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Patrick James Cavanaugh


May 2009

Copyright 2009

Patrick James Cavanaugh

UMI Number: 1464239


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Table of Contents List of Tables List of Figures Abstract Introduction Chapter 1: What is Social Media Chapter 2: Online Community and Identity Chapter 3: The Conversation Chapter 4: Exploring Social Media Platforms Blogs Twitter Facebook Wikipedia Digg Flickr Chapter 5: Bringing it all together - Storytelling Conclusion References iii iv v 1 4 10 15 27 29 32 38 43 49 54 57 60 63


List of Tables Table 1: Number of Internet Users Table 2: Community Types Table 3: Obstacles to Trust Table 4: Social Network Traffic Table 5: Social Media Platform Categories Table 6: Dos and Donts Table 7: Blog SMO Table 8: Digg Tactics 1 10 12 18 20 23 30 50


List of Figures Figure 1: OCRN Findings Figure 2: Web of Social Media Figure 3: Twitter Alexa Ratings Figure 4: HP Labs Twitter Research Figure 5: Facebook Alexa Ratings Figure 6: Wikipedia Alexa Ratings Figure 7: Walmart Wiki Contents Figure 8: Digg Alexa Ratings Figure 9: ShareThis Widget Figure 10: Flickr Alexa Ratings Figure 11: StoryTlr Entry 7 19 33 35 39 44 47 49 53 55 58


Abstract In the Strategic Public Relations industry, professional communication is defined by well-crafted messaging and carefully chosen distribution channels. As the Internet becomes the prime channel of communication for much of the populationthrough Social Mediaprofessionals who are willing to engage in the conversation must come to understand the world they are entering, and this paper provides both an introduction to and a framework for discussing that medium. It is my contention that an understanding of the principles of community and identity, as defined relative to a virtual reality, grants insight to exploring the various platforms of Social Media and the norms and principles that define each. As Social Media is an emerging phenomenon, this shall by no means serve as the complete authority on the subject, however it is my aim to provide a foundation for an ongoing review of best practices in Strategic Social Media.

Introduction Looking at the Internet and its evolution over recent decades, one is hard-pressed to find someone who believes it has not revolutionized how we live our daily lives. Yet, this series of tubes is really just a series of interconnected computer networks, a network of networks, and just as the Internet thrives on the transfer of data, so too do we, the users of the Internet, thrive on the transfer of information that this technology allows. And there are now scads of users: recent comScore data shows that Internet population has recently reached above the billion mark.1 Table 1: Number of Internet Users Top 15 countries, by Internet population China United States Japan Germany United Kingdom France India Russia Brazil South Korea Canada Italy Spain Mexico Netherlands Worldwide Internet Audience Asia Pacific Europe North America Latin America Middle East & Africa

179.7 million 163.3 million 60.0 million 37.0 million 36.7 million 34.0 million 32.1 million 29.0 million 27.7 million 27.3 million 21.8 million 20.8 million 17.9 million 12.5 million 11.8 million 416 million (41.3%) 283 million (28.0%) 185 million (18.4%) 75 million (7.4%) 49 million (4.8%)

Public Relations professionals need to realize the nature of the whole of the Internet as the Forum; the classic message-board of online communication has expanded into a web of content and comment logs. News articles, pictures, videos and blog posts each spark their own thread of conversation and interaction for a community of netizens. Aggregates serve as the pool from which a variety of topics and pieces of interest can be drawn from and discussed. Microblogs are a bulletin board of events, RSS feeds are news and headlines, and Media-sharing sites are buckets of pure content. As Stephen Baker and Heather Green from BusinessWeek put it in their article Social Media Will Change Your Business, The divide between the publishers and the public is collapsing. This turns mass media upside down. It creates media of the masses.2 With this paper I look to explore the Internet from the perspective of strategic communications, looking at how the World Wide Web has increasingly become a prime channel of communication for many parts of the world, how this is exemplified in the tools and applications commonly referred to as Social Media, and how communications professionals can best engage in the conversation. After briefly introducing Social Media, I hope to establish a framework for analyzing online communications from the perspective of Community and Identity. The Internet has redefined human behavior and any guideline for participating is helped by an understanding of the Obstacles to Trust and the Psychographics of Anonymity. From there I look at various platforms and detail the keys to best practices, concluding with a section on Social Media storytelling and how this content convergence benefits

communicators and changes how news is reported. Finally, I end with an example of what a Social Media startup would look like for an existing organization, utilizing the different platforms to optimize the site for fully engaging in the conversation.

Chapter 1: What is Social Media? Social Media are primarily Internet-based tools for sharing and discussing information with other people. The term most often refers to activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. This interaction, and the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and building of shared meaning among communities, as people share their stories and experiences.3 This is the Wikipedia definition, one I feel appropriate for an academic discussion of this topic as this online encyclopedia exemplifies many aspects of what Social Media entails. Indeed, the more authoritative Encyclopedia Britannica has no reference for Social Media, only virtual community: a group of people, who may or may not meet one another face to face, who exchange words and ideas through the mediation of computer bulletin board systems (BBSs) and other digital networks.4 Brian Solis, a thought-leader and key influencer in Social Media and author of a blog on PR 2.0, wrote The Social Media Manifesto, a blogpost where-in he provides the following definition: First its an understanding that social media is about sociology and less about technology. Its a mashup of new and traditional media that spans across advertising, PR, customer service, marcom, sales, and community relations. An understanding of the role people play in the process of not only reading and disseminating information, but also how they in turn, share and also create content for others to participate.[and] With the injection of social tools into the mix, people now have the ability to impact and influence the decisions of their peers and also other newsmakers.5 5


Before going any further, its important to dispel certain myths that exist about Social Media and its applications. Myth #1: Social Media is cheap and easy Many of the tools of Social Media are free, and appear very easy to use. This has directly led to a rush of businesses signing up and logging in to every new application without a strategic plan or concrete understanding of the medium. Not only can this lead to inconsistent messages, but also confusion over brand identitymissteps can be exposed more readily, threatening future credibility and reputation. If the brand is not hip, why is it trying so hard to be on a hip site? Setting up shop online should grant as much preparation and investment as opening a store on the street. Mack Collier, a Social Media consultant, wrote a blogpost in response to questions about how much time bloggers need to spend on their sites. while it might not cost a lot to get your social media efforts off the ground, you still need to make a time investment. And the more time you can invest, the better your results. Don't enter into the social media space unless you can commit to being here for the long haul, and unless you can commit the time that this space requires. If you can't invest hours at first, then start slowly, and as you get more accustomed to these sites and tools, and as your efforts improve, then devote more time.6 Reality: Just as a Strategic Public Relations Campaign would utilize any other communication channel, Social Media requires a strategic plan and the necessary resources to succeed. Myth #2: Companies can foster community, engagement, and relationships around everyday products. Creating a relationship between brands and consumers helps public relations

