In today’s media-saturated world, consumers are bombarded by content in multiple channels throughout the day. Technology has spawned a profusion of publishing platforms, while it has enabled any individual to become an active publisher or aggregator.
Unlike the past, consumers today can no longer rely on a few trusted editorial sources to filter the noise and deliver the most important news and information. Instead, consumers must make sense of the vast amount of information that reaches them daily and constantly make decisions about what to take seriously and what to ignore.
Increasingly, they are turning to Social Curation -- the recommendations of others in their social networks -- to identify the most relevant and valuable content.
Facebook is a dominant environment for sharing stories (and conversing) about emerging trends, politics and culture. It is unique in that recommendations are clustered within interconnected social groups. Because social groups overlap, a popular story or link on Facebook can gain an immense audience very quickly.
Twitter is also widely used for sharing links, but the nature of social connections on Twitter is quite different from Facebook. Because connections are non-symmetrical on Twitter (followers versus friends) relationships tend to be open-ended and non-reciprocal. In this way, a few highly influential individuals can have an enormous impact on a wide audience.
Socially integrated communications
Perhaps more interesting than the specific social channels is the emergence of socially integrated communications. This phenomenon is enabled by the growth in open application programming interfaces (APIs) and authentication protocols. These are small applications that allow third parties to pull information from social networks like Facebook, Foursquare, Instagram and Twitter, and integrate personal information on their sites.
Logged-on visitors to The New York Times or Huffington Post Web sites, for example, will now see which of their Facebook friends are online and what stories they are reading in real-time.
Communications in the socially driven world has two significant implications for publishers and marketers:
1. Content will be judged less on its own terms and more by who recommends it and how it has arrived
2. Since recommendations vastly outperform media for driving content consumption, some of the attention (and dollars) that marketers traditionally dedicated to media must be refocused on driving adoption and recommendation in the social milieu
Getting people to recommend content, to forward links or comment on your stories is entirely different than spending paid media dollars. Because a social recommendation is a form of personal endorsement, establishing a credible, trusted relationship with your audience is essential. While there are no tricks or shortcuts, there are best practices.
Because your goal should be to have your communications forwarded and shared, it follows that you can’t control the context in which your content will be seen. This means that it may be mixed up with other voices, including your competitors, or the commentary of anyone from a loyalist to a skeptic. In this context it is essential to represent your brand honestly and responsibly.
Social communications occur instantly. Be prepared to respond to queries and comments quickly. Prepare statements to accurately correct misunderstandings about your brand. Think through how you will monitor social channels and who will be empowered to respond.
Talking about yourself is no way to build a trusted relationship. Think about how you can provide valuable insights, information or support to your community. If messages about your brand are appropriately and sensitively integrated into that communication, all the better. But don’t hesitate to invest your time building a following based on providing value.
Make things easy
Avoid unnecessary enrollment forms. Consider using token-based authentication protocols such as OAuth and APIs, which securely allow users to sign in using their existing social network accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. In addition to making it easier for your audience to sign in, it will facilitate social linking and recommendations.
Engaging social curation can positively increase the reach, relevancy and credibility of your brand. But social engagement is a multichannel dialogue that requires vigilance and timely responses to user comments and questions. While this requires an organizational effort, it can pay off not only in terms of reach, but also as a way to build lasting relationships with your customers and the community.