Social Media at PSFK Conference New York 2008
PIERS: Heard of Muxtape? Muxtape lets you create mix tapes and share them on the web. Amazing how quickly these things come. Every record company will jump on top of it. Social media, it’s so broad, creates so much change. I asked Noelle to put a panel together of people who dabble in the media and how they use it.
NOELLE: Going to keep this casual, have these gentlemen talk and then open it up for questions. How many of you do not have a social profile online? (few) Anyone who had it and recently deleted it or closed it down? More, that’s interesting. Joining me on stage, dabble is a light term. Marc Shiller, CEO and founder of Electric Artists, social business solutions using the social web. Companies like Amex, Starwood Hotels, Kenneth Cole. Avid contemporary art culture. Noah Brier, currently a strategist at a small boutique firm, Naked Communications. Co-founded Likemind along with Piers, taken it international. Blogs a lot about social interactions in the social web. I ran across a page from two years ago from every conference I do. Don’t have the title of the name. They were talking about web 2.0. Wanted to read some of the notes. I had written, there are not boundaries or time frames in this online world. Online doesn’t start or stop. We’re never alone or isolated there. If you think about social spaces in the offline world, allows us to connect, learn, and congregate with other likeminded people. Basic need to sustain relationship with others, online and offline. I entered social media in Google, 3,862 popped up on the screen. Half a million join Facebook every day. It’s no small thing and expected to grow in the next 3 to 4 year; some have estimated it will become a $3 to $4 billion industry. What is social media? What types of social and cultural impact?
STEVE: I think social media is a misnomer. Wasn’t 2 or 3 years ago but it is now. It implies that there are boundaries. Blogs, NYT, we’re the same. It’s all media. It’s holistic. What the mainstream traditional press have done a great job of doing is embracing all the channels that we use. Difficult to say this is social media, it’s got 4 legs and a tail. The media overall has become social, and the social has become media.
MARC: I like to strip everything back and look at the most essential word. It’s sharing. What we think that blogs are here and Facebook is there – social media is about clicking a button and adding it to your Facebook page. Unlocking content, letting it go across the whole ecosystem of the web and letting people share it among themselves. And they add their own passion and targeting. Don’t think all media is still social media. There’s a lot of locked content, don’t have the mind set to tap into this concept of sharing. The entire web is based on communication. As media companies go online, they look at it as broadcast. Only now are they being forced to really change and praise as social media.
NOAH: I get annoyed at these discussions because they tend to be circular. To say that social media allows us to share assumes we wouldn’t’ share it otherwise. Media is just mediating communication between two people, whether they’re broadcasting it or not, it’s inherently social. I don’t’ know why it’s new, blogging, they’re interesting. All the mainstream media – the most interesting blogs coming from the New York Times. It was all around before the web.
JOSH: I agree with Steve about the misnomer. Media has inherently been social. It’s been one way communication. But there’s a new generation that we all represent that’s demanding these social attributes be there, that they affect the shape of a page if they visit. It’s gonna move away from a portal mindset and social happening like Facebook, and social being part of the digital landscape that people use. Data portability is needed at this point. That you can’t export from Facebook is such an old school way of doing things.
NOELLE: Old media brings context with it. Facebook is never going to provide the information value that the NYT can about a specific restaurants. It’s going to reshape how we interact because we now have a context.
JOSH: There are a lot bigger concerns. The NYT didn’t link out the blogs for a long time, for no other reason than their journalistic integrity. They’re actually much bigger questions to be asked of those companies and the media landscape.
STEVE: I disagree. The community can provide just as much or more than the guys with big pockets. There are millions of us, there are hundreds of them. The hard part is the filtering of that. The need for digital curators to be out there in every niche. You know what, this is art and this is junk. There are millions of niches that they will fill into. When you go to the Met you don’t see something from your junkyard. Someone’s paid a lot of money to make choices. Well that’s gonna happen online. Some will be automated some will be human. Check out Mulhollo.
MARC: Great content will always rise above.
JOSH: Anyone been to YouTube? Anytime I watch the top 20 videos – that is not good content.