professionals tell their stories and makes their jobs easier. Social Media goes a long way in contributing to this dynamic by providing tools to help engage communities of users, but only so far. For example, Tide officials made a decision to create a brand page on Facebook for Americas Favorite Stains.7 Members were encouraged to upload photos of stains and vote on their favorites; think of it as an American Idol, with stains instead of singers. It seems P&G didnt quite garner the engagement they wanted (though there are still 500 fans lingering around), and the page has become another abandoned Social Media ghost town. Drama 2.0, a well-known blogger, summarizes the key learning here as before brand marketers invest their money implementing marketing campaigns, they should consider their position in the world and in an average consumers life. Without a realistic assessment of their position and how they can best relate their product/brand-relationship to the consumer, their social media marketing campaigns are probably doomed to mediocrity at best and complete failure at worst.8 Reality: People interact, engage and build communities around passions, causes, ideas, fantasies - not everyday products.9 Myth #3: Public relations campaigns which utilize Social Media are difficult to measure, monitor, or track. A common criticism of Public Relations is the difficulty with which proper evaluation and cost analysis metrics can be applied to any campaign. This critique has followed the industrys progression onto the Internet, where there are no circulation estimates or ad7 9

space pricing to provide comparison. The Return on Investment generated by implementing a Social Media campaign seems improbable, if not impossible, due to the still emerging business models of the medium. The Online Community Research Network initiated the Online Community ROI Models and Reporting research in February 2008. The study was created to investigate further into the ROI research conducted in the last half of 2007, and to gain insight into specifically how organizations were valuing and reporting on their online communities activities.10 Here are highlights: Figure 1: OCRN Findings Q16: Which of the following quantitative and qualitative metrics are critical for communication ROI at your organization?


Figure 1: OCRN Findings (Continued)

Q23: What were the 1-2 compelling sources of value from your community or social media efforts that you constantly communicate? (a) Community helps problem solve faster and more efficiently than Customer Support, saving our company time and money (b) Availability of information and content for specific areas of interest (c) Increases site traffic / more engaged relationship with us (d) Idea Creation / What we learn from members of the community (e) Lead Generation / Conversion / Loyalty Reality: Communication professionals have found adequate measures for online behavior. Referral logs tell you exactly where people first engaged with your content,

Google Trends identifies prominent search terms, and usage data and analytics statistically define levels of consumer interaction.

Chapter 2: Online Community and Identity Online communities can be defined with reference to communities in the real word. Through the Internet, people across continents become virtual neighbors, and Social Media is comparable to a cocktail party in the community clubhouse. Lee Komito outlines four types of community and how these relate to those on the Internet. 11 Table 2: Community Types Type Moral Identifier Individuals share a common ethical system that constrains interactions among members, emphasizing mutual benefit above self-interest or personal goals. This is community as communal solidarity. The existence of agreed-upon rules of appropriate behavior. People interact with each other not in terms of roles or stereotypes, but as individuals. Temporary aggregations of individuals. There is often little sense of collective identity. Membership in a community is voluntary and temporary, and individuals move and groups are redefined.

Normative Proximate Fluid, or Nomadic

Similar to a fan convention or a club meeting, common-interest communities abound on the Internet; the beauty of being online is that no matter what appeals to you, whatever your interests are, there are like-minded others out there. Moreover, the culture of the Internet (especially with the more recent transformation from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0) is fundamentally participatory, but there are both benefits and consequences to this.


The Net as a Foraging Society: Flexible Communities by Lee Komito, in Information Society 14, #2, 1998, pp. 97-103.


In what has been termed the In Strangers We Trust Conundrum by Matthew LeVeque,12 online users currently view each other as reliable sources of information, with the anonymous reviewers on Amazon and Yelp impacting purchase decisions. There is an underlying assumption that the reviews on these sites are posted by members of the community themselves3rd Parties with no direct brand affiliationand their inherent disinterest implies credibility. It is the sense of community that provides trust. As Ryan Light writes in his paper Like Strangers We Trust: Social Trust, Identity, and Latent Affiliation Networks, Social trust is affected by latent affiliations and latent affiliations function as identities.13 There are, however, the inherent consequences to mob rule. For example, one of the platforms discussed later in this paper is a content aggregate site where a community of users submits content and votes on the submissions. It appears to be a very open and democratic system, but Giles Bowkett has found an inherent flaw with the idea that published content should appeal to the majority. When you build a system where you get points for the number of people who agree with you, you are building a popularity contest for ideas. However, your popularity contest for ideas will not be dominated by the people with the best ideas, but the people with the most time to spend on your web site. Votes appear to be free, like contribution is with Wikipedia, but in reality you have to register to vote, and you have to be there frequently for your votes to make much difference. So the votes aren't really free - they cost time. If you do the math, it's actually quite obvious that if your popularity contest for ideas inherently, by its structure, favors people who waste their own time, then your contest will produce winners which are actually losers. The most popular ideas will not be the best

12 13

USC Professor and Senior VP at the Rogers Group.


ideas, since the people who have the best ideas, and the ability to recognize them, also have better things to do and better places to be.14 Additionally, most of the online world is still relatively new to much of the population, and the rapid pace of development in Social Media can be overwhelming for the unprepared. Helen Nissenbaum writes that Novelty, or unfamiliarity, can in itself stall the formation of trust. Beyond sheer novelty, however, there are more specific features of the online world that bear on the formation and sustenance of trust Nissenbaum posits the following as Obstacles to Trust Online: 15 Table 3: Obstacles to Trust Obstacles Missing Identities Characteristics If we imagine identity as a thread upon which we string the history of interactions with others, then without that thread we lose the ability to learn from past experiences of either indicated trust or betrayal. Finally, because identity is also bound up with accountability, people might presume that anonymous agents are less likely to act responsibly. Online, we are separated from others in time and space; we lack cues that may give evidence of similarity, familiarity, or shared value systems.

Missing Personal Characteristics

14 15 Securing Trust Online: Wisdom or Oxymoron? by Helen Nissenbaum, in Virtual Publics; Policy and Community in an Electronic Age, 2003, pp. 144-146.


Table 3: Obstacles to Trust (Continued) Inscrutable Context One casualty [of IC online] is role definition, because, at least for now, we cannot rely on traditional mechanisms for articulating and supporting social, professional, and other roles. Just as roles are still relatively unformulated, so are background constraints and social norms regarding qualities like fidelity, virtue, loyalty, guile, duplicity, and trickery.

These obstacles to trust are inherent to the psychographics of anonymity. A film on VideoJug titled How To Behave On An Internet Forum playfully details this defining characteristic of Internet communication. By-and-large, the trouble with the Internet, and forums in particular, is that everyone gets to be anonymous. This essentially gives them free reign to be as snooty and argumentative as they like, and has directly lead to the introduction of trolls, griefers, and other assorted online characters whose only pleasure is derived by causing others pain.16 A troll' posts deliberately controversial or annoying messages on forums while a griefer attempts to enter and undermine games or virtual worlds, for the specific purpose of getting a rise out of people and initiating a hate-filled and overly-argumentative reaction. The New York Times Magazine published an article in August 2008 explaining these malicious techniques.17 The Trolls Among Us, written by Mattathias Schwartz, outlines the issue quite well, by focusing on, a collection of content-specific message boards where a post consists of an image and a few lines of text. Almost everyone posts
16 17


as anonymous. The group Anonymous responsible for much of the recent Scientology protests in Los Angeles has been linked to 4chan, specifically to /b/, or the random board. Schwartz describes /b/ thusly: Measured in terms of depravity, insularity and traffic-driven turnover, the culture of /b/ has little precedent. /b/ reads like the inside of a high-school bathroom stall, or an obscene telephone party line, or a blog with no posts and all comments filled with slang that you are too old to understand. They do this in pursuit of lulz18 and the appropriate course of action is simply not to respond. No matter how superior your logic nor the invalidity of the troll-logic, this is an argument you will not win. Don't feed the troll.


