
Our writers are grownups. I can see that guidelines have value. But so strict? No religion, no politics, etc. When you Tweet you have to Tweet as a person.
Josh Belzman, Senior Editor, MSNBC.com - Keep your tweets and social media on a personal level. At the moment many of our writers have personal Twitter sites. Recently trying to bubble up the viral topics. We pitch stuff on general feeds and Twitter. If it is a little bit of gossip or a vote and point to our site, get results. We encourage participation rather than shout a headline. You want to inform people, but engage them.
Lawrence Coburn, CEO, RateItAll - In terms of the mechanics of Twitter:
- First is to make sure everyone is exposed to twitter and it is not hidden in a confusing toolbox.
- Second it is a two way system. They are building tools to aggregate responses instead of just tweets.
- Three, pay attention with search. Be human with your tweets, but make sure you have your keywords in there and that you get your information out. We have autoposts for updates that makes sure we end up in the search engines.
- Fourth, look at link shorteners. There is no reason to send people to other shorteners, just build your own. It is easy.
Lawrence Coburn, CEO, RateItAll - Anybody who has social content should not ignore Facebook Connect. It brings in real identities. It also lowers the registration hurdle. It gives you distribution. You can get the impact of Facebook without building a Facebook app. Only disadvantage is that you don’t get the sender’s email, though you can ask for email in the next field.
We had problems with a Facebook app. They change their API all the time, developers had trouble. That’s why we use Facebook Connect – all the advantages of Facebook without the problems.
When we had an event and had writers tweet, we went back and reposted the tweets on a blog as a record.
What can you do with a smaller budget?
Use comments on blog. You can aggregate comments about your posts on the blogosphere via a couple of services. Easy way to make a widget is with Widget box – just boxes in your RSS feed. Works well.
There are a lot of free tools out there.
Question: How does the placement of tweets on you site impact the opinion of the site?
Conventional wisdom is that regular Web users appreciate guidance. But more and more people are understanding that format. Jane - you have to give more direction and guidance to your staff so you don’t become trivial.
Josh – Video: It poses real challenges. We are getting much closer to making easier, but our emphasis is to get them back to our rich media player.
Sharing thing has spiraled out of sites. Get giant menus of crazy sites with weird names – and somewhere in there is Facebook. We reduced and decided to focus on four channels Facebook, Twitter, e-mail and widgets. E-mail dwarfs everything else. Don’t make it difficult for readers.
Advice: Joan Walsh, Editor, Salon.com - Take chances. Social networking is a natural evolution of where our industry is going. You have to be available and let people interact with you, because it is not a passive audience. It is changing our entire mindset.