Social Media and Extanz – Together we rise

3 09 2008

The whole is greater than the sum of all its parts

As someone intrigued by the ways in which individuals, communities, organizations and societies coordinate and communicate themselves, raising Extanz and the adoption of social media has provided much food for thought and opportunities for reflection. As someone deeply committed to the practice of good work and also intimately involved with the creation and continued growth of Extanz, I have participated in many an interesting conversation about these issues. As I tell my students in my Good Work class, it really starts with an idea of spirit, or the vision, values and rationality of any group or organization. These collective values are always derived from the people having those conversations and so our ongoing evolution of Extanz reflects the values of its principals. Here is a list of some of the things to which we are committed, as individuals as well as Extanz….

1. good work – that is, work that is excellent and ethical – to engage in work that is meaningful for us, our partners and our communities
2. inclusivity/community – this value comes from our cultured backgrounds – to engage in work that brings people together, in support of a larger purpose and collective
3. sustainability – at both an individual and collective level – to engage in work that encourages the continued sustenance of us as individuals, partners and communities
4. extra-ordinary – this value comes from our cultured experiences – to engage in work that is beyond the norm, edgy, visionary, creative, that stands out (the meaning of Extanz)

Wow, kinda lofty, right? Yes and no. I recently read a blog about parallels between the push for social media and sustainability by Max Gladwell. According to Gladwell, these two movements have some interesting things in common — both are motivated by a new politics, both are driven by a democratization of information and energy, both are determined to lose the adjectives (so that we no longer think of social media but all media as social, nor green energy because all energy will be green), both pose integration challenges for corporate culture, both localize culture as we grow our own ‘content’ and become activated as participants, both are grassroots movements but with top-down results, and the virtues of both are constrained by how we use them.

When I think about the folks who engage with Extanz and social media, I end up with a ‘composite prosumer’ (c.f. Revolutionary Wealth, The Digital Economy, The Cluetrain Manifesto etc). In our experiences, this producer-consumer is also a philosopher-pragmatist; activist-artist; local-global; individual-communal. As Gladwell points out, the often missed but ultimately important part of the phenomenon we call ‘social media’ is the social part. It’s about meaningful and interactive content, meaningful conversations, and meaningful as well as interactive community. As we have discussed in the blogs, it is not about ‘you’ and ‘your organization’. It’s about the us(er)’.  So if you’re looking to be part of some thrilling conversations, if you’ve ever wondered just what your ‘audience’ is thinking, it is time to get out there and have a ‘naked conversation’ a la Robert Scoble and Shel Israel.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re for-profit or non-profit (like we can distinguish this way, right?), social media can and will change the/your world. I’ve seen it happen here at Extanz and with our partners.


Towards PR 2.0 = RSS Marketing + A Conversational Mindset

11 08 2008

These days we get asked more and more: “is what you do PR?”

We tend to say, “hmm not really – but kind of” …the answer seems to depend on whether we are talking with someone who can actually understand the “let your audience participate with you” part and considers that PR or not. Most marketing and PR folks out there are just plain afraid of what could be said and so, find it hard to “let the audience participate”.

Today, most business blogs are just newsletters that “Corporate Communication” is putting out there to ‘check’ another thing to do. Most of the time, PR firms are good at pushing such press releases and trying to get traditional media to write about their stuff.

What we do is vastly different. We are here to focus less on the company’s cool product (traditional PR will take care of this) and more on the audience’s points of pleasure and pain points. To do so, we identify your constituencies (blogosphere, constituency presence on social networks, connectivity between networks). Then we connect the dots between all these “locales” and start reaching out for fans, friends of fans etc, bringing them valuable content that only friends would want to send to each other.

When thinking through the comparison between PR and social media, consider the following…

1. Connectivity: THANK YOU RSS – Does your PR firm really understand RSS? Not just what it stands for?

Since 2005 and RSS 2.0 standardization, we’ve seen an explosion of possiblities in terms of feeding data from one place to the other. You can actually now stream your business blog across facebook, plaxo… Yes, it’ll take a bit of plumbing but once you’ve established those connections, you can start spreading the word…:) The following examples are what could be considered “immature” demonstrations of RSS potential – note the complete lack of feeds to the FB page – Isn’t it time to challenge what your PR firm is doing for you?

no activity...

no activity...

Virality is a function of “moving data”, in this case it’s about how fast User Generated Content is moving from one friend to the other – The faster the data point (pictures, blogs, facebook greenpatch @#$%…) moves, the more virally the information spreads. Most traditional PR methods are stuck in old distribution models –they can not virally replicate information and rely on traditional readership bases (which are also less virulent) than web2.0 readership. Obviously Canon and Jamba Juice (there are 100s of examples like that) just don’t understand what Social Media Marketing or RSS Marketing is… [hint: talk to us] 🙂

2. Do you really see marketing as an investment center? [not a cost-center] – Are you ready for PR 2.0?

  • Do you have a “let’s give it a shot” mentality? Are you ready to engage with customers commenting on your blogs? Can you handle them giving you a thumbs up or down on your facebook page? If you are not, you are falling behind the biggest social movement since the creation of internet – learn from it before you competition does.
  • How about starting a relevant blog?
    • How to use features of your product
    • How your customers use your products
    • Relevant industry news
    • Great insights about how you manufacture your products, your operations
    • DON’T WRITE ABOUT “how great you are” or “how great your company did at the last employee event”… that’s good internal communication!
  • How about building a facebook page that actually has some activity? Feed your blog there using RSS! (unlike our friends at Canon or Jamba Juice…)
  • Start tweeting about the unknown stuff happening with your company that will make your readers say: ‘whao, that’s cool, I didn’t know that’. It doesn’t need to be top secret magic news. Most brand afficionados just want to relate to your brand and be able to share something cool about your brand with their friends…
  • Start using flickr, youtube, slideshare as your backend media platform – the more connectivity the better!

3. Do you know about “Saturation Points” and “Information Immunity”?

Malcom Gladwell talked about it early on…. information immunity is definitely a problem that traditional channels of communication face. Phone, faxes, email, text, RSS feed… they all reach saturation point… except that now, your audience has to the power to choose what information they receive or not. They can decide to read, comment, and more importantly “pass it along” virally via their networks. Your customer is moving on, they choose what to read from sources they rely on. Don’t you already feel that you are member of enough networks? That you can’t take any new ones? So do they!

An interesting study recently came out on the ‘new patterns of influences‘ led by a team of five SNCR Research Fellows: “New influencers are beginning to tear at the fabric of traditional marketing and communications, giving rise to a new approach characterized by conversation and community,” said Gillin. “PR and marketing communications professionals are responding with a mixture of excitement, fear, and fascination. They’re alarmed at the prospect of ceding control of their messages to a community of unknowns. Yet at the same time they’re excited about this new opportunity to speak directly with their constituents.

Are you ready for ‘conversational marketing’? Your customer should be the best advocate of your product or services. they should be your fans on facebook and you should give them a reason to be a fan of yours on such social networks….

4. So what to do now?

– Re-think your public relations goals.

– Start a relevant blog and start connecting it to your social networks.

– Be ready to open conversation up to your constituents.

It’s time to talk!!

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