Definition from Urban Dictionary: Beginning as a plural variant of lol, Lulz was originally an exclamation but is now often used as a noun meaning interesting or funny internet content. Lulz is the one good reason to do anything I did it for the lulz.


Chapter 3: The Conversation WHO - When engaging in the conversation in Social Media, your identity is defined by a Profile/Username, your Post Count/History, and your Karma/Reputation. A username illustrates something about the user, an interest or a nickname, a favorite character, or part of an inside joke. In addition, within the larger communities, a username can define adoption rate, with the more common names being registered early on and perhaps, along with post count, characterizing the influential veterans who were there from the beginning. Every time you post, your post count goes up by one. Some people seem to think that the higher the post count, the more worthy and valuable they are to society at large. Frankly, the exact opposite seems to be the case; posting just to up your count without making a significant contribution brings disfavor, so make sure all your messages add to a discussion in some way.19 And finally, there are sites that track karma points for users, with the community modding your behavior by way of votes, positive and negative. Even in sites without inherent karmic capabilities, users have personal reputationsin Twitter, for instance, your number of followers and who you follow become character traits. WHAT When users go online, its usually because they are looking for something. Whether theyre looking for news, entertainment, reference, info on a purchase decision or even a date, by going on the Internet people are interacting with media content. It is content that provides much of glue for communities within Social Media. Content is King. Television shows like Lost inspire entire message boards devoted to discussing the


latest episode., the Internet Movie Database, relies upon its users to submit film reviews and write plot summaries. There are sites now developed to help companies or individuals create and publish their own content. is such a site, with a freelancer network and studio capabilities to develop content that can help businesses grow through Social Media.20 Demand Media owns and operates several branded websites, including,, and More than 26 million people visit eHow each month for tips on how to do just about anything.21 Cracked is a website which retains its own membership community while consistently appearing on many social bookmarking sites. The articles and funny videos are made almost entirely by individual content creators and fans, giving contributors an audience in the millions and helping them establish a credibility and visibility they wouldnt have otherwise. Editors, bloggers, contributors and readers are all collaborators in creating the content they enjoy.22 WHEN Social Media has changed the timeframe for audience interaction with media and messaging. No longer can the length of a news cycle determine whether crises will disappear if you just ignore and rely upon interest waning. Baker and Green state: [Social Media]'s wrapped up far more in people's day-to-day lives. It's connected to time. [Blogs] evolve with every posting, each one tied to a moment. So if a company can track millions of blogs simultaneously, it gets a heat map of what a growing part of the world is thinking about, minute by minute. E-mail has carried on billions of conversations over the past decade. But those exchanges were private. Most blogs are open to the world. As the
20 21 22


bloggers read each other, comment, and link from one page to the next, they create a global conversation.23 There is a context and timeframe for much of online communication. It is ongoing, and has been ever since the Internet gained widespread use (in some circles, this is nearly 20 years). A concrete example of this is the existence of online Memes, cultural artifacts arising from and transferring through interaction. These can be jokes, beliefs, or ideas that have evolved from acceptance and dispersion.24 One Internet meme that reached beyond virtual reality is the Rick Roll. Rick-Rolling someone entails sharing a purported link with a user that when clicked actually references a music video of Rick Astleys Never Going To Give You Up on Youtube. This meme had enough farreaching influence that when the New York Mets baseball team held a poll for fans to vote on a new sing-along song for the 8th Inning, they were unwittingly rick-rolled.25 WHERE Social Media is not the Internet, but the Internet is Social Media. The scope of the term covers a broad range of different websites, networks, and communication platforms. Social Networks are the definitive online community, where millions of members access each other through a single portal. Nielsen Online ratings provides a glance at the breadth of the conversation:26

23 25 26 Nielsen Online; US, Home and Work; Month of February 2009


Table 4: Social Network Traffic

Top 20 Social Network Sites, Dec 2008 Feb-09 Site Unique Audience Time/Person Facebook Classmates Online LinkedIn Club Penguin Ning AOL Community Bebo Imeem Flixster Multiply MyYearbook CarDomain Network Gaia Online 65,704,000 54,164,000 15,545,000 13,418,000 11,220,000 7,038,000 6,073,000 3,944,000 3,637,000 3,488,000 3,165,000 2,665,000 2,520,000 2,394,000 2,262,000 2,248,000 2,216,000 2,120,000 1,627,000 1,544,000 2:59:55 1:35:31 0:08:12 0:12:26 0:04:12 0:08:07 0:40:07 0:13:56 0:10:29 1:16:33 0:11:17 0:06:57 0:12:30 0:06:34 0:03:41 1:01:17 0:07:33 0:03:55 0:03:00 4:06:10

Feb-08 Unique Audience Time/Person 20,043,000 56,313,000 12,955,000 7,392,000 4,323,000 475,000 4,727,000 1,464,000 3,337,000 1,316,000 2,255,000 2,187,000 2,619,000 821,000 1,980,000 1,738,000 1,940,000 1,765,000 1,322,000 1,222,000 1:06:43 2:16:05 0:10:21 0:10:31 0:04:34 0:06:45 0:09:04 0:04:43 0:36:58 0:11:51 0:12:42 0:05:28 0:07:38 0:05:59 0:06:39 1:00:02 0:12:16 0:04:34 0:05:04 2:20:08

YOY Growth Unique Audience Time/Person 228% -4% 20% 82% 160% 1,382% 28% 169% 9% 165% 40% 22% -4% 192% 14% 29% 14% 20% 23% 26% 170% -30% -21% 18% -8% 20% 20% 95% -72% 146% -11% 27% 64& 10% -45% 2% -38% -14% 41% 76%


Nielsen has lumped these sites under the common Social Network title, a general term which undermines the true scope of Social Media, seen below. Figure 2: Web of Social Media


The multi-various applications can be organized into four distinct categories: Communication, Collaboration, Multimedia, and Entertainment. Table 5: Social Media Platform Categories Category Communication Blogs: Microblogs / Presence apps Social networking Social network aggregation Events Collaboration Wikis Social bookmarking Social News Sites Opinion sites Multimedia Photo sharing Video sharing Livecasting Audio and Music Sharing Entertainment Virtual worlds Online gaming Game sharing Platform Blogger (service), Livejournal, TypePad, Wordpress, Vox, Twitter, Pownce, Jaiku Avatars United, Bebo, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Orkut, Skyrock, Netlog FriendFeed, Youmeo, Eventful, Wikipedia, PBwiki, wetpaint Delicious, StumbleUpon Digg, Mixx, Reddit epinions, Yelp, TrustedOnes Flickr, Zooomr, Photobucket, SmugMug YouTube, Vimeo, Viddler, Revver Ustream,, Stickam imeem, The Hype Machine,, ccMixter Second Life, The Sims Online World of Warcraft, Everquest, Age of Conan

