Not long ago, YouTube announced they would be launching associated website annotations. The program has only been in pilot mode for the last few weeks, but now it’s totally here. Partners in good standing who declare their YouTube channels the official representation of their brand can now put annotations on their videos that will link directly to their website. The opportunities presented by these annotations are huge, as your calls-to-action can lead viewers to your website, where you can sell your own stuff, offer exclusive content, and not be inhibited by the rules of YouTube.
The 50/50 Rule is something I started sharing with clients a while back. It’s nothing new or earth-shattering and TONS of individuals and companies are doing it EVERY SINGLE DAY. The idea is simple – to connect in the Social spaces where the users live, you need to spend half as much of your time talking about the users as you do about your brand/product/service/website/effort/whatever.
You need to be a neighbor, not Vince from ShamWOW (who I think is AWESOME, but not a good example of starting/having/maintaining/sharing a conversation). If all you do is pitch AT them all day, they will tune you out. If you spend at least half of your time celebrating them, encouraging them, recognizing them, sharing with the rest of the community what they are doing/have learned/successes/challenges, then they might listen to the other 50% of your “stuff”.
Link Love is described in Wikipedia as “the effect that web pages rank better when they have more and higher quality links pointing at them.” It is partly about attribution (making sure you acknowledge where a discussion or quote came from), but it is also about sharing these connections that you value with your users – and hopefully they will check out those links. This is a powerful gesture, because in the digital space, links are a currency. They have intrinsic value, links are an outward, public display of paying attention. Says Doc, “In simpler terms, humans are distinguished no only by their ability to talk, but also by their ability to point.”
Some real examples of Link Love:
- Blogrolls are Link Love: they share with the readers of any given blog the other “voices we like”.
- Trackbacks are Link Love: they create a connection between my blog post and another blogger’s post – a discrete, ping-based connection that says to the user and the blogosphere “hey, these things are related”.
- Twitter posts are Link Love – I think enough of what someone is doing to share it with my circle of followers/friends
- Comments (although sometimes NOT counted by Google thanks to comment spam) are Link Love – I think enough of the ideas in this post to not only leave a note, but also where I can be found later for thanks/feedback/comments/a beating.
How do we connect in with this link economy? Where does Reciprocity fit in?
We need to link to the voices and ideas outside our “four walls”. If our blogroll only contains the other blogs our company has created and not the blogs of the users then we aren’t using that currency properly. If we only comment on other corporate blogs, then we aren’t connecting with our community. If we have a twitter feed with thousands of followers, but only following a few users, then we are missing out on an opportunity to participate. As publishers/pundits/journalists/program managers and “experts” we need to send the link love out there first (real, authentic), without expectations that it will be returned until we have earned it – and earning it is completely in the mind of the user. You either add value or you don’t. You are sponge-worthy or you are not (to use a Seinfeld reference). Reciprocity in this context is less about obligation (“oh hell, he linked to me, so now I need to link to him”), and more about attention and intent (“X is paying attention to my ideas”, or better yet “wow, those guys from Company Y spend a lot of time talking about what the members of their community are doing”). Its about adding enough value that others think you are worthy of their currency (links, attention, comments – whatever your measure of success is).
One of the clearest, fastest ways of seeing the 50/50 Rule in action is on Twitter with users like Richard @ Dell and Zappos. Richard@DELL is one of the leaders in corporations working with social software like twitter and making business personal. He spends as much of his time sending users to other voices and links as he does “Dell Business” with his twitter feed. Zappos uses his tweet time to talk about the people he is meeting with and interacting than he does his own site (along with DMs to users who ask questions about Zappos.
Liz Strauss has this to say in her killer blog post about the 25 Twitter Traits/ Twitter Folks she admires:
Certain value and actions make people who care about having relationships and conversation before transactions easy to spot…
5. talk mostly about the accomplishments of others….
12. shout out good news, help in emergencies, and celebrate with everyone.
16. offer advice when people ask. Help whenever they can.
If you want people to talk to you and about you, then link to them for all the right reasons. Spend the time and the social capital to celebrate what they are doing. Show where you see the value in them. If you want them to link to you, give them lots of opportunities to find something valuable in what you are doing. A shout-out is a personal gesture regardless if it comes from the DJ booth, the radio or a blog post.
Thing to do:
1. If you are building a community anywhere (twitter, facebook, ning, wordpress, Meetup, etc.) spend the time to look at how much you are talking about “Me Me Me Me Me” and course correct NOW.
2. If you have nothing to to link to (don’t really have a relationship with the users beyond their consuming your “stuff”) then start that conversation NOW.