STEVE: But that’s automated. I’m talking about someone who’s really an authority.
NOAH: Eventually it becomes overwhelming, just starts the cycle again. There’ll be too much information on Mulhollo.
MARC: If you’re really dedicated to the feedback that comes back – when blogs start out about sharing, they succeed. When they’re not about giving to get, they lose some of that. It can be done through engineering or through a cultural lens. When you say the content on YouTube sucks, you don’t realize it has its place.
JOSH: That’s the cream that rises to the top.
MARC: They’re really driven by great engineering and leave it up to you as to how to use it. Once Facebook thinks they know how to use Facebook more than you, it becomes a problem. I love both. Both have a great place.
JOSH: I spend a lot of time looking at the top 10 stuff on sites. On one hand, I’m blown away that those things rise to the top. My taste is just not there. Middle America drives YouTube.
STEVE: When you combine the human and technology, anything can happen. That’s why blogs do well. That’s Google’s downfall.
NOAH: The whole thing is human though. Inherently social. With the YouTube thing, there are people who want that, enough people who are digging it. If that’s what the audience wants, don’t know who we’re to say we can curate it better.
STEVE: Each slice of the audience is different, different perspective.
NOELLE: Can a brand ever have the same community as someone not associated with the brand?
MARC: Brands don’t have conversations, people have conversations. The brands that have people behind them that let people be authentic – brands are already part of our community. Clichés like Harley exist because there’s a history of them understanding that world too well. The problem is when a brand thinks social media is Facebook. They’re not set up for it, not capable, it’s a media buy at the end of the day. It takes someone to say no, or here’s how you evolve into that. You have to learn what not to do. It was great to have clients and brands innovate face to face, better to do and fail. But with the web becoming so social, it’s better to pull back a little, and do it right. It works against my instincts. But the web really is one big conversation. You can’t succeed without being able to participate in the whole thing, not just a Facebook or MySpace page.
NOAH: Branding is giving things human traits and tendencies. We provide some human element to what this brand is. But they weren’t acting as humans, interrupting programming. They didn’t need to. Now they have to act like people at a party. If you’re not interesting or loud and obnoxious, no one’s gonna talk to you. Now it’s like that online.
JOSH: It’s a lot more challenging than just buying banners.
STEVE: The web is an outlet for communication but if you look at it that way, you’re missing the iceberg. It’s people working together. You tube is people working together to be entertained. A brand comes in and says you know what, we’re gonna use this as a way to find out what we want, what they want. There’s a mobile lateral. Now it’s a place for them to yak. It’s much more than that.
JOSH: One of the missed opportunities came out of your agency, the best known one. Mind boggling to see a brand do that. This is the fake Wal-Mart blog. We were like, how did an agency suggest that a brand like Lotto – when we start strategies we say: if this brand had a life on line, who would they be?
STEVE: We’re gonna wrestle later. We made a mistake. We goofed. It wasn’t a fake blog. We should state was it was. You ski downhill and fall, you gotta get right back up. Wal-Mart turned it right around. Go to a site called the checkout blog, real employees talking about the products they love and hate. It’s controversial but they engaged to see what customers want.
JOSH: The stuff that Wal-Mart has done since then has been really good. I just wonder even for the full disclosure, how does it happen like that, and how can it not happen again? What was missing in that conversation with people? It wasn’t a misunderstanding of digital, or human beings.
STEVE: We didn’t check off all the boxes and the one we didn’t check off is the one that got exposed, and that was full disclosure of the author. We fell in the dirt and got back up.
NOAH: People don’t bother asking if you’d actually do it. I’m always amazed if clients ask would you go to the website – well no. Then why are you even bothering? Maybe we’re talking to a different group of people but usually you can figure out if something’s interesting.