This categorical distinction, as defined by the Social Media article on Wikipedia,27 belies the cross-interaction that takes place throughout the realm of Social Media. Applications not only share audiences, but reference and embed links to and from other platforms, in



addition to an increasing convergence of capabilities. For instance, in Entertainment, World of Warcraft is a multiplayer online game, but finds itself within Multimedia when videos of epic battles are uploaded to Youtube, as a part of Collaboration with Wikipedia articles providing background story, and as not only a means of providing material for bloggers and journalists but as a tool of Communication itself. A former professor of mine worked with EA Games, and their business meetings had been taken out of the boardroom and into WoWprojects could be discussed and ideas brainstormed while the team was raiding a dungeon and utilizing group chat. WHY - The Internet has provided the opportunity for instant reference and communication. To communicate, you can either talk to them, or give them something to talk about. The results for businesses who engage are an up-to-the-minute read on what their audiences are thinking and discussing. Movie studios are monitoring blogs to see which films are generating the desirable buzz, advertisers are tracking responses to their newest ads, and political candidates are tracking down constituents for their campaigns. As Henry Jenkins puts it, all this exists within a certain context, one that has developed over recent years to dominate media consumption and communication. Its a context of sharing: 1. New tools and technologies enable consumers to archive, annotate, appropriate, and recirculate media content. 2. A range of subcultures promote Do-It-Yourself (DIY) media production, a discourse that shapes how consumers have deployed those technologies. 3. Economic trends favoring the horizontally integrated media conglomerates encourage the flow of images, ideas, and narratives across multiple media channels and demand more active modes of spectatorship.28
Interactive Audiences? The Collective Intelligence of Media Fans, by Henry Jenkins, in Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers; Exploring Participatory Culture, 2006.


And what if you or your organization opts out of this paradigm? There is an entire industry still coming to terms with the new contextthe recording industry is engaged in a war of attrition with its own consumers, headed by the RIAA and the bevy of lawsuits theyve filed for the past decade. Looking at the scenario from the point-of-view of new media, the problem with the music industry is that their product has reached obsolescence. What they sold was a means of distributing media, a record or CD that delivered music to the consumer. Digital technology allows for digital release, thus negating the need for a delivery devicethe content creator need no longer rely upon an industry for their distribution. Bands can now simply upload their music to their Myspace page, and everyone can share their disgust about the evil corporations and their assault on fans everywhere. The RIAA, instead of embracing their audiences and recognizing the role of the Internet in their daily lives, opted out of the conversation and took their case to the courts. Companies who similarly choose to opt out of Social Media lose the opportunity to genuinely communicate with their stakeholders, to gain trust and credibility, and the ability to quickly engage in damage control whenever there are online crises or threats to the companys reputation. HOW - Learning the dialectic of the conversation is important; for those who embrace the new dynamic, the connections provided by Social Media applications, and the communities that are thereby formed, allow for a conversation to take place, an ongoing dialogue between limitless numbers of participants about any possible topic of interest.


Message boards and discussion forums allow users to feel like they are part of something, and thus they interact. And yet before a professional should engage, he or she must also learn the best practices of online behavior. Eric Brantner posted an excellent summary of what can be called proper Social Media etiquette.29 These rules help provide some of the Dos and Donts of online interaction, but basically, all of this can be boiled down to Erics final point, Be Nice. Table 6: Dos and Donts Do: Give More than You Receive

Add Value to the Site

If you want to receive attention from others online, you have to be willing to give it first. Its the old Ill scratch your back if you scratch mine routine. You cant bust onto a social media site with a sense of entitlement thinking you should be a top user immediately. You have to earn respect from others. How do you do this? By giving more than you receive. At the end of the day, the thing that will earn you great connections with others is if you add value to the community. This means not submitting content that nobody cares about and not constantly promoting your brand. Before you ever submit anything to a social media site, ask yourself Does this article really add value to the community? If not, reconsider submitting it.



Table 6: Dos and Donts (Continued) Build Quality Relationships People are more willing to help those who they really know. By building quality relationships with other users, youll always have someone in your corner to back you up. Remember, relationships require the participation of both parties; so, always be a good participant in your social media relationship. This might be the most important rule of social media etiquette. Show respect to the community. Its not that hard to do. Just make sure you dont step out of line, and always treat everyone the way you want to be treated. These are simple social skills you should already be following in real life; now, you just have to follow them online too. Probably the worst thing about the Internet is the keyboard gangstas. Youve surely run across at least one of these in your lifetime. They sit at their keyboard talking trash to everyone they encounter. They say things online that they would never have the nerve to say to a real persons face. Dont try to ruin everyone elses online experience because you dont have any friends in real life. This is self-explanatory. Drop all of your e-beefs and hatred. Dont try to bury others just for the sake of getting ahead. Making enemies on social media sites will get you nowhere fast, and you really do reap what you sow.

Respect the Community

Dont: Be a Keyboard Gangsta (Troll)

Sabotage Others Efforts


Table 6: Dos and Donts (Continued) Cheat Instead of trying to game the system, why dont you focus on building a successful social media presence the right way? Sure, you might be able to get some amazing results by cheating, but eventually, you will get caught. And once everyone sees you for the cheater you are, you cant unring that bell. One of the fastest ways to alienate people online is to constantly flood them with requests for helping you out. Whether youre constantly shouting your content or always Tweeting asking people to comment on your blog, eventually, everyone will lose their patience with you. Its like the boy who cried wolf. People will tune you out if youre constantly pushing the envelope.

Push the Envelope

There are also practices that should be called Mortal Sins of Social Media. Astroturfing, for instance, is where an individual disguises the efforts of a commercial entity as an independent public reaction to a product, service or event. It's an orchestration of overt outreach tactics by covert means.30 This manifests itself not only when professionals interact with online communities without transparency, but also with companies hiring community members to promote their product, giving the impression of popular approval. Considering that many Internet users have IT-related skills, addresses can be tracked and real identities uncovered. Dont Astroturf. Another is forgetting that when engaging in Social Media, everything you say can and will be used against you. Once something makes it online, its there forever, at least in a Google cache. James Andrews is a Ketchum Public Relations employee who was


traveling to Memphis for a meeting with his client, FedEx. This meeting was to provide Social Media consultation and advice. Upon landing in Memphis, Andrews posted this message on his Twitter account: True confession but Im in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say, I would die if I had to live here. Eventually this reached one of the corporate communications people at FedEx, and the result was a lengthy response which promptly spread across blogs and news/gossip sites: Mr. Andrews, If I interpret your post correctly, these are your comments about Memphis a few hours after arriving in the global headquarters city of one of your key and lucrative clients, and the home of arguably one of the most important entrepreneurs in the history of business, FedEx founder Fred Smith. Many of my peers and I feel this is inappropriate. We do not know the total millions of dollars FedEx Corporation pays Ketchum annually for the valuable and important work your company does for us around the globe. We are confident, however, it is enough to expect a greater level of respect and awareness from someone in your position as a vice president at a major global player in your industry. A hazard of social networking is people will read what you write.31



Chapter 4: Exploring Social Media Platforms Id like to now briefly illustrate some of the different platforms and applications that are utilized within Social Media. Each of the categories will have a few examples given an overview, user data gleaned from for a sense of metrics (except blogs since this incorporates multiple sites), and examples of what could be considered best practices for each. Although the best source for traffic metrics would be the host server itself, as a 3rd Party tool Alexa computes traffic rankings by analyzing the Web usage of millions of Alexa Toolbar users and data obtained from other, diverse traffic data sources.32 Websites are ranked according to reach and pageviews, which are typically expressed as percentages of all Internet users who visit a given a site. Reach is determined by the number of unique Alexa users who visit a site on a given day while Pageviews are the total number of Alexa user URL requests for a site.33 These platforms are not necessarily the best or only important ones on the Internet. A few may even not exist in a few years. However, what matters is not which platforms are the most popular, but what these platforms are used for. Digidave (real name David Cohn), is a former reporter for Wired magazine and a confirmed guru on Web 2.0hes a Top 50 user on Digg.34 In a guest lecture at the University of Southern California, he made a crucial point, that no matter whether Facebook, Myspace, Flickr or iPhoto, Digg or

32 33 34


Reddit become obsolete, what isnt going away is the act of Lifestreaming, the act of putting our lives online for others to see.35


Guest Lecture at USC, 2/2/09, Jour 568, Prof. Jay Wang.


