Are we consistent? (Social Media integration pros and cons)

sweet multiple shadows

Integration, profile exchange, portable social graphs: a lot of new technologies aim at making life easier for anyone who likes to be on more than one social place.

Maybe not really easier.

When doing any kind of repetitive action that doesn’t give any direct reward, the user likes to avoid steps and recycle as much as possible of the work done in the first place. So, the “reason why” of portable social graphs and integrated profiles is really useful and desirable. To that, you can also ad that thay allow profiles to be always up-to-date.

Until it comes to consistency.

In our everyday life we meet several people and behave differently with all of them. Even when we don’t know a single person very well, we act with him / her on the basis of assumptions and doing so, we always craft our communication to fit the target. We like (and need) to communicate different contents with different methods, based on anyone’s personality. We show love, fear, passion, hate, loathing, friendliness, care, interest and a hundred thousand gradients of these and other emotions to one person, and have another hundred thousand ways to do it, depending on who we are relating to.

Now, here’s the catch.

We behave differently because we need to. Speaking in the same way, with the same choice of arguments, gestures, words, colours and metaphors to anyone would cause them not to understand us completely and would make us look very unpopular to many of the people we know.

Social Media makes differentiation harder.

When you set up your personal brand (or U.0 brand, to say that with Armano) whether you’re aware of it or not, you choose a way to communicate. When you act differently on Social Media, it's hard to make things work without any efforts. “Acting differently” means “in a non-consistent way”. If your “personal brand” (or your Social Media Personality if you’re not defining yourself as a “brand”) doesn’t fit your non-digital personality you’ll get upset when someone you know reaches you in a context you can’t control. If you are someone on a social network and someone else on another you won’t want the two situations to meet. If you are someone on – let’s say – Bebo and someone else on Facebook: it’ll be hard to manage things when someone from the “other side” reaches you.

That’s why making your life easier sometimes makes your life harder.

In my personal experience, I’ve found out that coherence is very hard to manage in the beginning, but it’s very good once you started being coherent. You’ll always have the possibility to reach all of my on-line profiles and find that they match. But I completely understand everyone who doesn’t want (or can’t) be consistent with their “digital” life: differentiating can be a need. And in some cases, it might be worth the effort.

Portable Social Graphs are a great solution. Sometimes.

They help you being "connected" and skip some registration work.
  • Do people really want to integrate their profiles between different Social Networks?
  • Are they really ready to be “a brand”?
  • And, if so, is this brand “consistent”, considering that Social Media brings down many barriers of time and space?
  • Or might they like to join niche networks and be able to target their communication more precisely?

Photo credit: Torley

People, Objectives, Strategy, Technology... What about Space?

Space invaders

If you want to be heard in a room full of voices, you have basically two choices:
  • Speak louder
  • Say something in a very different way

As Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li started working on the book Groundswell, they surely knew they were going to change the rules in Social Media approach for many players: they wanted to turn upside down the almost standard procedure of developing Social Media strategies. In a world where most of the times agencies and companies thought “Social” starting from “Technology”, they set up a model that puts “Technology” in the last position and puts “People” in the first place. This is what made them heard in a space full of voices.
I like “Groundswell” a lot (in my opinion, of the most inspiring books in 2008). According to the methodology proposed by Li and Bernoff, the first thing to do when working on a Social Media strategy is thinking about the potential target of the Social Media activity, to evaluate how it’s composed, according to Forrester Social Technographics. This allows estimating:
  • % of people who actively create content
  • % of people who comment and rate
  • % of people who collect content using Social tools
  • % of people who are active on several Social Networks
  • % of people who just passively view content
  • % of people inactive in Social Media

This helps to understand a lot about your target and about what kind of approach you could follow to appeal them.

But, when thinking about “People”, it can’t be all.
There must be something at an even more particular level, something that also differentiates users within one single segment. What if we consider interaction with social media as a part of people’s life? In people’s life two resources are limited: time and attention.
When people / users interact on one social network, set up a blog page, comment on a photograph, watch a video, they spend part of their time / attention on one kind of activity and they’ll less likely want to do the same kind of activity for a long time.
After being an hour on YouTube, you won’t probably want to spend another one on Vimeo. (Substitute YouTube / Vimeo with Facebook / MySpace; MyStarbucks Idea / Dell Idea Storm…).

