Showing posts with label Jason Falls. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jason Falls. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 5

Exploring Social Media Semantics: Falls


Jason Falls, principal of Social Media Explorer LLC, presented a potential challenge with social media: not everyone who practices it is comfortable with the term. And while many carry similar definitions, few have embraced the same definition.

The good news is that it doesn't matter when people listen. The bad news is people don't always listen, which can confuse the professional arena (probably not the personal arena because, frankly, most people don't care) much like there is ample confusion over public relations, with its varied definitions and even more practices.

The reason it doesn't matter is because as long as Falls defines it before speaking about it, we all know what he means.

Social Media can be best described as mediums, mostly on the Internet, that allow users to add or generate content to published works, creating conversations and sharing around the content and conversations. — Jason Falls

It's similar to the definition I use prior to presentations. Yet, as similar as they are, the two meanings eventually diverge.

Social media describes online technologies that people use to share content, opinions, insights, experiences perspectives, and media. — Richard Becker

The good news is that it doesn't matter because I listen (and so does Falls). So when Falls says that "A blog doesn’t qualify as social media unless the ability to comment is enabled," I understand where he is coming from even though my construct absolutely allows for blogs to disallow comments and still qualify as social media because any conversations about the content can still happen anywhere — on forums, message services, and whatnot.

The bad news is that most people, clients and even some colleagues, don't listen, which is why so many companies hire public relations firms to do nothing more than media relations. And, it's also why a design studio in my market recently adopted the term "integrated communication" when in fact all they mean is that they can make their various designs all look the same. (Integrated communication means something much different to me, and I hope to you too.)

While the challenge might be semantics, the real blame belongs to whatever point at which bad marketing intersects a living language.

For example, once upon a time, "blogs" were really "web logs" until the population employing them abbreviated the name as they will and do. Corporate marketers and executives, which loathe the name for no other reason than it sounds bad, came too late to change it (even though several have tried unsuccessfully to do so since).

They did, however, find some wiggle room as blogs failed to define other channels of communication online, which the online population described as "new media." Corporate marketers and many company executives didn't really like the term new media either, and successfully repositioned it as "social media" on the basis that "new media" wouldn't have a name when it became old. Since, we've seen social media called anything and everything from social computing to collaborative marketing (eek), with reasons that range from trying to create a better definition to less admirable attempts to highjack the coining credit.

All of this has been going for a very long time. It will continue to do so, which is why I generally stay out of the name game. Let whomever call it whatever they want. As long as people who listen take the time to discuss definitions, it will all work out.

The reality is over the long haul, I don't expect the term social media to survive as it will eventually be absorbed into integrated communication (which is okay, even though I prefer the strategic communication umbrella better. Not that it is up to me). But for now, social media works because most people understand it, especially when it is defined as simply as possible.

As for my presentation definition, that is the intent. After I define social media, I break it down a bit further. The media part means online technologies. The social part means people. Because at the end of the day, that is all there is.

Tuesday, December 2

Writing With Ego: For Jason Falls


Most people like Jason Falls, who pens the Social Media Explorer, and I count myself among them. Recently, he wrote a post inspired by his friend who hosts a blog on MySpace. The post was interesting on the front end, but lost a little steam with the traffic building tactics that have become increasingly pervasive among social media experts. Traffic is easy, but without traction it's meaningless.

Still, traffic tips didn't stop me as much as reading that "blogging is an inherently ego-driven activity." He continued...

"You don’t have a blog if you don’t think your writing is important enough to be heard. As you start to build traffic, you’ll get a little swagger about you. It makes you feel good. It makes you feel important. But the moment you start acting important to your readers is the minute they walk away. I was once a big fan boy of one significant social media blogger. But, in ever-so-subtle ways, he started big-timing folks. I don’t even read his stuff anymore, as good as it might be. So, as good as you are, don’t get cocky thinking you’re some big shot writer person. Continue to participate with the community. That genuine person is what makes people click on your links without hesitation." — Jason Falls

A column called Why write? by Thomas Mitchell, editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, immediately came to mind. Mitchell outlined four primary reasons that people write as it was once defined by George Orwell. It applies well to blogging too:

• Sheer egoism.
• Aesthetic enthusiasm.
• Historical impulse.
• Political purpose.

So Falls is likely right in that some people do blog for sheer egoism, especially as it seems to run rampant among certain echo chambers. But there are certainly other motivations that don't require egoism to drive good content. In fact, in addition to those offered by Mitchell, I might suggest a few more that other bloggers have suggested to me over the years:

• Monetization.
• Peer participation.
• Educational intent.
• Altruistic intention.
• Business and/or product marketing.
• Making interest-related connections (eg. hobbies).

Of course, it might be important to note that the vast majority of bloggers don't really know why they start blogs. Most develop some sense of purpose as they go. As I offered up in a comment on Mitchell's column (truncated and paraphrased) ...

Originally, I started this blog in 2005 (I had another, briefly, in 2004) for the simple purpose of augmenting educational instruction since the class I teach is served up in a truncated 10-week format, which is not enough time to consider the changes taking place within the field of communication. Eventually, it evolved from educational intent (instructional) to experimentation (learning how to apply specific technologies to business for client blogs) and engagement (having conversations to lend some principles of strategic communication to social media).

That's not to say any bloggers are exempt from being bitten by the ego bug as Falls points out, even me. There certainly was a little swagger in my step the first time a single post drew 10,000 hits in one day. However, that little brush with a blog rush wasn't a feel good moment as much as it was a warning not all that dissimilar to winning industry awards.

The first few feel amazing, but then you realize that awards are best left as the sequel to great results. As soon as you forget that they make a poor pilot, you suddenly run the risk of becoming a slave to the pursuit of them. The same holds true for blog traffic. Some of my favorites still remain unpopular and that's fine with me. Not all posts here are written for everyone nor were they egoism driven as described by Orwell...

“Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen — in short, with the whole top crust of humanity. … Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money.” — George Orwell

Perhaps I was more serious when I was younger, but nowadays I'm more interested in finding the truth. Besides that, the Internet has no place for permanence as my friends and colleagues perceive.

It's fair, of course, for Falls to disagree with me. We do that from time to time, which is why I value the friendship. Yet, while ego can be part of the equation, and there is nothing wrong with that, none of us can really guess at the motivations behind the men and women who blog. It's better when we ask them. At least I think so.

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