Tag Archives: new media

yesterday’s newspapers = tomorrow’s geosocial community builders?

It’s no secret the entities once known as newspapers continue to transform into multimedia, multipurpose organizations. But can they also use new tools — especially geosocial media — to lead the process of online community-building? The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle’s score! app raises such intriguing possibilities.

While the company did not return an interview request from this lowly blogger, this interview on WXXI and this Nieman Journalism Lab story provide interesting context — the project started as an alternate-reality partnership with the Rochester Institute of Technology, then had another short civic-engagement run around the midterm elections. It relaunched a few months ago as a full-fledged social gaming site with location-based challenges.

“[T]here’s this huge community in Rochester that we can send people to all these cool places they don’t know about,” project developer Mark Newell told WXXI. “We have reporters and contributors that are trying to get more stuff out there. … We have this amazing cache of knowledge that I think we’re trying to get out in more ways than just writing newspaper articles.”

Sign-up takes less than a minute if you connect via your Facebook ID, and the site is pretty easy to navigate. You can pursue missions, which may include logging onto the score! mobile site for checkins like any geosocial app. Missions point users to both known places and hidden gems, such as New In Town with Driardonna Roland by the D&C’s young professionals beat reporter or Ashish’s Sport and Spice by an intern on local spicy food and sports hangouts.

And score! represents a merging of user with content and, for the D&C, revenue potential. The missions tie in advertisers as destinations, while giving users a chance to discover local flavor (perhaps literally), all the while promoting Rochester as a vibrant community. Quite a brilliant concept, really. User activity seems decent, albeit not overwhelming, and it’s hard to predict a development curve.

The question at the heart of this is: Could colleges or other businesses create a similar homegrown solution? (By which I DON’T mean: Drop a huge chunk of change to an app developer.) The D&C benefits from economies of scale — they already have a large staff of content providers, backend development support for their website and a well-used communication vehicle. Some colleges have those advantages as well.

Colleges establishing their own rich geosocial applications and networks — to better connect students to each other and their institutions — would require not just resources, but a paradigm shift in some traditional roles and expectations. But hey, if print media, (erroneously) considered dinosaurs by some, can jump on this kind of innovation, why shouldn’t other industries consider it too?

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pull vs. push: new media, new rules.

I had to leave a Facebook group I’d rather stay part of last week. Unfortunately, they did not understand that social media is a pull, not push, medium.

Every day I’d log into Facebook, seems I’d find a message or two in my inbox from them. They were sending me news releases. OK, not even — they were copying and pasting links to news releases into the inboxes of every group member. I’ve talked before about overcommunication via social media streams, but pushing overcommunication directly upon an affinity group is even worse. And I prefer my inbox for personal messages, thank you.

Social media works best on demand. If you’re trying to communicate, you do want to have an audience, know how to communicate and (one place the group failed) provide a message of value. The key is trying to pull them into an action: enticing them to read, to learn more, to engage … you’re not force-feeding them information.

Your readers are engaged in pull as well — pulling in only the messages they want from the sources they want. It’s like instead of picking up the paper and finding the opinion section and reading their favorite columnist, they merely pull in the latest column (blog) from that favored writer and don’t deal with the rest of the old routine.

Admittedly, communicating via social media has its advantages over traditional PR. Normally, we’d send news releases to editors who may discard them, may cut them down to briefs, may incorporate them into a story or may (shockingly) run almost as is. Then we rely on the audience to pick up the newspaper that day, happen to go to that page, and find it interesting enough to read beyond the headline (which we don’t necessarily control) and lead (ditto).

Facebook is a great example where, if you’re communicating for your college, non-profit or organization, you’re already finding your affinity group or customers. Or they’re finding you. They’ve self-selected, made a conscious decision to be your friend, join your group, become a fan. They’re receptive to messages if they provide some kind of value. They may accept a pushed message from you once in a while, but they’ve spent their whole life dealing with pushy salespeople in real life or on TV. If you repeatedly push messages upon them via social media, then you’re no better than any car salesman shouting at them from a TV.

It’s a new world, and new rules for communication. Actually, it’s more complicated than that: In Web 2.0, every user sets his or her rules. We need to pay attention and do our best to figure out what they are. And know that as they change, so should we.

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just because it’s there, should you use it?

The emergence of new forms of communication reminds me of the spread of desktop publishing in the 1990s. Back then, anyone who had a layout program suddenly thought they were a designer; today, does a YouTube channel make everybody a programming mogul? As always, whether technology means anyone and everyone should use these tools is a different question.

Without going into too much detail (because it involved people I like), a college entity sent a newsletter last week that linked to an outside YouTube video. That well-intended video’s linked related content (albeit not really related) could be seen as offensive, or that’s the way an alum found it when he sent an email to our college president, among others. One of our team members quickly took care of the issue (on a Saturday morning), but the usual questions over use of social media arose.

One of the simplest ways to prevent this is knowing YouTube and its embed settings that keep videos from showing related (or what YouTube thinks of as related) content … or posting it within an edu partner account. It’s not a very obvious setting, but it’s the kind of detail you need to attend. Such an incident, of course, leads into policy discussions about who should or shouldn’t post and disseminate official content on behalf of an institution, and what “official” means — a potentially serpentine process.

But more broadly and basically, the more important lesson ties to a key plank of communicating via social media: Get to know the medium, its capabilities and its community as well as you can. Sure, we all know the guy who hops straight on The Twitters, tweets about a new weight-loss pill, follows 4,000 people via keyword search and auto DMs any chump lazy enough to follow them is, clearly, doing it wrong. But plenty of hard-working, well-meaning individuals encounter mines while jumping into terra incognita.

I signed up for Facebook and Twitter and explored them for months before launching anything in these media representing the college. And just as you’ll find people using media poorly, you can find those using media really well who can serve as examples, perhaps even role models. And since these people use social media, they are easy to reach and — in my experience — very helpful with any questions. We all learn about so much of this stuff as we go along.

Another worthy consideration is: Just because it’s there, should you use it? In just a couple years, I’ve had to learn about communicating via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Flickr, UStream, Watershed and other options I’ve already forgotten. And there’s always a new platform or community emerging that warrants consideration. But that doesn’t mean we should use all of these outlets for everything. You should get to know — emphasis on the word know — these media and then employ those that work well for what you’re trying to do and the audience you’re trying to reach. Missteps, in the realm of social media, are magnified in reach and immediacy … so it’s always important to learn how to watch your steps.

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