Twitter’s personal branding value

A note to TV stations (and employees) everywhere…

Buried in the story of Twitter’s deal with the NFL is a VERY important message for local stations (networks, too): a name super that includes a Twitter address has REAL value.

Adding to the irritation is that the NFL restricts how the networks can use Twitter on telecasts. Late last season, the league told networks that they could not feature Twitter’s bird symbol to promote players or announcer Twitter handles during games. The league reasoned that promoting tweets was an in-game sponsorship that is not allowed, sources said.

This will benefit broadcasters during negotiations with talent in an all independent contractor world. People who live in your communities — heck, businesses, too — would die for the exposure reporters and anchors get for their Twitter handles and Facebook pages.

Scrambling in Boston: Welcome to the 21st Century

I’ve been struck by many things in observing the professional observers deal with the amateurs in the new world of networked journalism today in Boston. I’ve got to say that none of this surprises me, neither the positive — next door neighbors live-tweeting events — nor the negative — bad information virtually everywhere.

The always astute Dave Winer tweeted this a little while ago:

 

As I first wrote long ago, we’ve entered the age of postmodernism, the working infrastructure and hierarchies of which are still be woven in the womb of time.

Premodernism: “I believe, therefore I understand.”

Modernism: “I think, therefore I understand.”

Postmodernism: “I participate, therefore I understand.”

I couldn’t have said it better than Dave. And here’s the thing we all have to understand. Those people who wish — no, must — participate or involve themselves, really aren’t as dumb as the curmudgeons would have us or themselves believe. Newsgathering has never been neat or precise. It’s chaotic, but there is a sense of order to it, as journalists execute their search for truth. Think of casting an enormous net around information and cinching it tighter and tighter, as we get closer to our goal. In my 28-year career in news management, I witnessed some real whoppers of mistakes that never made it to air, because we had the luxury of a downstream production deadline. In a crisis, Twitter becomes a listening post for media instead of a broadcast tool, and listening is a new skill that media must acquire.

Some of the stuff that the pros deem violations of the sacred canons when dealing with networked news gathering may, in fact, be necessary evils of the new world. While we sort all that out, it would be incredibly useful (and refreshing) if we stopped taking for granted what’s become the new eyes and ears of information gathering just because they don’t play by the rules that govern the behavior of the few.

As Dave said, “People want to be involved.” Like it or not, they already are.

Social Media’s Antisocial Behavior

Here is the latest in my ongoing series of essays, Local Media in a Postmodern World.

Social Media’s Antisocial Behavior

My old friend David Johnson calls advertising on Facebook “antisocial,” and I have to agree with him. It’s part of a much bigger argument about the nature of advertising in general on the Web, but for social media companies, it’s even more acute, because, well, they’re supposed to be “social.” Most advertising assumes a mass audience, as if presenting from a stage. However, advertising in a social environment is more like being at a party, and it’s very tricky, because nobody’s there to see a show. On the other hand, Facebook is experimenting with forms of content that are really ads, and I think this has great downstream possibilities for all media online. One thing is certain, changes in online advertising are accelerating, and we all need to be aware.

Come on in,” said the spider to the fly

Broadcasters don't seem to realize their getting hosedMedia companies have no choice but to leap into the queue for Twitter’s new “expanded tweets” application, but I want to add my voice to those who suggest that this might be ultimately a well-placed shot in the foot for content originators. Sure, we may be able to better attract eyeballs to our content to encourage those click-throughs, but it’s also arming Twitter with a clever way to build its own media empire at our expense.

Of greatest concern to me is the definition of the term “media company,” for that applies to everyone today, including the people formerly known as the advertisers. Twitter and all of social media provides a way for the people with the money to by-pass traditional filters, such as legacy media companies. Don’t ever forget this when reading the new media tea leaves.

Mathew Ingram of GigaOm has nailed another issue for local media companies that use  new media opportunities to extend their brands: that they’re being drawn into a clever trap that they seemingly can’t avoid.

…there comes a point where a partner can start to look like a competitor if you tilt your head the right way, and I would argue that Twitter is nearing that point. Facebook is also a partner for media companies who use it to host their comments, or have brand pages there, or rely on the social network to promote their work through “frictionless sharing” apps. But at times it can seem as much like competition — particularly for users’ attention — as it does a partner.

That’s part of what I think blogging pioneer Dave Winer means when he warns that media companies should not see Twitter as their friend. To the extent that Twitter is offering news consumers of all kinds access to the information they want — regardless of whether that information consists of “user-generated content” or links to other media outlets — it is a competitor. And to the extent that it can offer better curation or aggregation or filtering or targeting of that content, it will win.

At some point, we simply have to realize that the Web isn’t about mass media and that there are a staggering number of mostly Silicon Valley web entities out there that hope we never figure it out.

Holy Twitter

preacher at the pulpitA New York Times article on religious broadcasters and Twitter misses a fairly big point while offering insight to “Twitter Dynamos, Offering Word of God’s Love.”

