On Thursday, June 4th, 2009, members of the Portland Advertising, Tech, PR and Social Media community gathered to watch a panel event called “Who Killed Social Media?”. It was moderated by Marshall Kirkpatrick @marshallk, VP of Read Write Web, and one of the most prolific and RSS-informed people in the technosocial universe. The panel was a partnership between Portland’s Nemo Design (who graciously provided beer and a nice meeting space), and Group Y Network.
Marshall started off the panel by saying that terms are strange, for instance, “social media tends to be a little bit more broadcast and marketed, vs. the social web, which is a little more a way of life”.
Social Media Panelists
Software Engineer – Worked at Sun for over 50 years. Involved with Twine.
Action Sports Media Veteran (Does that mean he’s wounded?), and proud blogger.
K2, worked with the XGames.
Leads the Social Media strategy at HP, does the social media strategy for the laptop division.
Community Manager, Director of Insights, Nemo Design
Who Killed Social Media? – The Panel Begins
Marshall Kirkpatrick: Just like when you open a fortune cookie and add “in bed” to the end, we add the “how will it make money”, “how will we market it” to the end of each social media question.
First question was for Tony,
Tony Welch: The alpha geeks validate our technologies. There is someone you go to when you want to know about computers. They validate what HP is doing. From there, hopefully you can use that relationship to bridge down to the rest of the mass audience.
James Todd told everyone go to Twine.com, and said this name multiple times throughout the panel. But by the end, it was apparent that he truly believed in twine and how it is a true filter for information streams, be it social or not.
Marshall Kirkpatrick: Twine is like a social bookmarking tool that automatically grabs material from the content of web pages and places in a tagged, semantically linked structure. Last month, Twine surpassed Delicious for number of unique visitors. Some people love Twine, but there’s also ample people who follow them around and criticize them.
The Semantic Web
James Todd: Semantics have been around for many ears. It’s pretty easy to screenscrape and provide APIs to that data, which Twitter does really well (it’s API). Down the road, consumers actualy have the ability to be in the driver’s seat.
The semantic space has really been driven by academics. While it is easy to talk the talk, you also have to walk the walk. Providing a list of distributed databases to provide access and crosslinking to those databases allows you to be able to know your customers much more.
The bar was set high; as Marshall said, he lives 5 years in the future and sometimes comes back to visit us. We hadn’t quite delivered some of the API features that we wanted to. Some of those future features. We use a lot of Open Source. A lot of it which only works on White Boards.
Let me just be really candid here — there’s been a lot of sidebar discussions. If you have a social application, you really have to have engagement. The promise has not really been delivered yet, but it is on the way. We’ve been a little bit burned by the alpha users in our experiences. We syndicate with Twitter now, and we’re getting a lot of people to use that. Really, we just want to average person to use it.
So, realizing that some of your critics have financial interests, realizing your shortcomings and working them out. But what James really wanted to talk about is the future and what’s coming down the night.
Not sure how many of you have heard of the new product Google Wave, but James has been following that particularly close, and if that’s one of the visions of the far-out future and how it can work…then.
James Todd: I have a problem with formal names, such as the Social Web. To me, I think the social web is just allowing people to communicate — bidirectional- back and forth. I think that what the Wave is going to allow collaboration. Allowing the average person to casually use applications. Google Wave allows people to do things on top of those applications naturally. It’s built on XMPP Jabber, which is the technology that instant messaging is built on. I think the consumer will be in the driver’s seat on which services will be allowed to integrate with each other.
I envision a point where pople will be able to choose which services to interoperate.
I used to work on a JUXTA project at SUN (where he worked for about 15 years), which we put XMPP on top of. This stuff can be small group oriented, which I really like better than large group orientated. I think that communication/collaboration is going to be the next bit thing.
Marshall Kirkpatrick: So the future will be a bunch if little groups talking with robots coming in giving updates on the snow conditions on the slop that the small group is going to go snowboarding on later.
So lets talk with Lee on the transition that we’re going to be going through in the transition from analog to digital media. He’s been in the television industry, but he’s also a blogger as well, so I think he has an understanding of this space really well.
The Transition from Traditional Media to Social Media
Lee Crane: When the cotton gin came, it actually made people’s jobs a lot easier. But now people want to be able to communicate 24 hours a day, so the marketer has to be available at all times. Traditionally, a marketer would make segments and send out some marketing, and set back and say “cool”. Now people know when they’d not doing a good job because no one is responding to it.
The difference is today that it is no longer the marketers that are doing the communicating — It’s the customers that are doing the communicating, and they’re doing it would your consent.
The difference being that it is…more difficult.
Marshall Kirkpatrick: Is it fair to say, lets not do push marketing media type stuff and instead communicate with our users, or…
Lee Crane: The media landscape is so fragmented now that people are being so bombarded with little bits of information that our job becomes bombarding them with lots of relevant information. The game becomes and instantaneous battle of having relevant information every minute of the day.
Marshall Kirkpatrick: While maintaining authenticity.
Dave Allen: Yes.
