15/4/20083

Commoditisation – the root of all evil?

As a extension of the fractured commenting discussion a separate issue has emerged: is our blog content becoming a commodity? There have a been a few good posts on this around the blogosphere presenting both sides of the argument.

As far as I see it content has always been a commodity just like any other it's just that the web is always changing and the same rules that applied 3 years, even 1 year, ago don't apply any more. Social media is taking over the world - it is no longer just about isolated islands of content.

Blogging has an air of vanity about it for many - we want to be heard and appreciated that's why a lot of bloggers obsess over their stats. Getting your content read by people is a challenge and a thrill - it is also quite addictive. Monetisation of blogs is a relatively recent phenomenon and a number of people are now making quite a good living from being professional bloggers; are they under threat? No, I don't think so.

Exposure

Why do we join social media sites? Why do we add our blogs to aggregators? Exposure. We want as many people as possible to be aware of who we are and what we do - build a big enough audience and rewards or opportunities are bound to follow. I don't blog for money but the previous blog got me noticed and I had the chance to get paid for writing an article for a major UK magazine. Unless you are specifically setting out to make money directly from your website then the benefits are secondary or maybe even tertiary.

It's all about exposure creating opportunity.

Brand

Steven Hodson (as quoted by Sarah Perez) is concerned that brands are being diluted due to content - and subsequently the discussion around it - being diluted across the web. I don't agree. Different people use different services and, whilst there are a number who also spread themselves across a whole range, frequently do not venture beyond its boundaries. Having content re-posted across these boundaries is not diluting the brand but creating a greater brand awareness in places that otherwise it may not have existed. These people new to your content are then more likely to come back to the source, subscribe to your feed and become a direct customer rather than an indirect one - this is certainly the way I operate when I come across a blog on a social site I have not seen before.

Look at Scott Sigler for example. Who, you might ask? Scott was the first person to serialise a novel via a podcast - giving it away for free. A novel is a significant undertaking and many traditional authors would be horrified at the thought of giving one away, wasting all that time and effort. Scott is now podcasting his fifth full length novel and has broadcast a number of shorter works but the way in which it is done means his fans (lovingly referred to as junkies) keep coming back. Regular interaction with them means a rapport has developed and Scott has been able to prove that building this rapport leads to listeners becoming paying customers - he now has a book deal with Crown Publishing

Stealing our content?

It has been argued that social sites are stealing our content for their own ends - maybe so, but if that content is good enough the reader will want more and go looking for the source. Times are changing and we must continue to adapt by promoting ourselves and pushing our content out there rather than rely on word to spread perhaps in ways we don't want. If you're giving it away then it can't be stolen but you can then reap the additional benefits.

There are a lot of opinions and I am sure that no single one is the right one but each opinion is correct for that individual and their own circumstances. What's yours?

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Commoditisation – the root of all evil?

Life by social media rules.Comments

Rather than the lazysphere "me too" type posts that clog up our feed readers, sometimes different people hit a similar theme completely independently even if – on the face of it – they are not related.

A couple of weeks ago I was struck by a post by Mark Dykeman in which he stated that:

"The value of social media is in its ability to quickly convey messages that are:

  • important
  • useful
  • interesting
  • entertaining

to people, in groups or individually, with the added bonus of correction, elaboration, clarification, and other feedback from those who received the message so that the overall communication brings benefit to the largest number of people."

My initial reaction was that we should be using these ideas away from our computers and in our normal lives.

Chris Brogan posted a few days later saying that we should employ the same tactics we use in social media situations when interacting with anyone offline; just transpose the way in which you communicate to an offline alternative. Gary Vaynerchuk then recorded a video advising us to look at the potential in secondary markets for our brands.

The connection between these three independent thoughts made me realise that we can devote a great amount of time to developing an online social media strategy but forget about the real bricks and mortar world around us. All of our interactions should be as constructive as those we perform online.

Hiding behind technology

Mobile phones and computers can sometimes be detrimental to the way we interact; we've all avoided physically speaking to someone in a difficult situation by pinging them an email or text message and the more we do it the harder it becomes to then deal with such situations as we have been hiding behing the technology at our disposal. Instead we should be realising that proper communication is key and Mark's bullet points are a good place to begin.

I'm not suggesting that every conversation we have will be akin to a PowerPoint presentation as normal discussions only tend to include a subset of the points above but we should ensure that our interactions have some quality to them instead of being unhelpful or dismissive.

To echo Gary's ideas in this context we need to get ourselves out there, push ourselves in to new situations, take advantage of what is available and let others benefit from what we ourselves have to offer. It is all too easy to get stuck in a groove and not branch out in to areas that, maybe we had not considered we could.

Challenge

So, reader I challenge you (and myself) - build a life strategy and not just a social media strategy. What do you think?

Life by social media rules.

Advertising on Twitter, kill or cure?Comments

Any service needs a business model in order to survive, a social media site is no exception. Twitter has come in for some flack about not appearing to have one in the past so it was interesting to see the mistaken story that Twitter had been testing adverts during some performance issues last night.

A recent opinion piece on The Industry Standard website included twitter in their 10 net services that would probably fail, their thoughts:

"There's no compelling reason for most people to use it, and many existing services -- ranging from AIM to FriendFeed to social networks -- have overlapping functionality. And how is it supposed to make money?"

Twitter is growing quickly and has become ingrained in to many of our lifestyles so it is hard to imagine that a service this popular could fail, but this is still early days as it has yet to go properly mainstream. Does it need to?

The key to Twitter is its simplicity - it is one of the easiest ways to facilitate conversation but if it is going to survive then it must be sustainable - how else can this be achieved if not via advertising?

The poll on the TechCrunch story asking if we support ads on Twitter currently has the No's in the lead but I think it is both inevitable that ads will appear at some point - they must, however, be implemented correctly. Personally I voted Yes, I would support ads (under my proviso). We are so used to advertising in our daily lives that we have become accustomed to filtering it out.

In a way we are already being subjected to advertising on Twitter, albeit not in the traditional form. If you use a third party client or web service to post then this will be indicated by a link at the end of the individual tweet - isn't that advertising? As others have commented, any time we post a link to our content on Twitter we are advertising our wares. Users are creating profile background images which again advertise their sites etc. around the Twitter UI so are not traditional ads only a logical next step.

Your Take

Rather than ask again if you support ads on Twitter I would like to ask if you think something like Twitter needs a conventional business model. How else could such services raise the capital required to sustain themselves if they are going to remain free to the end user?

Advertising on Twitter, kill or cure?