Joyce Meyer, Max Lucado and Andy Stanley were not well known inside Twitter’s offices. But they had all built loyal ranks of followers well beyond their social networks — they were evangelical Christian leaders whose inspirational messages of God’s love perform about 30 times as well as Twitter messages from pop culture powerhouses like Lady Gaga.

This may be a bulletin to the Times and the good folks at Twitter, but it shouldn’t be a surprise whatsoever to anybody.

Evangelical Christians have long been at the forefront of any technological means that furthers their evangelical ends. Two of the twelve transponders on RCA’s first (Satcom 1) satellite were owned by religious groups, including Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network. The Christian Church is the penultimate one-to-many institution, whether it’s inside the worship hall or via the airwaves. Nobody “gets” mass marketing or the art of fundraising like these people do; it is their stock and trade.

This is the church.
This is the steeple,
Open it up
And see all the people.

When hologram transmission becomes a reality later this century, mark my words: Evangelicals will be right there.

The point that I want to note is that people who view Twitter or any form of social media completely as one-to-many miss its “social” reality. This is true of media, celebrities, politicos, athletes or, yes, the Evangelicals. It’s one thing to use it as a form of mass media, but the smart innovators know that who you follow is more important than who follows you. This is not, nor will it ever be what Evangelicals want or use Twitter for. It’s all about promoting their own ministries through blessing their followers with inspirational quotes.

Pastors tell me, Twitter is just made for the Bible,” (Twitter’s) Ms. Díaz-Ortiz said.

It’s close. On average, verses in the King James Version are about 100 characters long, leaving room to slip in a #bible hashtag and still come in under the 140-character limit.

And proverbs are powerful draws on Twitter.

Religion, like every other institution in the West is being challenged by young (and older) people with a much more postmodern view than their parents’ generation practiced. Top-down or one-to-many fits Modernist thinking, which includes a God-to-us-through-the-church perspective. Postmodernists prefer the concept of God among us, the Holy Spirit. The term “postmodern” is often substituted as “postChristian,” and this is a part of the same cultural disruption that everyone is facing.

I’ve always been a fan of the question “What would Jesus do?” because the answers are rarely what the coiners of the phrase intended. Since Jesus’ ministry was in and among the suffering, the poor and the afflicted, one must ask whether the ministry of “blessing the saints” is what Twitter could or even should represent to Christians. Perhaps one day the New York Times will write about a new ministry that monitors Twitter for signs of distress or suffering among the people of the world — and then rushes in to provide relief.

No, wait. Along with a giant, corporate groan among all these folks, I also hear faint sounds of, cough-cough, well Terry, cough-cough, that’s just not my ministry.

Driving traffic (that doesn’t want the ride)

Nobody wants to be drivenThe new Pew study revealing that media companies use Twitter almost exclusively for spreading links to their own content comes as no surprise.

…mainstream news organizations primarily use Twitter to move information and push content to readers. For these organizations, Twitter functions as an RSS feed or headline service for news consumers, with links ideally driving traffic to the organization’s website.

Back when Twitter first came along, I predicted that media companies would immediately become big users, because they could easily see it’s one-to-many functionality. It’s what we know and what we practice. The strategy became:

  1. Get a lot of followers
  2. Feed them breaking news and weather
  3. Feed them promotional content
  4. Feed them stories, many stories
  5. Put a link in everything

Twitter is a terrific notification system, so it’s hard to blame media companies for this practice, but it points to a serious weakness that media has today: its mission can’t help but come across as hypocritical. What appears to be one of disseminating information and being society’s watchdog is actually a commercial mission to make money. There’s nothing inherently evil about that, but think about it. If influencing public life is the goal, then readership is what matters, and there are many ways to efficiently deliver unbundled content via the Web. When forcing people to read our content within our infrastructure, then it’s clear that monetizing that content is more important than anything else.

Using Twitter this way is easy, but it’s also lazy and sells short a tool for newsgathering and news dissemination. When I talk to clients about Twitter, the stumbling block question is always “How many people do YOU follow?” The answer is simple — none or very few. This means that Twitter is to them, in fact, nothing more than a notification system.

However, some individual employees of news organizations use Twitter in a myriad of ways, including to participate in its unique discussions. These employees seem aware of the new reality that their personal brands are everything in the world that’s ahead, so they participate in social media. These smart people may include links to their work as well, but that isn’t necessarily the sole purpose of their accounts. It gets very tricky for some media companies when they try to control the personal accounts of employees, because they cling to the notification system paradigm and the ethical (and profitable) mechanism of an opinion-less stage.

Twitter is also very useful on mobile device, so the practice of only spreading links — that then lead to a fully-packed website and not an HTML5 landing page — is ultimately self-defeating. This is a different playing field with different rules, and we risk our own relevancy by insisting that it’s best used to drive traffic to our advertiser-fed websites.

And nobody ever asked to be driven to such a place in the first place.