Social Media Press Releases

Maggie Fox asks whether a site for social media sharing makes a good press release (here). The idea is that making images and video available for sharing enables traditional press and well as bloggers to spread the news – and that is after all the purpose of a press release.

Conceptually it’s a great idea.

What’s needed to make it successful is content that evokes sharing. While it’s possible that that includes traditional marketing materials – too often those tell us the product attributes but don’t engage an emotional reaction.

In the Focus’s case if the one of the attributes is the (optional I’m sure) voice recognition – shoot a custom video that highlights the feature in a way that’s funny or tragic but that tells a story that engages ones emotion – while highlighting the product.  That’s more likely to be shared than an instructional video on the features use.

By way of example my friends at RaceDV have just done a series of in car videos for the North American launch of a performance car. The video speaks directly to the value proposition of the vehicle – performance – and more importantly puts the viewer in the driver’s seat.  After watching the video I expect prospective buyers will be in a quandry – do they take the time to share the video – or just find a dealer.

Same goes for photos. It’s certainly less expensive to re-use the photos shot for the brochure on the web – but one of the things about images is that they tell stories. By the time that someone arrives at a dealership they shouldn’t be bored with the images– but see a fresh story about Fords respect for the car the dealer and the buyer. 

Social media press releases have a much more diverse audience than traditional releases – and the motives for using the material are more diverse. Traditional press, and tier one auto bloggers are at some level interested in advertising – so discontinuities in visual style may not be wanted. The same cannot be said for the blog community below them which may be offering traditional reviews – but more likely is telling a story as they discuss the product.

The idea of making material available for sharing is a good one. Placing it in a site where one can track use and referrers is also good (that’s what Dove did with its Onslaught campaign).

In the end though sharing depends on the story that one can build around the content.

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Recognition in the Attention Economy

Michael Goldhaber’s prescient 1997 article “The Attention Economy and the Net” argues that we are at a time of transition between economic systems. The industrial economy is giving way to an attention economy – and with it the way value is apportioned.

The underlying argument is that when there is an abundance of information the value of any piece of it declines because much of it is substitutable. The only defense is originality – and even then it is constrained because we only have 24 hours to give attention – and the glut of information sometimes distracts from finding originality.

What’s hard to fathom is that organizations that historically have been dedicated to distributing or controlling original information are the very ones that seem to have the biggest problems with this transition. What is most odd is that many of these organizations are “attention” businesses – trading on the fact that if you have someone’s attention you can redirect it – say towards some product, service or goods.

Also odd is that many of the winners are also attention companies – just trading on attention in different ways. These, mostly web companies, start with the premise that lots of information is available – but that is not what drives their popularity. It is that they treat attention as reciprocal. They use aggregated and filtered attention to deliver new value to users (page rank, friends suggestions and most popular are all link attention) – delivering better search and broader audience for creations and finds. Their algorithms are proxies for attention.

Rob Horning in a PopMatters article talks about the psychological and cultural importance of attention, linking recognition as critical for shaping attention habits. No man is an island, and relationships we foster between people and institutional validate our personal identities. The more that relationship allows interaction the richer the validation. Designing sites to focus on attention tracking and reciprocal attention, as most social media sites do, encourages a fundamental human behavior, while enlarging ones sphere of influence. It is no wonder these sites are so disruptive to traditional media organizations – the reciprocal relationships they engender confer both legitimacy and relevance to the user.

John Hagel also sees a strong psychological component to reciprocal relationships saying “we are unlikely to offer that attention unless something of compelling value is offered in return.”  That something else is reciprocal attention.

In the years since those posts were written organizations large and small are turning to social media to build dialogue with and between their customers. It’s a return to a direct relationship between the company and the customer. Deborah Shultz calls it weaving.

What’s most interesting to me is that traditional media while late to the show understanding this, and seem to be jumping on board.

The CBS purchase of Last.fm one example. The Washington Post recent story on Teen Shopping is another. A single story on teen shopping weaves a financial story together with personal stories that elaborate points while rewarding participants with respectful recognition. It’s a formula that’s bound to engage the social networks of profiled teens – encouraging online and physical reading – and dialogue that is part of every Post article. It’s good story telling – and relationship building.

A brand has to communicate – and that communication has to be reciprocal if it’s going to hold its own – in the attention economy.  

CBS buys Last.fm – Inspired

Mark Ramsey reports that CBS has bought Last.fm.

Mark speculates that in two years well see Last.Fm integrated into all of CBS’s radio web sites delivering the personalized online radio that Last.fm is famous for.

While that my be true (except for the two year part) because if they plan to take that long they’d develop a similar offering for a lot less than the 280M they paid.

My guess is that it’s not just their sites they are interested in – I’d bet we see the first radio station on FaceBook far sooner that anyone expects.

It isn’t just that Quincy Smith – the Head of CBS interactive has repeatedly said “We can’t expect consumers to come to us. It’s arrogant for any media company to assume that.” (thanks to Jeff Jarvis for this)

It’s that it makes so much sense – the recently opened Facebook platform that allows developers to monetize their applications, the great brand that Last.fm has build – much of it to the Facebook generation – and the association of those brands with CBS interactive.

It’s inspired – especially for a radio station.

Update:  From  Richard Jones portion of the Last.fm blog   ” We’ll be back in an hour to finish off our facebook app :)”