COMMUNICATION Blogs Blogs, or web-logs, are online journals where the author, or blogger, has created a web page in order to regularly post articles, images, or any other content they find interesting or blog-worthy. All entries are usually archived, and displayed in reverse-chronological order according to time of post or update. Collectively, the whole community of blogs and bloggers can be referred to as the blogosphere. This concept of a community includes not simply the authors themselves, but the readers of blogs who oftentimes offer their own comments and contribute to the conversation that way. is a site dedicated to blogs, serving as a centralized database for millions of blogs currently online and providing tools which make searching for topics within the blogosphere easier and more accessible. Since 2004, Technorati has published a State of the Blogosphere report, an annual study of the trends and themes of blogging. Gauging the depth and breadth of the blogosphere is no easy task, and though there have been numerous studies aimed at understanding the true size of the Blogosphere, these have yielded widely disparate measures of both the number of blogs and blog readership, largely due to the very nature of a community still evolving. These are recent numbers posted on Technorati: 36 comScore MediaMetrix (August 2008) o Blogs: 77.7 million unique visitors in the US o Facebook: 41.0 million | MySpace 75.1 million o Total internet audience 188.9 million eMarketer (May 2008) o 94.1 million US blog readers in 2007 (50% of Internet users)



o 22.6 million US bloggers in 2007 (12%) Universal McCann (March 2008) o 184 million WW have started a blog | 26.4 US o 346 million WW read blogs | 60.3 US o 77% of active Internet users read blogs

When making the decision to publish a blog, the author should be positioned as either an insider/expert, such as a CTO for a tech company, or a common staffer bringing a dayin-the-life perspective. This helps build interest and credibility into your contribution to the conversation. Authorship does not have to be limited to a single person however, and even separate, distinct blogs can be grouped under a single portal. The Huffington Post, functioning as an online newspaper, features news and commentary from a community of bloggers, pundits, journalists and simple spectators.37 In order to build an audience for the blog, the content should be configured for both Social Media and Search Engine Optimization. SMO means providing easy means for users to access and share your content with others, by embedding the necessary tools for bookmarking, and designing an intuitive User Interface on a site. Another tactic is Repurposing Content for blog SEO. Lee Odden posted on the Online Marketing Blog specific ways content can be better utilized when blogging. 38 Table 7: Blog SMO Get more power out of PowerPoint Turn PowerPoint decks into articles and/or blog posts and vice versa. Its smart marketing anyway, to build supporting editorial visibility to a topic youre speaking on at conferences, with prospective clients or other situations requiring PowerPoint.

37 38


Table 7: Blog SMO (Continued) Let interviews do the talking If youre fortunate to be interviewed by other bloggers, typically via email, leverage the answers youve given into a blog post or an article. Many such interviews do not include the full text of your reply, which you can use for your own online content. Another scenario is when the interview is by phone, podcast or video and youve been given prep questions in advance. Answer the prep questions in text and you have a great basis for several blog posts or an article. Press releases written in AP style are pretty boring for consumers. Heck, theyre pretty boring for everyone. Take the key messages of the press release and rewrite conversationally as blog post making sure to cite examples, offer tips and to link out to relevant resources - ideally other influential blogs on the topic. When you shoot a video for online promotion, take screen shots of appealing moments. Share them on image sharing sites and social networks with a link back to the blog post where the video is embedded.

Turn press releases into lemonade

Utilize Assets

If content is king, links are queen in engaging in the conversation and fully utilizing social media. No blog is an island. Bloggers can get their message out by reading others work in the greater blog community, gaining a sense of what the ongoing conversation is within their interest or industry. By then commenting on other blogs and becoming a more familiar and visible entity, your blog establishes a position within the dialogue and can then contribute.


Twitter - Microblogs is a privately funded startup with offices in the SoMA neighborhood of San Francisco, CA. Started as a side project in March 2006, Twitter has grown into a realtime short messaging service that works over multiple networks and devices. Twitter asks one question, "What are you doing?" Answers must be under 140 characters in length and can be sent via mobile texting, instant message, or the web.39 Users have profiles, and must follow other users to receive their updates. In turn, users can follow you to get all of your updates, and user-specific responses can be made with a reply function. Measurement for Twitter is distinct from other web applications, with click rate and site visit data undermined by many of the users updating their Twitter from a mobile device and never visiting the site itself. Nonetheless, statistics from Alexa show steady growth in the last six months, and Nielsen shows an astronomical 1,300% YOY. 40

39 40


Figure 3: Twitter Alexa Ratings

Tweetrush is a web site that provides estimated stats on Twitter usage over a period of time. Specific users can be searched, and overall numbers charted down to hourly averages. Their service is based upon their proprietary Rush Hour engine, which instead


of looking at page view and clicks, looks at actions and events. These can be located anywhere in the logic that drives any web application.41 Recently, HP Labs completed a study using research data from Twitter in order to find out how relevant a list of friends is to members of a network.42 Distinguishing friends from followers, the authors were hoping to determine key drivers in Twitter usage, how ideas and trends spread by word-of-mouth. With a sample size of about 6% of the Twittersphere, their findings show that links between people dont necessarily imply interaction: In conclusion, even when using a very weak definition of friend (i.e., anyone who a user has directed a post to at least twice) we find that Twitter users have a very small number of friends compared to the number of followers and followees they declare. This implies the existence of two different networks: a very dense one made up of followers and followees, and a sparser and simpler network of actual friends.

41 42


Figure 4: HP Labs Twitter Research


An article posted by Beth Harte gives a clear picture of the considerations involved when joining Twitter.43 There has been recent backlash against some brands who have failed to engage by not embracing the spirit of Twittersharing informationbut those who do it well can easily bring a sense of openness and transparency to their organization while interacting with their stakeholders. 1. Decide before you join how you want to use Twitter; what is your communication goal and how does this platform fit in? Will it be used for Customer Support (like Comcast does via @ComcastCares) or will it be used to offer promotional deals (like Zappos the on-line shoe site via @Zappos) or will it be to socially network to build up business? 2. If using a business name be sure to use something like "Name_Business Name" (Jane_ABCCompany). That way more than one employee can use Twitter and represent the company. Zappos does a great job with this one. 3. Be sure to use a photo (and not a logo), fill out the description (tell folks why they should be interested in following) and include a link to the company's website. 4. Let everyone be authentic while remaining consistent. Twitter isn't about just tweeting news about your company or promotional deals. It's about developing relationships. If you or an employee loves music, let that come through too. 5. Realize that it will take time to develop a following. 6. Don't follow hundreds or thousands of people just because you can. Try to find those people in your target market or that have common interests. (Following too many people at once can make you look like a potential spammer) 7. For finding more followers, there are tools available. With Tweetscan, you can search for topics, people, places, anything. You can also search and make sure that you have seen all the replies to you that other Twitter members have left. Just search for '@YourTwitterName'.44 8. Have something relevant to say. For example, if you have your marketers on Twitter, make sure they understand the industry well enough to have a

43 44


conversation with people who just might be potential customers (and not fluff, deep industry knowledge). 9. Don't just take, share valuable information as well. 10. Have fun! Twitter can be a lot of fun from a business perspective. When people are real, it shows, and that leads to a lot of great help and insightful conversations. For professionals who wish to utilize Twitter but are afraid of the time commitment the application can appear to become, there are ways to automate messages to be broadcast at specific times. Twittertise allows you to advertise on Twitter and track the success of branded communications with your customers.45 While this is definitely not a recommended approach for communicators, due to the lack of engagement and directreply capability, it can be useful as a promotional tool, part of a grander Social Media strategy. However, it is critical that each Twitter profile, even if it is meant to serve as the mouthpiece of an entire organization, operates under the sole ownership of a single person. This ensures a consistent message for followers who expect a consistent voice.



