Social Media Press-Releases – part 2

Earlier I’d written on the social media press release – essentially a site designed as a repository for sharable clips, images and story components that can be used by journalists and bloggers.

A few days ago Maggie Fox released her company’s version, providing details of the internal lay out and the elements that should be included. That engendered quite a bit of insightful discussion (here, and here).

As a template Digital Snippets hit all the right core content notes – it includes extensive RRS feeds for easy dissemination of updated information, and interestingly includes embeddable widgets for the true fans to add to their sites. Each page includes contact information to corporate communication people giving story writers the contacts if they want to expand a story through a specific line of questions.

All this is good – but at I can’t help thinking that while this makes corporate PR more effective – it still treats PR as a separate part of communication strategy – at the very time that consumers are integrating messages where ever they find them – sometimes across brands. Just look at what is happening with Unilever over its AXE and Dove brands. (here and here)

It also doesn’t appear to leverage the knowledge of social media firms to design creative that builds on their understanding of viral transmission and social sharing. While it’s fine to centralize creative developed elsewhere for social media use I believe that the true value will emerge when social media releases can create their own creative to both tell the story and encourage viral spread.

While not developed as PR its hard not to think that creative like the Travelers IQ Challenge developed by Ottawa’s TravelPod (and seen on hundreds of blogs, papers and social network sites) hasn’t been contributed to stories about the company (it has) or driven traffic to both their brands.

It also would be nice to see these sites more fully integrated into the sponsor’s web properties – rather than echoing them as they do now.  Social media sites should also being promoted with conventional promotion techniques.

Finally having real time components such as live conference or video calls included would add to the immediacy of a release and creating urgency around spreading the news.

All of this is to say that by dealing with media releases as system – which the social media release and Digital Snippets does is an important step. The real value though is going to come from building the specific skills of social media experts into corporate communications – and empowering them with the tools and creative to tell the story in new ways and across more platforms.

Success Disaster – shaping the next Internet

I’m not a network person in fact I can hardly get two devices to share files – yet I found this 18 month old talk by Van Jacobson incredibly compelling and though provoking.

What Mr. Jacobson does is make an arcane subject – Network Typology both easily understood and relevant.

What becomes clear is that network architecture is shaped by initial business or conceptual issues and then shapes the business opportunities that are built upon it.

From the circuit switched phone network – with an initial problem of how to describe a wiring path between two devices we get a network that is concerned with mapping paths without concern for the conversation (data), and a fetish for reliability of every component in the circuit (because any failure could break the connection) at the expense of call set-up time. 

The IP network takes an entirely different approach. It breaks up information into small packets and lets intelligent points decide each step to the destination. The result is a network that gains its reliability through system growth not device reliability. Embedded in that protocol are a series of choices however that are contributing to many of the problems we face today – from limitations for pervasive connection, net neutrality and authentication and spam.

The solutions to these problems have implications for everything from IP to social media and broadcast industries.  As network engineers start to tackle the cracks that are showing in the IP network they will make decisions that will impact business models far removed from the networks core.

This talk gives some interesting and easy to understand insights as to the problems and solutions that network designers face and for that it’s worth the hour and half. You may, like me, come away with the conclusion that these are more that technical issues – they will shape how the Internet changes as it moves into every corner of the earth and our lives.

Innovative Business Cultures

Bob Lefsetz points to a great quote from Universal Music CEO Doug Morris on why the music industry couldn’t develop a new business model as technology started to shift to digital delivery:

There’s no one in the record industry that’s a technologist,” Morris explains. “[It’s] a misconception … that the record industry missed this. They didn’t. They just didn’t know what to do. …

… “We didn’t know who to hire,” … anyone with a good bullshit story would have gotten past me.”

Sure it’s easy to say that we’d do better but the sad truth is that lots of companies and industries struggle when presented with business models or technologies they don’t understand.

The problem you need a frame of reference to evaluate options and many companies don’t have a broad enough one because they haven’t built the connections outside their immediate company and industry as a hedge to track and understand real or potential scenarios. That’s compounded by the fact that most companies have cultures that arbores failure so if problems emerge it’s more sensible (on an individual level) to do nothing than to do something wrong. 

The antidote as John Hegal argues is institutional innovation which produces long term value because it aligns with global and macro trends and encompasses process and product innovation.  Institutional innovation is at its core a cultural process built on diverse trust relationship within and outside the company and organizational structures with enough modularity to allow process experimentation but enough cohesion to facilitate decision making.

