Wednesday, August 15

Savoring Originality: Social Media Patrons

Kerry Simon is not as well known as Wolfgang Puck or Emeril Lagasse. His restaurant at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas, Simon Kitchen and Bar, will never boast a billion served like some fast food chains. And yet, you might find Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, George Clooney, or any number of other stars enjoying what he calls casual American.

Even more astounding, you don’t have to be a star to get great service and enjoy an atmosphere that is similar to the menu — causally gourmet with a twist of modern imagination.

On one visit, Simon even took my surprised son into the kitchen to make cotton candy (gratis). On another, after not visiting for months, one of the servers remembered our drinks.

The food is remarkable; the meatloaf (his mom’s recipe) is the best anywhere; and despite earning the title “celebrity chef,” Simon is as approachable as ever. Is it any wonder, after the restaurant My Way (yes, Paul Anka was a partner) closed years ago, that Simon Kitchen and Bar became my personal favorite in Las Vegas?

Social media, blogs specifically, are much the same way. They are like restaurants, an analogy that came about last week when Geoff Livingston (The Buzz Bin) and I were having an open weekly discussion at BlogStraightTalk about content vs. connections. He referenced Robert Scoble’s post that theorizes blogs are dying.

Scoble’s observation concludes that “my friends who blog are NOT A-Listers are seeing their traffic go down (although Scoble’s is down too) … I theorized that was due to social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Jaiku, and Pownce’s rise.”

Last week, I ran an unscientific poll based on the analogy between restaurants and social media. Fifty-one self-selected respondents (mostly bloggers) revealed enough to hypothesize a new theory.

Considering only 16 percent included Facebook, Twitter, Jaiku, and Pownce as places they go most often, it seems possible that Scoble infused his personal preferences into his theory.

Much more likely, it seems that competition from new and increasingly savvy bloggers as well as content shifts among some established B-List blogs are the reason that some of Scoble’s “B-List” friends are seeing diminished traffic. I’m not surprised.

Increased Competition. People can only keep track of so many blogs so as A-List and established B-List bloggers become more entitled or formulaic, readers find new favorites. There are more new blogs than ever before and some of them, despite being new, are better than the established.

Content Shifts. Once some established B-List bloggers are accepted by A-Listers, there seems to be a propensity to shift their content toward A- and B-List coverage as opposed to new ideas. This is where the term social media “echo chamber” came from and it is not likely to go away anytime soon.

Limited Conversational Service. As bloggers become more established, many have a tendency to hang out in the back room more often (or spend more time as quick service restaurants trying to promote pass through traffic). They become too busy to answer comments, other posts, or make new associates because the weather seems fair.

Given these three points, is it any wonder that the vast majority of bloggers and people who read blogs (but do not blog) seem to be looking for up-and-coming Niche Restaurants (B-Listers/67%) and Undiscovered Back Alley Bistros (C-Listers/57%). Is it any wonder that almost half visit places like BlogCatalog.com, StumbleUpon, and YouTube (41%), all of which continue to see increased traffic, to find these non A-List establishments?

What does all this mean? It doesn’t mean blogs are dying. It means that it might take a little more magic than simply serving A-List leftovers or quick fixes in the form of 140 characters. Sure, Facebook, Twitter, Jaiku, and Pownce can be used to serve a purpose, but that doesn’t mean you should abandon your purpose.

If you want a great blog, make your own blog. Whereas companies and professionals are best served by using social media as the 5-in-1 tool to help meet specific strategic objectives (we can help too); independent bloggers might liken it to opening a new niche eatery as original as any chef opening a new restaurant. If people like what’s on the menu, they’ll be back. And if they don’t come back, maybe it’s not because quick service is in fashion. Maybe it's your menu.

Digg!

9 comments:

Jericho Saved on 8/15/07, 10:38 AM said...

Great article. Thanks. Love the 5-in-1-tool. The restaurant analogy works so well. I find myself visiting blogs and thinking whether they're gourmet, buffet, etc. It seems, for me, to be trial and error. People will let you know what they like and I always try to listen when deciding on content.

MS on 8/15/07, 10:56 AM said...