People’s life (time and attention) is limited.
When analyzing people to understand how to reach them and having you’ve found out the composition of the target in terms of Social Technographics – it can be very useful to consider what people already do today in the media space.
Your target can be full of people who create content (creators), but they might spend all of their time on Flickr. So, when you set up the new killer application for uploading and sharing photographs, watch out because the “creators” might not want / be able to use it. When it comes to it, they’ll be out of time and attention.
Considering Media Space Competitors helps a lot in defining strategies trying not to overlap the existing solutions and to develop a unique positioning.

It talking about Forrester POST methodology People, Objectives, Strategies and Technologies, it will be good to consider the “Space” we act in, too: People, Objectives, Space, Strategies and Technologies?

Ok, I guess “POSST” as an acronym is not as good. :-)

I think the reason of considering "Space" can be summed up with this tweet by Russ Unger: "Wondering if people are realizing yet that most things social are a part of the overall (U)X".

I’m not sure everyone always considers “Space”: I often see a lot of overlapping in new communication activities when I run some benchmarking. What’s your experience?

Photo credit "Space Invaders" by Kurtxio

Users are like wings. Push them, but pull them.

Do you know how wings work?

Red-winged blackbird

I mean, how they really work, besides making airplanes fly and boats sail... I found it out a few days ago and it surprised me that it's a lot more about pulling than pushing. (If you like the complete scientific explanation, I suggest to read How do wings work? by Holger Babinsky)

The movement, the lifting comes only in a little part from the forces that push the wing up, but it comes a lot more from the forces that pull the wing up. I'm far from being something similar to a scientist, but I can humbly explain it saying that a sort of vacuum creates above the wing and the wing itself moves up to fill it.

This picture (from Holder Babinsky's document) explains it a little better.

Now, what does it have to do with this blog and with digital marketing and communication? To me, a lot. Actually, it has a lot to do with motivation, not only with communication and marketing.

In any field, at any level individuals (AKA consumers, users) are moved much more when they are attracted and pulled to an objective than when they are pushed to it.

The "pulling" can be read at different levels, for instance:

  • Reaching friends
  • Creating connections
  • Being recognized / recognizable
  • Get a better social life
  • Spreading a funny content
Push or Pull?

"Pulling" is how content become "viral" and spread (I want to share it because it is fun and interesting), it's how users are appealed to see content on-line just because some of their friends posted it (they're pulled to see it because it might be appealing and to be up-to-date) and it's how social media makes things happen (with a reference to Mack Colliers' Social Media excels at making things happen indirectly).

"Pushing" is something more traditional and "one shot": it's pushing sales just with direct commercial offers, it's POS non-integrated promotion, it's one way communication. Sometimes it's important but in the long term it cannot be the key point.

The user is the wing, the key is to create the "pulling" situation.
Can you think of any pulling situation in digital communication?

Photo Credit dbaron

FriendFeed: are you a real friend?

Aggregators have a lot of advantages: they allow to find useful information in one place, they're fast to use, they allow the user to deal with just one layout and architecture without focusing on more than one type of navigation. But they also have critical aspects that need to be considered.

Two days ago, Jeremiah Owyang wrote on his blog about his Twitter hiatus (he stopped using twitter two weeks before) "As a result, I’m finding solace in tools that allow for greater context like this blog, and on Friendfeed".

The reference to "context" (in the post Jeremiah Owyang wrote that Twitter had a lack of context) made me think about aggregators and hyper aggregators a little bit more in-depth.

I've become a fan of Google Reader through the last months and of FriendFeed lately, but I saw a few critical aspects that need to be considered:

  • Context: aggregators allow user to see information outside of their contest. This means the user see blog posts in a situation which is not under the author's control. This may also cause lack of ads impression in the author's website (it can be a problem for bloggers who want to generate revenue also through display advertising;

  • Comments: there's the risk users can be pushed to comment inside the aggregator and not at the content's source. In a situation where aggregators (like Google Reader and FrienfFeed) allow content commenting and sharing, it becomes more and more easy for users to add comments in the aggregator. This generate gaps in the communication, since some stakeholders might not be able to see all the discussion pieces;

  • Communication overflow: the main stream the user deal with on FriendFeed might be dense and can make it hard to drive attention effectively on relevant contents.

  • Standards paths: aggregators and readers might push the user into a loop of content, avoiding contact with what's new and what's outside the "standard" path of navigation.

Aggregators do not allow what David Armano defined as "the human feed" (the way "Twitter & Networks filter signal from noise") or - at least - they do not allow it to work in a very effective way.

Aggregators are extraordinary, but I'll go on using them combined with other digital channels, first of all: Twitter. Oh, and if you want to join my human feed, here I am

What's your experience with aggregators? Do you feel lack of context, too much comment dispersion, see a communication overflow or think they force you to a standard path?

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