It’s also a process that builds on the extended networks that emerge with a region and between companies, their suppliers and customers. It’s developing these into trusted relationships that allow the flow of information that lets industries identify the expertise needed to develop strategic approaches to changes in their marketplace.

One of the reasons I’m interested regional economic development is that I believe that Institutional Innovation can be encouraged and could become a competitive advantage for the regions that adopt it.

That’s also the reason I’m interested in connecting BarCamps as we did with Leads. There already is a common cultural framework, and an easy means of identifying influencers in each region. And for many of the small companies extending their network reach both conceptually (which is why they participate) and geographically would be a competitive advantage.

These are going to be exciting times – from restructuring in the media/social media and open source, to globalization new models and opportunities are emerging for companies and regions that structure themselves to take advantage of them.

Voice Mash-ups – Imagination is the biggest barrier

I’ve been watching the growth of Iotum’s Free Conference calling service because conferencing is the perfect voice service for social media. So it was that last Friday I sat in on Alec Saunders Voice Mash-up conference call (download podcast) to learn where he, and a number of voice evangelists (Thomas Howe, Jim Courtney, Andy Abramson)  think drives voice web integration.  

It was an interesting discussion that got me thinking more about voice as an interface, and mash-ups as a business model.

First voice as an interface is overlooked. The phone is ubiquitous. Everyone knows how to use them – and how to interact with automated voice applications. As well applications like speech recognition (ASR) and Text to Speech (TTS) are robust enough to make voice a reliable option for both control and data delivery for any application. Combine this with web development approaches, which have proven architectures to deliver a seamless user experience by coordinated multiple services and opportunity for new voice applications is apparent.

Still all development depends on having both users and a business case. By using data from multiple sources, delivering them through existing services and by focusing on a relatively small feature set mash-ups make it easy to solve issues that might be ignored with other paradigms.

In a business environment this means it’s possible to eliminate delays, increase efficiency and customer satisfaction by connecting people and information all without worrying about breaching the firewall. It’s meant delivery companies can confirm you’re home even before the truck rolls – saving you the inconvenience of a missed parcel and them the cost. It also means that subjects in a drug trial you can phone information in anytime making reporting both easier and cheaper.

These same approaches can be applied to social sites – linking users anonymously to explore common interests – such as on shopping, dating and fan sites. These services raise the forum (often associated with these sites) to a whole new level because voice adds emotional content that can be misconstrued otherwise.

In all these cases the number of users required to justify deployment are relatively small – because most of the cost of development is the professional services to understand and architect the services that need to be connected. And that gets to the core rub with voice mash-ups – they may provide a lot of business value but no-one is going to get rich developing them.

In large part that’s because mash-up are in my mind the component phase for a new type of voice development. Every technology moves through phases from componentization which flourishes during times of experimentation to vertical integration when costs, reliability or long term ownership issues override. Right now companies and sites need to understand the competitive advantages of using these services, and will not alter their processes much to implement them. That means a component and professional services business model. As soon as the value is proven – and the feature set across an industry understood look for vertically integrated products and services to emerge.

That said now is the ideal time to jump in and experiment because you’ll get a level of service and application exactly tailored to your needs. It’s only the ability to imagine how these services can affect your bottom line that stand between you and a new class of customer engagement tools.

If you’d like to see what people are doing with voice mash-ups drop by Ottawa’s next DemoCamp (http://www.barcamp.org/DemoCampOttawa7) as two of the demos are voice mash-ups, or drop me a line.

Converged Media

“The audience doesn’t disappear when they close the magazine or switch channels”

 

To me this is the core idea behind converged media experiences. An audience assembles around content not because of the medium but because they share common interest or orientation. Speak to that and the medium becomes important only to the extent that it influences the experience of the core values that connect the audience.

It’s the ability to stretch the audience across platforms that’s critical, not that it’s common content – because just as different mediums speak to audience members in different ways – they also provide advertisers different ways to build connection with the audience. Branding, time of purchase, sub-audience targeting, national vs local – all can be enhanced by choosing the medium most appropriate to the objective – yet leverage the same underlying audience.

On-air content is critical because the original media from a company will be the core assembly point for all its converged media – both because of the core strengths of the organization (and knowledge of audience values) and because of audience expectation. That said, radio has to recognize that a competitive battle solely on content leaves them at threat to sources outside their geographic transmission points – and that leaves advantage with aggregators who can use micro-profiles to segment the audience based on unique content. My own feeling is that radio needs to focus on location specific values for its converged experience.

The value to stations is that there opportunities to connect with, and monetize, the audience will grow with the richness of the converged experience they deliver.

Originally posted as a comment April 19, 2006