This post offers a good answer to the formulaic blog posts on blogs about blogging. Different people like different things, and we shouldn't all be trying to create the next big thing. Thank you. It is then with some irony that I also "dug" your article at diggit. It deserves some more attention, even if it likely won't rise to the top of their list. By the way, what kind of restaurant would?

Rich on 8/15/07, 11:18 AM said...

Thanks JS. I've loved watching your blog progress over the last few months. You break many of the rules too... but the more you break them, the more people come. I love that.

Hey MS, Thanks so much for dropping by. I appreciate the Digg too. :) Over the years, I've become anti-rule book; one of these days I'll have to revisit the reason for everyone. Me? I strive to be like Kerry Simon ... casual gourmet.

I could write about some of the stuff the A-List celebrity MarComm/PR/communication bloggers write about all the time, but I want people to feel more comfortable with the content. I enjoy the conversation over the two graph pat answers and statements. And, we like to experiment here, allowing us to try new things before we add it to one of the other blogs we manage (like a poll!)

All my best,
Rich

Geoff_Livingston on 8/15/07, 1:55 PM said...

Love it. Spot on.

Great content, great content, great content. Nothing else keeps people. I was reminded of that when I read Copyblogger's outstanding and creative piece on Van Halen yesterday.

Rich on 8/15/07, 2:32 PM said...

Right on Geoff.

An original menu with well executed content will create it's own buzz. A little assist on the social network scene might help, provided you don't take to giving away so many samples people lose their appetite. And it doesn't hurt to treat your friends right. :) Glad you dropped by.

All my best,
Rich

Vera Bass on 8/15/07, 4:10 PM said...

Hi Rich,

I'd originally struggled a bit with the restaurant metaphor (says she who uses metaphors constantly), but am liking it more and more.

I'd like to add to your beautifully conveyed message of the totality of a great experience, and Geoff's reminder about content, that one of the strongest elements in great blogs (A-list or languishing in obscurity) is the original voice. This holds with your analogy, in that Kerry Simon's magic is as much who he is as what he presents/offers.

That originality and 'trueness' is what can cause shivers or excitement for a reader as surely as the harmonious ambience in a special host's venue. It resonates.

Vera

Rich on 8/15/07, 4:56 PM said...

Thanks Vera,

Much appreciated. Metaphors are fun. :)

I thought this one worked because after reading (and liking) so many blogs that have nothing in common that it was a good match.

You know, sometimes lighter fare is spot on and other times I want a meal. Different blogs serve up different dishes, but as Geoff said, if the content is good, you'll leave satisfied and come back for more. If the host is nice (even when talking a stand), then all the better.

All my best,
Rich

Andrew on 8/15/07, 5:29 PM said...

[disclaimer - I work for Jaiku - admitting my bias up front]

You're right, tools like Jaiku/Twitter/Pownce etc can't replace blogs - but I think they can enhance your blogging somewhat.

They give you a 'neutral' forum where you can engage with a community, a place to post those 'not worth a post' thoughts, and a way to keep in touch with the thoughts of the folk in your community.

Jaiku has a couple of other benefits - including the ability to pull in your RSS feeds from around the rest of the 'net, and to join (or start) channels that are in your niche.

For me, it means that my blogging is 'bigger', because I have a more natural outlet for 'small' content.

Rich on 8/15/07, 5:48 PM said...

Hey Andrew,

Thanks for dropping by. You're right of course. Jaiku, Twitter, Pownce, etc. can enhance blogs. And although I did not include it in this piece, I think they provide a solid place of exchange for people who don't want to blog but do want to engage in social media. (Not everyone is a "blogger").

Mostly, I wanted to share that the sudden interest in these platforms does not mean a sudden or urgent or dramatic change in the existing social media landscape as some suggest. Nor does a change in traffic mean that blogs are dying (but maybe the individual blog is).

People often make some bold statement online that don't add up and I hate seeing people mislead. As a different example, I was once told that influence of blogs to the growth rate of blogs. To me it was claiming that unless everyone owns a restaurant, restaurants are popular. Imagine. :)

Anyway, thanks again for dropping by. You made me want to check out Jaiku to see what is what.

All my best,
Rich

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