3. Use the features of the community to connect with users: ask them if they have blogs and add ’em to your blogroll (or have a special blogroll for your community members), send Link Love to them through microblogging platforms like Twitter, use the forums as a commons for discussion and to point out the achievements of the users
4. Celebrate your users and set an incredible example that shows the rest of the community just how much you appreciate them – small, simple gestures can have a real impact.
5. Reciprocity is like love – it isn’t an obligation, but something freely given. Hope but don’t demand, ask, but not too often.
6. Be “linky”, use the currency of the web to show your users what/who you think is valuable.
7. Be real. Don’t engage in linkbait, users notice and your credibility will suffer as a result
8. Send half of your time talking about the users, the community, the people outside your org, company, startup (the 50/50 rule)
Chris Carfi (of Cerado and Social Customer Manifesto Fame, as well as being a fellow member of the VRM working group at Harvard) spent an hour this summer having a discussion at the VRM Summit to discuss Customer Driven Markets.
This is another LONG video (1 hr), but there is a really great discussion here.
Do you network? Do you go out to conferences and mixers and tweetups and unconferences with the express goal of making new connections, listening to new voices, adding people to your “collection”. Do you actively manage your LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter? When Scoble mentions someone’s interesting tweet do you immediately check it out and then Follow that individual. If Chris Brogan blogs about a startup doing something cool, or if Deb Schultz posts an link that she finds inspiring on her Del.icio.us do you check it out, add that person to your RSS feed/facebook/del.icio.us, Digg? Do you spend a little time after every conference or meeting, take the business cards you received, entered them into outlook, send them an email, see if they are on LinkedIn, add their RSS feed, check out their twitter, look at their youtube channel?
Does your Social Media effort do the same?
Networking in your business life is a great parallel to Social Media Outreach. With Networking, you find people with interesting or similar ideas/thoughts/backgrounds/experience and add those people to your personal network. In the process, you become a member of lots of different communities/tribes/circles. You manage, maintain, grow and tend these connections and relationships because its important, because no one can be an island in business and because we are social animals who can always learn something from someone else.
A Social Media Effort, if it wants to succeed, needs to connect with the users in lots of different communities/tribes/circles. Conversations can’t happen without people. SoMe efforts need to build/maintain and tend these relationships in order to get noticed, stay relevant and keep the conversation going. If users/voices/people are the fuel in the social media “engine”, not working at connecting with them is nuts.
Are you identifying the places and spaces users frequent that fit within these themes? Are you connecting with the thought leaders, active participants and old hands in these communities, sites, forums, comment streams? Are you actively listening to these voices and their blog posts, twitter feeds, Flickr pools and Del.icio.us links? Are you managing your
network, er uh, Outreach program to get in touch, stay in touch and contribute to their conversations as well as your own.
Are you paying forward into Social Media’s equivalent of a 401k (relationships) by being an active participant? Or are you waiting and wondering why more users arent joining in?
Build an RSS feed of users who you would WANT to follow you AND LISTEN TO IT
Build an RSS feed of the users who ARE following you AND LISTEN TO IT
You are joining multiple communities, think like a NEIGHBOR NOT A MARKETER
Listen to what they are talking about (twitter, blogs, facebook, flickr), what they are passionate about – NOT JUST THE MENTIONS OF YOUR URL OR BRAND NAME
Say Thankyou for their Follows, Comments, mentions, trackbacks, blogposts
Comment on their ideas, as Bob from INSERT MASSIVE COMPANY HERE, not a pseudonym – bait and switch is not a sustainable strategy
Respond to their Tweets, comments, forum posts, flickr pool additions
Point out what they are doing at least 50% of the time
Send the link love (attention is a currency)
Let them see there are real people behind your Social Media effort
Long before the cocktail parties, schwag distribution, mixers or tweet-ups or blogger meetups, you need to connect with real people and not only what Valleywag calls The 250. Influencers are important, but there are more regular Joes out there than all the A-listers in the world. You need to develop relationships. You need to build a network, through Outreach, around your social media efforts.
The same determination and discipline you apply to maintaining your network you need to apply to your company’s outreach program. Because its ALL NETWORKING
25 years from now someone in my niece’s graduating class might be the VP pick for the highest office in the land (POTUS). What will that “vetting” process look like? Sure there will be the usual background check stuff, FBI calling their college roommates, PHD advisor, pastor, etc., but what happens in a world where we are declaring our intention and attention (status) all-day, every day. What happens when one of these digital natives, who have been facebooking and myspacing, and flickring and youtube-ing their daily thoughts, ideas, location, and media every day for the next 25 years runs for office?
Past Is Prologue
I had a conversation with my buddy Craig the other day and we discussed how these platforms and models were changing how users interact and part of the discussion touched specifically on:
Right now, every kid under the age of 18 in the US has grown up with potential access to the internet either at home, school, rec center, mom’s office, etc.
