Prime the Pump or it Tends to Run Dry

30 03 2012

old petrol pump

The current UK public panic at the petrol pumps started me thinking about the certain similarities with social media.  Before you decide that’s a stretch  bear with me

Some years ago when I took my first look at analytics I was shocked to discover there was no ‘long tail’ when it came to traffic stats.  When you  post on a blog or add something to a social network site the impact usually last for a very short time, it’s quite normal for 90% of hits to be in the first 24 hours.   That basically means that if you want to engage through social media you need to do it regularly and preferably on a daily basis.  Pioneer PR blogger Richard Edelman knew it with his daily ‘6AM’ blog.  The founders of BEBO knew it (Blog Early Blog Often).

There are some exceptions, traffic from search tends to increase over time, but it’s no substitute for new content, and without new content your page rank will decline.  Social networks, where the content is ephemeral, are on course to drive more traffic than search: for a few days if February Facebook drove more visits to The Guardian than Google did.

The message is simple – if you wanted to fuel traffic you have to make sure that sure that you are providing new content all the time, if you don’t your visitors will fill up somewhere else.

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SXSW – Al Gore and Sean Parker

13 03 2012

A session with the founding President of Facebook and the former Vice President of the USA is the sort of one off experience that on its own can justify the trip to Austin. The excitement in the vast auditorium was palpable.

This was a tour of the history and future of democracy and how it might be shaped by the social web. The Athenian ideal and the importance of the Gutenberg press were the scene setters. Gore remains the master of the sound bite. He illustrated the impact of print on the spread of democratic ideas with the line “Thomas Payne’s Common Sense was the Harry Potter of the18th Century”.

There was agreement between the two that democracy in the US in its current form is deeply flawed. The ability of people to promote and publish on-line may have an even more significant impact than the arrival of the printing press. Whilst the people in power don’t really understand the power of the social web says Sean Parker “we may have an opportunity to take back the system.”

Gore is a great orator but at times he seemed unaware that for this audience Parker was the person that many of the SXSW audience came to hear. That said when the the “Nerd Spring” arrives and the history of democracy and the web is written both of these men will be cited in dispatches.





SXSW – Biz Stone: Content as a Means for Social Change

12 03 2012

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Biz Stone is back at SXSW for the first time since Twitter blew up there in 2007. In the first of a series of stories he tells is about the birth of Twitter. Twitter wasn’t conveived as a channel for serious communication, it was meant to be fun and social. In the prototype stage, one of the first things Evan Williams tweeted (before the real tweets began to flow) was “Sipping Pinot Noir after a massage in Napa valley”.

By 2007 there were about 5000 twitter users and they “were all the dorks that go to SXSW”. It gave them the “South-West bump” and after that there was seldom a major world event that didn’t feature Twitter. When Biz was called by a journalist and asked about his involvement in a student uprising in Moldova he had to look up Moldova to find out where it was.

The remaining stories cover creativity, being prepared to fail, illustrated with reference to Wim Wenders ‘Wings of Desire’ and the compound value of doing good. Whilst the stories that Biz tells are only loosely connected, they are linked by a theme that links the future of marketing and corporate success to philanthropy. Its his philosophy for business and he walks the talk. Twitter had a CSR person years before it had a sales person.





SXSW – The Future of The New York Times

12 03 2012

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It didn’t take long for the Texas Tribune editor Evan Smith to get to the heart of the matter in his interview with New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson. Is the metered model really working for the New York Times? Abramson was unequivocal, at 390,000 at the last count, subscribers are a key revenue stream.

So does that mean that we can envisage a time when the print version will go altogether? “I don’t think we’re going to get there any time zoom” said Abramson and with 850,000 print copies still being delivered it is difficult to disagree.

Unsuprisingly Evan Smith is a great interviewer. The post Murdoch Wall Street Journal comes under fire, but Abramson isn’t drawn into criticising the direction the journal has taken under News Corp. “It’s still a major competitor”.

Despite, or maybe because of the paywall, The New York Times has embraced social media both as a way of gathering news and promoting their content “400 reporters are on twitter” says Abramson. Tweetdeck is used as part of the news gathering process.

The New York Times makes the metered model work because it is a powerful brand with loyal readers. Social media is an increasingly important part of the mix and inevitably, in the medium term, that will place pressure on the paywall. Abramson concedes “The free model works in terms of scale in certain ways”.





LinkedIn and the Meaning of Connections

6 03 2012

I’ve just passed the 500 mark on LinkedIn and it feels wrong.  Let me explain.  I can’t possible know 500 people.  I’m fascinated and largely persuaded by the work of  British anthropologist Robin Dunbar.

His theory known as ‘Dunbar’s number’ is a limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable relationships. That’s the sort where I know someone, they know me and we understand our relationship.  It is commonly held to be around 150. Dunbar says the “limit is a direct function of relative neocortex size”.

So how did I get here, my LinkedIn group was a list of people who I knew well personally or more commonly had worked with as colleagues, client, supplier or partners in various projects. So what went wrong? Why don’t I really know all of the people who I purport on-line to be connected to?  Here is my list of ways in which I think it’s gone wrong.

  • I’ve been on LinkedIn for around five years. Some people I knew well then, I don’t know well any more.
  • In building up my initial contact list I was probably over enthusiastic about finding and adding people.
  • A desire not to offend. I wrote a note to someone a couple of years ago politely declining an invitation to connect as we had no previous connection.  I received a vitriolic reply.  I still decline these invitations but accept others where the connection is tenuous.
  • Confusion. I think many people have a different view to mine on the nature of LinkedIn and networking on-line in general.

It may not matter but my network is clearly, to me and anyone that looks in, now a loose one. LinkedIn doesn’t annotate my actual number of connections any more. I’m like many other people a 500+.

Is there something I should do differently? There probably is. I should regard my online network as the loose association that it is and concentrate more on my real world network.  Obvious when you think about it.








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