Facebook Social Networks has largely become the face of Social Media, due to its impressive growth over the last few years and the rate at which the audience is diversifying. Millions of people use Facebook everyday to keep up with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people they meet.46 Founded on February 4, 2004 as a closed social network for Ivy League Universities, the population bloomed once email addresses were allowed to register profiles. Profiles allow the users to choose a picture, list some basic information about school, work, and interests, and communicate with other users on their public wall or through private messages. In addition, there is media-sharing capability, with photos, videos, and songs which can be posted in albums or within application widgets. With an Alexa traffic rank of 5, Facebook has grown to retain a substantial portion of current web traffic. 47

46 47


Figure 5: Facebook Alexa Ratings

There are a variety of different communities within the greater Facebook network. Each profile exists within both a friend and school/work/region network, and then there is an additional option to join different groups. These groups are about practically anything, from classes to common interests; they can be about inside-jokes, missing phone 39

numbers, and even political activism. Brands have recently entered the platform with fan pages, and there has been a much larger marketing presence with the overhaul that took place June 2008.48 Metrics for these initial campaigns have relied upon friend or post count, in addition to impressions. Besides communicating with others by way of messages, pokes, or wallposts, friends can play games or send gifts, mostly through the thousands of applications that are now available. A great way of engaging with the audience is through this interaction, though professionals should be mindful of repeating Tides mistake of not understanding the medium (see Myth #1). Anu Shukla provides good advice for utilizing the platform in a way that incorporates the different features into a single motivational function: Wise application developers know to integrate advertising offers into their app in a way that contributes to, rather than distracts from, the overall user experience. For example, participants in the (Lil) Green Patch application need what are called GreenBucks in order to choose the types of plants they want to send to friends. By signing up for Blockbuster, for example, or by participating in any number of advertising offers such as completing surveys, requesting insurance quotes, downloading ringtones, etc., they can get a hold of that foxglove they planned to give to their aunt Agatha, or a lily they hoped would brighten the day of a friend. By tapping into the users social activities and motivationsin this case, sending a virtual giftadvertisers offers essentially provide the fuel that enables consumers to interact with each other within an application.49 Burger Kings Whopper Sacrifice promotion50 should prove to be a case-study in how a Social Media campaign can follow this idea. BK created a Facebook application where users could sacrifice 10 of their friends in exchange for a free Whopper. These friends

48 49 50


would be deleted from the users friend list, and sent a message from the application that they had been sacrificed. This was part of a campaign surrounding the new Angry Whopper. The microsite was created and promoted with a Facebook application of the same name. It succeeded due to its creative norm-reversal of Facebook interaction, in that instead of encouraging support by creating a group and getting BK fans to join, they created a service that taps into an existing behavior on the platform. Normally, when a user de-friends somebody, they receive no notice, and only realize the action when they attempt to look at the users profile or can no longer read their status updates; in effect, they are locked out of that users information. With this application, BK helped illustrate the tenuous relationship most online friends have with each other, and how easy it is to sever what little bond there is. Facebook disabled the application after a single week. Over the time that the Whopper Sacrifice campaign was live, 233,906 friends were sacrificed by Facebook users in the pursuit of a free Whopper. 51 The campaign was a Social Media phenomenon, hitting the front pages of aggregates like Digg and Reddit, where it engaged the audience in discussions beyond simply a burger coupon, into questions of behavior and values. The following is an example of a comment thread, a single dialogue amongst the 563 comments that were posted beneath the link to the microsite on Reddit: mattiasl - Facebook and other social networking sites have devalued the meaning of the word "friend". I have tens of "friends" on facebook who I've only met a few



times when walking around the college campus and never said more than a "Hi" to.52 Dagon - But yet, one day, you may want to borrow money from them. mattiasl - I don't understand. It's a bad idea to borrow money from friends. And why on earth would random acquaintances on facebook ever want to lend me money? Dagon - Yes it is, and no, they wouldn't. I was being facetious and ironically remarking upon so many people having that sort of 'friend' on Facebook (I do, myself) and constructing a reason why people add them. A teenage co-worker of my wife's is consistently annoyed that I don't add her on Facebook. It's partly because I've not said more than two words to her, ever, and partly because she consistently annoys me by being a teenage girl.



COLLABORATION Wikipedia is a multilingual, free-content encyclopedia project. It is an online social encyclopedia providing reference from the source of collective intelligence, or what Pierre Levy calls the cosmopedia of online information.53 A Wiki is a type of collaborative Web site that can be created about anything. Similar to GoogleDocs, these shared online documents are great tools for internal communications, providing common space for work groups. Wikipedia's articles provide links to guide the user to related pages with additional information, and are written collaboratively by volunteers from all around the world; anyone can edit it. Since its creation in 2001, Wikipedia has grown rapidly into one of the largest reference Web sites, attracting at least 684 million visitors yearly by 2008. There are more than 75,000 active contributors working on more than 10,000,000 articles in more than 260 languages. (As of 1/22/09), there are 2,710,054 articles in English. Every day, hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world collectively make tens of thousands of edits and create thousands of new articles to augment the knowledge held by the Wikipedia encyclopedia.54 In a wiki, articles are never finished. They are continually edited and (often) improved over time. In general this results in an upward trend of quality and a growing consensus over a fair and balanced representation of information. Articles can be created about any
Interactive Audiences? The Collective Intelligence of Media Fans, by Henry Jenkins, in Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers; Exploring Participatory Culture, 2006. 54


subject, and users can even request a new article to be written, but there are underlying preferences for submitting the article under an appropriate topic heading.55 Many users of the encyclopedia utilize Wikipedia as a first reference, a way to peruse a new subject with additional sources provided for further reference. Alexa gives a traffic rank of 8.56 Figure 6: Wikipedia Alexa Ratings

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Figure 6: Wikipedia Alexa Ratings (Continued)

The journal Nature commissioned a study in 2005 comparing Wikipedia with the professionally produced online Encyclopedia Britannica, and found that the accuracy of the articles was about the same for each: the average science entry in Wikipedia contained around four inaccuracies; Britannica, about three.57 This study helped illustrate the self-correcting nature of citizen-produced digital media. John Pavlik describes this dynamic when he writes Whereas traditional media organizations feature professional training and editing as its primary means of minimizing error, citizenproduced digital media feature collective knowledge and widespread public review as principal mechanisms to minimize and correct error.58 However, Wikipedia is not a real encyclopedia. In an article from 2004, Simon Waldman of The Guardian praises the success of the idea, but maintains that To its
57 58 Media In The Digital Age, by John V. Pavlik, 2008, p. 118.