For the most part these kids are creating online identities in a ton of places, some are throwaway (to get access to a concert video), and others are permanent (tell my niece she has to quit MySpace and you will end up in a fight).
These kids are getting their own computers (cell phones), self-organizing digitally
They are making their own media (audio, photo, video, text) daily
They are connecting with their friends on these platforms and using them to stay in touch, bully each other, make new friends, etc.
Potentially, this generation will never lose touch with anyone they grew up with – EVER. They graduate from High School Facebook to College Facebook to Work/Life Facebook (or whatever the social platform/graph/grid/mesh evolves to). My niece will be able to keep in touch with, ignore and more importantly, have status on every single kid she is going to high school and college today. I can’t remember every single kid I went to grade school with, but I could probably find a bunch of them on Facebook if I looked hard enough.
Networking? Sure – having the world’s largest, distributed address book in history will make keeping and making connections more interesting.But what happens when you have persistent status of people you know, what they are doing, where they are /were/will be? What happens over time to this data, when it becomes the past tense (was doing, was at, was with)?
Doc Searls has said in a previous VRM meeting that he wants to see a day when the customer can have their own TOS (terms of service) that gives them the right to “nuke my info off your system if I want to quit your proprietary aspect of data”. Outside of the NUKE option (which I think we need), what about an expiration date on my status/intention/attention/media? 15 years from now, does Johnny really want his new girlfriend to see his “Growing Up Gotti” haircut from back in the day? Are those funnel photos from the Preakness really going to be appropriate when your kid decides to “see what mom was like when she was my age”?
Carrying off on this point is a really great and creepy PSA out about kids and the things they are posting to the web:
It changes the game because WE ARE ALL MAINTAINING THE STATUS over our attention/intention/action as well as that of others. There are no reporters, I dont have a secretary, no one is “going to the archives” to find out what I did last week – they just need to follow my twitter feed (which is hooked up to my friendfeed and facebook and wordpress blog) to see what I was doing. Its all in the cache/cloud/reverse chronological order. All someone needs to do is connect the dots (which is getting easier every day).
Your ideas, photos, comments, videos are out there, in the cloud/cache, forever. A persistent, ongoing record, distributed amongst different platforms and social graphs for the world to see. Add in face and voice recognition and that protest rally you went to in college, because that hippy chick you were dating at the time wanted you to go, might become a problem 20 years from now when you run for office, or a job, or meet a not-so-hippy chick. You didnt shoot the video, you didnt know you were on camera, yet it is part of your history. Lots of folks are getting gigs BECAUSE of their participation on these platforms. There are already stories in the “news” (and I do use the term loosely) about how kids are getting turned down for jobs because of things on their myspace page, beauty pageant contestants are losing their crowns because there are embarrassing photos of them on the web, kids are videotaping crimes to get on YouTube.
I hope you know this will go down on your permanent record
– The Violent Femmes
Things to think about:
Will our past actions prevent us from trying for a job (even Vice President) because we know what closets our skeletons are in (“I told the candidate I could not accept the VP nod because I want to spend more time with my family, and because there are some raunchy pictures of me at my roommates’s bachelor party 17 years ago”)?
Will individuals guard their expressions more closely and be more conscious of their attention/intention/status?
What happens when we run into a “blank slate” who doesnt have a facebook history or is tagged in flickr sets? Will we give them the job/trust/reputation? Will they be a social media pariah?
Will I be able to find a “cleaner” to get rid of all traces of Spring Break 2012 in Cancun before my bride-to-be finds them?
Will there be a “Identity Bankruptcy Court” that will order these graphs and platforms to nuke all traces of someone?
the first post I find dives into another aggregator/platform Ziki
these guys should check out the conversation Doc is leading in VRM
Miranda July (who did an indie film in 2005 that got lots of acclaim) has a new website to promote her recent book No One Belongs Here More Than You.
The content management system is a whiteboard and photos
The content layer is not done in xml, its a dry erase marker
The whiteboard isn’t a whiteboard, it’s the top of her refrigerator 🙂
For the whole amazing thing, check out the site here http://noonebelongsheremorethanyou.com/
Thanks to the amazing blog of Warren Ellis for the pointer (he was pointing out the recommendation for his new, highly anticipated new book Crooked Little Vein… which is how I find most of my links – by accident/link hopping/recommendations from voices i trust)
I love print. I love magazines that commit and pay for long articles and long fiction. The web rewards neither approach. It’s a packeted medium, a surf medium. Short bursts are the way to go. The web isn’t a replacement medium — it’s *another” medium.
Working for Gizmodo – quite possibly the greatest job in the world because you can report on things like this –
Everything is neatly tucked away, including cables and compartments for peripherals. Oh, and did I mention it has a fish tank? A fish tank!