BOARD MEMBER’S CORNER
“Social Media Is the Cocaine of the Communications Industry”
by Stephen Blake Mettee
Scott Monty, global digital and multimedia communications manager of Ford Motor Company, got a lot of attention at this October’s Blog World Expo in Las Vegas when he compared social media with an illicit drug. His quote, which I used as the title of this piece, was a metaphor based on an old skit by comic Bill Cosby.
In the skit, Cosby says that he didn’t understand why people liked cocaine, so he asked a friend. The friend told him it was because “cocaine intensifies your personality.” Cosby replied, “So, what if you are an asshole?”
Monty’s point is that the use of social media accelerates and intensifies the reaction the public has to a product. “If you have crappy products, people are going to find out about it faster. If you have great products, people will find out about that faster too,” he said in his keynote speech.
This is certainly true with books. Want to test it? Publish a nonfiction book that is rife with factual errors and send it to a dozen people who blog on the book’s subject.
The converse is also true. Publish a groundbreaking book, and the bloggers will be your best marketers.
Another Cocaine Connection
Intensifying the experience isn’t the only thing cocaine has in common with social media. Like cocaine, social media can be addictive, eating up your life.
And, while I would suggest complete abstinence when it comes to cocaine, you’d best become a user of social media, if you aren’t already, since you publish books.
Social media may be most valuable as a marketing tool, but it also offers a great way to obtain honest, candid feedback as you listen in to what others are saying about your books. Paying attention to what people are discussing in the blogosphere can help you fine-tune your list too. If online conversations consistently and continually revolve around one facet of your niche, there’s probably a need for a book on that facet.
And the social media sites provide a robust method of networking with others in and outside of the publishing industry.
Managing Social Media
But beware; it’s easy to overdo the social media thing. Be sure to keep your involvement under control. Here are a few suggestions on how to do just that.
Pick your arenas. The first step is to limit the sites with which you will participate. Traffikd.com posts a list of more than 400 social media and social networking sites. Hundreds more exist. Which ones are for you?
When choosing which social networking sites to participate in, consider two things: popularity of the site, and relevance of the site to your business.
In an interview posted on AllThingsD.com, BoomTown’s Kara Swisher asked Monty what his favorite means of social media communication were. Monty said it was “probably between Twitter and Facebook.”
Why these two? “Twitter is one-on-one conversation in the public square. It is very limited, obviously, but it gets the message out quickly. Facebook allows you to have more contextual conversations . . . and allows you to have threaded conversations.”
Today, it is hard to ignore the popularity of Facebook (250 million-plus members), with its personal profiles and varied groups, and of LinkedIn (50 million strong and growing rapidly), with its ability to maintain and expand business contacts. Twitter, with the recent thrust of its influence into everyday life, is also a contender for your time.
Beyond those three, choose networking sites wisely. Use Traffikd.com or Google Search to locate the sites most pertinent to your needs. Sites exist to serve many target markets. If you publish books for the over-50 crowd, for example, consider Eons.com; if your niche is real estate, check out ActiveRain.com.
Blog and comment. It is conventional wisdom nowadays that either you or your company—and certainly each of your authors—should have a blog. I agree, but you’ll need to monitor and interact with others’ blogs too. Which ones? Use Delicious.com, StumbleUpon.com, reddit.com, and Digg.com to locate candidates.
Measure the importance and influence of each blogger and develop an ongoing relationship with only those few who come in at the top of the scale. You can find ratings on Technorati.com, where influence is called “authority.”
Budget your time. Budget a certain number of hours a week for social media and stick to that. Schedule your time, perhaps two hours Monday and Wednesday mornings and three hours Friday afternoons to cap your week. Stay committed—social media interaction is important—but don’t allow yourself to get sucked into the black hole of time lost that it can become.
Use available tools. Many tools can make the time you spend on social media more effective. RSS feeds, which allow you to get updates from the sites you select, are probably the best time-saver. (If you don’t understand RSS feeds, go to reviews.cnet.com/4520-10088_7-5143460-1.html for a good explanation.)
Among the many time-saving applications, there are some that allow you to automatically post what you write for one blog to any number of other blogs, or to automatically tweet to your Twitter followers to say that you have just posted on your blog.
Sites that will help you automate things you do in the social media sphere include Friendfeed.com, Ping.fm, Chi.mp, and socialoomph.com. Others exist, Use your favorite search engine to find them.
And then there’s Scribd.com. Monty says Ford is using it “more and more.” Scribd allows you to place nearly any document on its site. Besides viewing the documents on Scribd, people can embed them on their own sites. This is a terrific idea. Post your information one time and lead others to these postings instead of sending and resending the information.
Of course, since Scribd is searchable, people unknown to you may discover your information and use it without any further action on your part.
What could be easier?
Stephen Blake Mettee is on the board of IBPA and is the founder of Quill Driver Books. He sporadically blogs at TheWriteThought.com/blog.