Marshall Kirkpatrick: So lets say someone was crazy enough to want to get into that, what do you think a good way to get into that would be?
Lee Crane: Well, it’s that if people are saying you have to Twitter, you HAVE to Twitter. When they say you have to Blog, you have to Blog. And the problem is that to understand it, you have to blog for a while.
There was a conference — and Ev was asked, “why is it that 50% of Twitter users don’t don’t Twitter after signup”.
When I first signed up, I didn’t have anyone to talk to, so there was no real point in updating.
That’s kind of what is happening, “there’s this Twitter thing going o, so we should have to Twitter. So can someone just say something that just happened in the Office?”.
Marshall Kirkpatrick: Let’s talk to Matt Savarino next. He has a lot of experience with Extreme sports, has long been interested in geolocation, and has a substantial Facebook presence.
The big question I have for you is, are all these freaky things you’ve been interested in finally picking up speed with the general market?
Matt Savarino: Basically, the question of who you know and where you’re at is becoming commonplace. I bet most brands here don’t have a mobile website, and they should. In the future, I think it is important that sites have one to prove that they are not subpar.
Marshall Kirkpatrick: We discussed youth marketing in general. Do you think that’s important now for people under the age of 25?
Matt Savarino: In my experience, kids don’t have the iPhone. They generally have ht free flip-phone, ect. Parents generally don’t invest in something that, if dropped once, will be broken (I don’t agree with this. I’ve seen 13 year olds with iPhones, the middle class market, definitely). But when I look at middle school kids now getting out from school, all of them have their heads down, texting.
Social Media Decision-making in a Multi-Channeled World
Marshall Kirkpatrick: We’re making decisions like that- do we do a mobile site, do we do a web app? It is difficult to have the conversations without first discussing ROI.
Matt Savarino: There is a large problem with having g the data be tracked, ROI tracked. The people who know and see and use these things, and the people who don’t. Justifying to them that if 30 people Tweet the post to their friends, that that has value, even if they didn’t buy a ticket. And with apps, I have to prove to them that I am giving them engagement, when they want me to give them traffic. But the problem is that these brands have traffic already, they just don’t have the engagement.
You can choose NOT to do it, but your competitor will. Burton snowboards doesn’t capitalize on Twitter, which is a tremendous opportunity for us to prove that we have something they don’t. Because they’re one of the biggest brands out there, and they’re not doing something important.
Marshall Kirkpatrick: Would you like to share your insurance analogy?
Social Media Insurance and the Case of Emusic.com
Dave Allen: It is difficult to convince executives to pay someone $55,000 a year to scrape the web. So I tell them, put that $55K into insurance. Because if your brand doesn’t own the message, the message owns the brand.
A company that did not share in this idea was Emusic, who was smashed this week.
833 people on Emusic’s blog said “Goodbye”, and Emusic did not respond.
One of the people who should’ve responded said, “I’m going to go on vacation for 2 weeks”, and, as you know, 2 weeks in Internet time is infinity.
What they ought to have done is completely pool their subscription base, 400,000 people, and say “hey, we’re thinking of acquiring the Sony music collection – are you interested?”. And I be you that 98% of those subscribers would’ve said, “no thank you”, and then set up a tiered system so that the 2% that is interested would pay for this additional music collection so that the rest of the subscriber base could’ve been grandfathered in and still had access to the independent music that they’d been so supportive of for the past 10 years.
They need to get the CEO onto Youtube to say, “I’m sorry, we blew it, really, really badly — and then apologize profusely to the subscriber base”.
Now that we have access 24/7 to spread our thoughts across the web, then
If you’re the manager of a brand, you have the ability to control the message – to jump in and interact with it, help shape it.
Marshall Kirkpatrick: (Sarcastic) Are you sure it wouldn’t just be a good idea to just be really nice, and just tell everyone about your products?
Dave Allen: Why should we do that?
Marshall Kirkpatrick: Because that’s what’s made money for the majority of people in this industry since the industry began.
Dave Allen: Well, that’s not how I make my living.
So, is Social Media Dead?
Rod Pitman (audience): Well, I have a question. Is social media dead? Isn’t that the name of this panel? And if not, why? I think that, if you don’t have a story, you’re dead.
Dave Allen: I agree. A story is necessary. But there is the name of the panel, which I am responsible for, and the question behind that is what is behind social media, and to also start a discussion.
Marshall Kirkpatrick: Would anyone else like to speak about push marketing pushed over social media tools, vs. the opposite, which is engagement?
Matt Saravino: Social media is by no means dead. I think that over time, your intent becomes obvious. So if your intent is that you’re going to constantly tell me that your products are 20% off, I’m going to realize that. To be genuine, and to realize that people can see right through you.
If you’re trying to broadcast deals, then call your Twitter account “BrandDeals” or something, so then people at least know what to expect.
Lee Crane: Social Media is not dead, it’s actually the other way around. The Social is killing the “media.”