MARC: The bigger the check, the bigger those problems are likely to happen. The bigger you’re vested to not say now, build in a period of discovery, independent of what you want to do, outside your own sector. And have the client have the ability to say, you’re right, let’s move on. With second life, the timing was perfect with a client that said they weren’t ready. We went in and tried to sell second life. She said she wasn’t going to do it. And thank god. After two weeks I would have said, how do I give the money back? Media buyers can sell Facebook to anybody. In three months the client’s gonna say I don’t’ want anything to do with Facebook. Somebody couldn’t say no. You know that box is the most important box. To say it wasn’t checked off, the check was too big and no one had the guts to say…
STEVE: We’ve been through 60 social networks since then. Second life is a quagmire for markets now. We all rushed to go in, thought it was incredible. The agencies the marketers – how do we make sure that doesn’t happen again. The challenge-centric nature of it.
JOSH: There was no First Life for Loft. No digital life on the internet. If there are boxes to check off, what is your first life before you go to second life? What is your digital media?
MARC: Thank god the session of not doing those microsites, those are the biggest waste of money for clients in the history of marketing. You’re not building destinations on the social web – you’re building a strategy to interact with everyone on the web. Not limited to what the flavor of the month is. It’s where you want to put your efforts. If you think the clients you work with are incredibly digital, you start to make some big mistakes. A lot of them don’t even use the web. We didn’t want second life to be a channel for Loft, now it is a channel.
JOSH: If you’re thinking of engaging in this place called the internet. I disagree about waiting and experimenting. Pick a strategy and execute on it. The time for dipping a toe is over.
MARC: Big companies are not entrepreneurial. If I go into Amex and say you should be blogging today – a lot of people are so into their little niche, they think that these big companies are stupid. They’re very bright. But they have legal and PR departments. They’re not the enemy. If you get so focused on why you’re not there you can do a lot of damage. If you do nothing then you’re absolutely missing out.
JOSH: Apple doesn’t do this. They don’t have a social networking web thing.
NOAH: They do a lot of forums.
NOELLE: I have one quick question. What should we be thinking about in terms of social online world in terms of PSFK future?
STEVE: The website’s dead. It’s not about websites. It’s about web services. Entering the cut and paste web. Might be Facebook, might be Google. If you’re not building an armada of where your content can go – there’s 45 ways now and no standards – you have to go where the audience is.
JOSH: Being on the internet’s hard work.
NOAH: On Steve’s point, the API’s, Amazon now has a shipping API, they’ll handle all the fulfillment for you. Flicker can handle your photos better. It may be a semantic issue; you have a website at the end.
STEVE: Amazon is the place you go. They’ll take place in thousands of place.
QUESTION: Curation of content. I work for fastcompany.com, recently redesigned our content. We’ve been accused of straddling the social media. We have to curate the content we promote on our site. Do you think magazines could ever not curate their content and go completely social?
MARC: What I like about the new fast company site is the thought of the day that’s there. That gentle push. The softer form of curation is the most exciting because you have the ability to let things evolve. You want people to be different but you want to guide the conversation.
NOAH: Don’t know why newspapers would stay away completely from curating. They’ve always been the voices, the editors curate the articles. There is a lot I’d abandon before curation.
JOSH: Editors are really important. Some blogs are successful; you know what Brian looks like, and Steve. That human element of curation.
QUESTION: What do you think of sites like Cluster?
JOSH: Full disclosure, I’m on the board. It’s a collaborative tool so products can affect the outcome of products. What do I think of it? It’s awesome.
NOAH: Asking Eric if he takes feedback from clients. It’s hard to say if those things are going to work on not. Steve Jobs said he never listens to people. People would have said they want a faster horse (Henry Ford). Companies do it more as gestures, more than mining people for their ideas.
MARC: The Starbucks suggestions are amazing. I love reading the knowledge the customers have of knowing how to make the businesses better and that all of it is open to you and I. Like taking the Dell storm – I’m not gonna make a computer, but the lessons of hospitality apply to all our businesses. That’s listening. Apple doesn’t need it. Virgin doesn’t need it. Most brands don’t have a Steve Jobs. They have a management team.
NOAH: Starbucks pads its own content and selects it.
MARC: If it started that way with suggestions from real people, it was a smart thing to do.