detractors - mostly those from the traditional world of encyclopedias and librarianship, it is barely worthy of the label encyclopedia.59 Nicholas Carr, formerly the executive editor of the Harvard Business Review, takes the criticism farther, citing Wikipedia as the paradigm of The Cult of the Amateur, a symptom of The amorality of Web 2.0, his blogpost on Rough Type about this subject: 60 In theory, Wikipedia is a beautiful thing - it has to be a beautiful thing if the Web is leading us to a higher consciousness. In reality, though, Wikipedia isn't very good at all. Certainly, it's useful - I regularly consult it to get a quick gloss on a subject. But at a factual level it's unreliable, and the writing is often appalling. Nonetheless, it is essential for all public relations professionals to be cognizant of what information is on the Wikipedia article for their company/organization/etc., especially so for any controversial organization. With the editing capability that is in place, updates are quick, and there are track-back options for reverting to a previously saved draft in cases of vandalism. Following the edit activity on Wikipedia belongs in any complete crisis communications plan. Wal-Marts entry stands as an example of how companies can be defined on Wikipedia. This page was not necessarily created by employees of the organization, but details a wealth of information nonetheless, including the following:

59 60


Figure 7: Walmart Wiki Contents61

Contents 1 History o 1.1 Incorporation and growth o 1.2 Recent initiatives 2 Subsidiaries o 2.1 Wal-Mart Stores Division U.S. 2.1.1 Wal-Mart Discount Stores 2.1.2 Wal-Mart Supercenter 2.1.3 Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market o 2.2 Sam's Club o 2.3 Marketside o 2.4 Wal-Mart International o 2.5 Private label brands 3 Corporate affairs o 3.1 Financial o 3.2 Governance o 3.3 Competition o 3.4 Customer base o 3.5 Employee and labor relations o 3.6 Diversity 4 See also o 4.1 Advocacy groups o 4.2 Television o 4.3 Other 5 References 6 External links
Though much of the article serves as a backgrounder, detailing company history and outlining the subsidiaries, there are also visible critiques including Wal-Marts struggles


with women and labor relations and past lawsuits concerned with diversity and unethical hiring practices. These points of negativity, rather than pointedly deleted and revised, bring a sense of balance and credibility to the article; as long as they are edited for the true facts of the situation, Wal-Marts entry embraces the ideals of Wikipedia, while simultaneously getting their messages across.


Digg Social Bookmarking, Content Aggregates is a website for viewing, sharing, and interacting with online content. Similar to other online aggregates, users can register with the site and post links or stories, with the community voting on the submission or making comments about it. A vote-up for a particular submission is called a Digg and those that have been Dugg the most appear on the front page of the site. A vote-down is called a Bury and users have the ability to digg or bury both the link and any comments that have been posted. With an Alexa rank of 284, traffic patterns show a steady usage rate, an artifact of an engaged community of users who consistently return to the site for new and updated content. 62 Figure 8: Digg Alexa Ratings



Figure 8: Digg Alexa Ratings (Continued)

Diggs self-proclaimed mission is democratizing digital media. Users within the community participate in determining all site content by discovering, selecting, sharing, and discussing what appeals to themnews, videos, etc. Ways for new users getting involved are provided on a How Digg Works page; most aggregates can be navigated in much the same manner, though each has their own nuances. 63 Table 8: Digg Tactics Discover Submit your favorites. Find an article, image, or video online and submit it to Your submission will immediately appear in Upcoming Stories, where other members can find it and, if they like it, Digg it.



Table 8: Digg Tactics (Continued) Become popular. Once a submission has earned a critical mass of Diggs, it becomes popular and jumps to the homepage in its category. If it becomes one of the most popular, it qualifies as a Top 10. If a submission doesn't receive enough Diggs within a certain time period, it eventually falls out of the Upcoming section.

Select Discover media on Digg. Visit the Upcoming section to discover recently added news, and videos. Track submissions as they come in with Swarm, Stack, Big Spy or Arc, our real-time Flash visualization tools in Digg Labs. Or use Spy to watch the titles and descriptions as they roll down the page. Of course, you can always check the topic homepages to see what's newly popular. And you can subscribe to RSS feeds of particular topics, popular/upcoming sections, individual users, and the search terms of your choice.

Share Digg. Participate in the collaborative editorial process by Digging the stuff that you like best. As you Digg, you contribute to the popularity of any given item. You also build a history of Digging that you or your friends can view. If you find stories with bad links, off-topic content, or duplicate entries, click Bury. Thats how we get the spam out of the system and let the good stuff rise to the top. The system only works when users actively participate on a large scale, so make sure to do your part and Digg and Bury content that matters to you!



Table 8: Digg Tactics (Continued) Build a network.

Invite your friends or find them on Digg and add them to your friends list. Then your friends can track what youre Digging and you can see what they Digg as well, enabling you to collectively find news together. Send your friends (Diggers or non-Diggers) the stories that you Digg.

Discuss Comment. Share your opinions by commenting on stories, images, and videos as well as Digging and Burying comments by other users.

In the What section of the 5 Ws of Social Media, I referenced the notion of community lifecycles being determined by a popularity contest of ideas. Diggs democratization of digital media illustrates more fully this notion of how user-moderated content reflects trends in bias and perspective. The Top 10 articles, the ones that have received the most Diggs and are listed on the front page, are then the ones that most appeal to the majority. Appealing to that majority comes by following the site over time, getting a sense of the context within the top submissions, and creating one that both sparks interest and generates a level of interaction. Ryan Deal explains in a How-Toarticle the three main factors to consider if you want to garner that attention: Title: Choosing a title for a Digg submission is a lot like writing a headline for a newspaper article; you need to attract the reader without misleading them. Misleading titles will earn some negative comments and a bunch of people burying your submission.


Description: People want to know what theyre getting into. Sometimes a good title is all you need, but for submissions that require additional information, make sure you include it. Remember, the point is to get people interested. Category: Some categories are more popular than others, so if you want a better chance of getting your submission to the front page, youve got to get it into the right category. Take for example a video of a dog falling asleep while running. Funny right? So, you think, put it in Comedy. However, although Comedy is an appropriate category, if you choose Pets & Animals, which is also relevant, youre submission is more likely to see the light of day.64 In addition to submitting content directly to Digg or other aggregates, other users can do this for you with embedded sharing tools on your site. These widgets are designed with the logos of each of the different sites, and are placed at the bottom of either the site window or the content itself. Rather than coding each of the different platforms individually, there are tools that do all of this for you, such as ShareThis.65 Figure 9: ShareThis Widget ShareThis

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MULTIMEDIA ENTERTAINMENT Flickr Media Sharing is an online photo management and sharing application utilized by people who have created media and want to make their content available to people who matter to them, or really anyone, by enabling new ways of organizing photos and video. Flickr is the WD-40 that makes it easy to get photos or video from one person to another in whatever way they want.66 With digital technology, it has become easier than ever to take a massive number of photos or videos and publish them on the web. In Flickr, the media can be published as public or private, and users can give their friends, family, and other contacts permission to further organize their postsnot simply by adding comments, but also notes and tags. Groups devote themselves to collections of different interests, from pets to landscapes, where members can find like-minded users who follow similar themes. Without delineating between members and viewers, Alexa ranks Flickr at 32.67

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Figure 10: Flickr Alexa Ratings