Watch What You Predict
Tony Welch: How many of you do SEO or SEM? SEO and SEM will be dead as you know it within 6 months. Google is going to take into account now much more about what’s happening. Now, when people talk in your name, people will see social conversations about your company showing up in Google results, from Facebook, Twitter, Flickr. It’s now about brand management vs. SEO.
Dave Allen: Great, so you can take all that money you put into SEO and SEM and put it into community management. And you should not retain your assets but spread them as far and as wide as possible.
If we are moving away from SEO/SEM and into community and reputation, then it is of tremendous importance to protect and monitor communities and reputations.
Tony Welch: Anyone know what the second largest search engine is? Facebook. Twitter is coming next. People are spending a lot more on relationship analysis.
Self-Censoring and Social Media
Marcus Miller (audience): I guess that Dave has no self censoring problems. Tony you speak to – the idea that when you do any Twittering, then it is you. What degree do you find yourself self-censoring?
Tony Welch: There are some things I would love to Tweet about, but as I do work at HP, there are some constraints: for instance, I can’t just post anything because I’m also representing part of HP, and what I say can reflect on the brand.
Lee Crane: I use pseudonyms. I use fictional constructs, which also blog for me.
Dave Allen: Do you pay them well?
Lee Crane: I do. Very well.
Dave Allen: I’m not as wide-open as you think. I have a 30 second rule, and if it still reads well after that, I post it. I also don’t do anything online after 11 O’clock. Because I drink a glass a glass of wine. That’s a new rule I’ve decided to follow.
Technological Adoption and Social Class
Carri Bugbee (audience): brings up a questions about kids having flip phones, but per danah boyd’s research, social class plays a bit role in having iPhones or not. The man from New York who sent this question says, “all my kids have iPhones”.
Matt Savarino: That sounds like a very nice family to be in. But the majority of kids don’t have these technologies.
Lee Crane:Right now, it seems like there’s so much volume of information out there that we can ignore everything.
Marshall Kirkpatrick: Some people who tweet as many as 5 times a day feel like they’re flooding the world with too much information. I prefer to get RSS feeds from people and companies so I can keep track of all the the updates in an organized manner.
Community Management – Tracking the Social Web. Monitoring, then Participating
Tony Welch: We use a social media tracking program called Radian6 to track what’s happening on the social web. I’m not actually participating in conversations but am watching them happen.
Dave Allen: That’s classic community manager. Monitoring the network is the first step to maintaining reputation. You should not start right away by saying ‘We’re such-and-such a shoe brand”, or we have to jump in and get a Twitter or Facebook page, ect. If you don’t have a plan for that, it’s going got be a bit of a nightmare. There’s always this expectation or practice built around it. I wish there were such a way that I could get across to these companies about the need or them to have an insurance policy.
Tony Welch: One time, when I was looking at what people were saying about the community, and this one guy said, “I hate HP so much that it hurts when I pee”.
Tony Welch: And so I think, what am I supposed to do what that? Do I engage? How do I engage?
Lee Crane: Well, he’s probably not using the product correctly.
Nicole (audience): It’s not going to be who killed social media, but who killed the companies, because they didn’t participate? How, if you’re in one of these companies and have them understand the insurance principle, or the stupidity of companies?
Tony Welch: You pull up Google and pull up their name, you go to Twitter and pull up their name, you go to Facebook and pull up their name — and you say, “look at all of these people having conversations about your brand without you participating.
The battery on my laptop died just before the end of the panel, but Ed Borasky (@znmeb) came up to the mike and asked a very potent question.
“Some people got in on the ground floor of Twitter,” said Ed, “but it’s too late to do that now. My question is what is the next service to get in on the ground floor of. For instance, there’s no way to be Scoble, or Oprah, now that it’s been done”.
I’m not sure who it was that responded, but a number of the panelists did, and the response was along the lines of personal branding. “There’s always opportunity to develop a brand. And there’s never been a chance to be Oprah,” they said.
Nate DiNiro (@unclenate“) also asked if social media was going to backlash, because now “aren’t we all just looking at screens?”. He wondered if there was a point when we wouldn’t be able to take the inflow of information anymore – when we would just ‘snap’.
Dave Allen: I don’t think so. I’ve had a greater ability to meet people through Tweetups and get to know them in real life more than if I didn’t have the technology. In many ways, looking at a screen has made me more social.
The panel ended on a high note, with Dave Allen saying something really awesome, and the networking continued into the night, moving from Nemo to various bars and pubs. Thanks to everyone who helped up the event on, including Nemo Design, GroupY, and the panelists, and special thanks to Marshall Kirkpatrick, who did an excellent job of moderating.
Who Killed Social Media Recorded Livestream
If you missed the event, or want to make fun of the lousy job I did of trying to type way too quickly during it, then you can watch the saved livestream of Who Killed Social Media at USTREAM.
Amber Case is a Cyborg Anthropologist and social media consultant living and working in Portland, Oregon. You can follow her on Twitter @caseorganic. She has a background in qualitative and quantitative analysis and is available for short-term projects involving new media, online presence, digital branding, data aggregation and event coverage. If you’re not on Twitter, reach her at caseorganic [at] gmail [dot] com.