Flickr provides its members measurement capabilities with a tool that delivers statistics on how other people are finding an individual users photo. Currently only for pro users, Flickr says There are stats available for people surfing on Flickr itself - where the referrer is - and stats about people coming from other websites. We can show 55

you the sorts of things people search for on search engines where your photos turn up, and tell you how many views your photos have.68 Communications professionals have the ability to utilize this platform to distribute their media assets. Photos from an event can be posted, tagged, and organized in such a way that stakeholders can access the images, add their comments, and share. In addition, these uploads can be embedded onto other sites, providing a further distribution channel. By allowing this, however, Flickr does add an important proviso to this function in its community guidelines: Do link back to Flickr when you post your Flickr content elsewhere. The Flickr service makes it possible to post content hosted on Flickr to outside web sites. However, pages on other web sites that display content hosted on must provide a link from each photo or video back to its page on Flickr.69 On many occasions, posts on Flickr and similar media-sharing content sites become the link to which other communities find each other. An internet user, when they find something interesting or entertaining, can now share this with everybody, and the discovery of this piece of media content becomes a message to be communicated, something to interact with for the community. Currently, there is an emerging trend of cross-platform convergence for media sharing, with Twitpics now available on Twitter and Facebook now hosting over 10 billion photos on the site.70 It remains to be seen which sites become obsolete or simply unnecessary.

68 69 70


Chapter 5: Bringing it all Together - Storytelling Looking back over all the different Social Media platforms, each exists as a separate, distinct community operating within a certain network. But the sphere of influence generating the user interaction extends beyond a single website. Many of the key influencers within Social Media involve themselves in multiple networks, driving crossplatform integration and communication. A great way of engaging in the conversation is to look at each of these websites as parts of a larger whole, a true web of interconnected sites that can be utilized in driving your communications plan when committed to a Social Media campaign. Postings on a blog, updates sent over Twitter, and media uploaded to Flickr can be pulled together to create a complete story. started as a project designed to create an updated personal page, a platform for users to organize all their online activities on a single profile. Like an Internet diary, there is a Lifestream which lists bookmarked articles, shared links, and recent updates from the user, and a Stories feature that creates simple event-based timeline of photos, videos and tweets. These stories can then be embedded onto other sites as a single, compelling album of multimedia content. For example, one of the designers recently went on a hiking trip through the British countryside. Along the way, he took photos of the verdant landscapes, recorded video of the activities, and updated his contacts on Twitter with information on his destination.


Following his return, he was able to pull together each of these content artifacts in a way that more fully captured his adventure.71 Figure 11: StoryTlr

Storytelling can be useful in engaging in the conversation, and Social Media has expanded the ways in which people interact by sharing the events of their lives. This now includes news broadcast, and the rise in citizen-journalism has illustrated the impact new technologies and new channels of communication have on media. In addition to the normal categoriesworld, business, politics, now includes a special iReport section of their online news. is a user-generated site which means the stories submitted by users are not edited, fact-checked or screened before they post. Only the stories marked


On CNN have been vetted by CNN for use in CNN's global news coverage. Lots of people argue about what constitutes news. But, really, its just something that happens someplace to someone. Whether that something is newsworthy mostly depends on who it affectsand whos making the decision.72 Many of the submissions include not only text, but also additional multimedia content, and CNN provides easy tools for users to upload and share their experience. CNN's iReporters recently led some of the news coverage of the terror attacks in Mumbai in late 2008. Due to the speed with which messages can be communicated across Social Media, many of the traditional news outlets found themselves relying on stories provided by way of these platforms. an estimated 80 messages, or "tweets," were being sent to via SMS every five seconds, providing eyewitness accounts and updates. Many Twitter users also sent pleas for blood donors to make their way to specific hospitals in Mumbai where doctors were faced with low stocks and rising casualties. Others sent information about helplines and contact numbers for those who had friends and relatives caught up in the attacks. Tweeters were also mobilized to help with transcribing a list of the dead and injured from hospitals, which were quickly posted online. Flickr also proved a useful source of haunting images chronicling the aftermath of the attacks. Journalist Vinukumar Ranganathan's stream of photos were published by CNN and other major broadcasters.73 Even though there were incidents of fake updates and falsified information, overall Social Media provided a valuable component of the traditional media coverage. However, considering the nature of citizen-journalism allows for immediate broadcast without appropriate fact-checking, there is always a risk of widespread rumor mongering with a negative impact upon the subject. In October, a story on iReport claimed that Apple CEO Steve Jobs had suffered a massive heart attack. Rumors had been swirling about Jobs health problems due to his appearance
72 73 Tweeting the Terror: How Social Media Reacted to Mumbai, by Stephanie Busari, CNN.


of losing weight. This story seemingly confirmed these concerns, and with Jobs influence over Apple as the face of the company, the stock tanked. According to Sarah Perez of ReadWriteWeb, the story was false, not to mention troubling for CNN and the field of citizen journalism, at least temporarily. [D]o false reports like this damage CNNs credibility? The answer is yes, absolutely. This particular report may even lead to an SEC investigation where CNN will be asked to provide an IP address for the user who posted the story.74



Conclusion A Prototype Perhaps the best way to summarize the key learnings of this paper would be to illustrate how a Social Media campaign would look like as part of an ongoing communications plan for an existing organization. The University of Southern Californialike most colleges and universities in the Stateshas a web portal that links together the different schools, departments and student communities within the institution. In December 2008, USC hired a sustainability program manager named Matthew Oden to launch the USC Sustainability Program, an initiative to help reduce USCs environmental impact. We are so pleased that Matthew Oden has joined USC he will work with all departments to envision and implement organizational strategies to help USC become a national model of sustainability in higher education, said Charlie Lane, USC associate senior vice president for Career and Protective Services. In addition, he will help develop broad awareness of the many sustainability initiatives currently under way and develop a university-wide process to support sustainability inquiry, change and assessment.75 Among Odens proposed program goals is the launch of a USC Sustainability website, a resource for both internal and external audiences that would serve as both an information database and a communication channel for community outreach. As part of the greater USC web presence, this site must align itself with the existing portal to retain organizational consistency, while at the same time reaching beyond the network to engender greater awareness for the program. This is where Social Media comes in. The site should have a blog and Twitter account, authored by Oden himself or edited by a public relations professional, detailing current activities and his progress with the initiative. Content could include video interviews with Oden and key leaders and


influences at USC as well as within the greater sustainability/environmental community, in addition to articles highlighting recent findings and/or innovative ideas for reducing environmental impact. Users who register with the site can comment on the articles, share them with friends utilizing embedded sharing tools like ShareThis, and engage with the site by making suggestions for and giving feedback on the Sustainability Program. Events like the Earth Week launch can be chronicled with pictures, tweets, and videos packaged into a story and published as a multimedia calendar. A Facebook group could be formed or an application developed where members can track their own environmental impact and rate their scores under a ranking system. And the Wikipedia article on USC deserves an update and revision with current and correct information. In sum, Social Media can provide the means to extend the reach of the site through audience engagement. Rather than become a depository for statistical data for impact metrics at USC, the site becomes a waypoint for explaining what all the information means and why it matters, allowing stakeholders to share in the progress by engaging in the conversation with strong, interesting, and original content. For no matter how many tools and platforms become available, which networks fail to engender a massive and consistent audience or even reach obsolescence, content is still King. The online community is alive, and its streaming daily through Social Media.


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