January 8, 2009
By Ryan Zuk, APR
The following article appears in the January 2009 issue of PR Tactics.
Social media, and the online communities and tools that comprise it, grew significantly over the last year. According to various references, Facebook surpassed 100 million users. Technorati reported it has indexed more than 130 million blogs since 2002. And directory service Twitdir.com tallied more than 3 million Twitter users. Additional statistics are just a Google search away.
Millions of Web enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, businesses, and communicators are entering the New Year with the dawning realization that they have created multiple online entities — and all these need to be maintained. Microblog or message networks such as Twitter and FriendFeed, for example, require brief yet frequent activity to build credibility with other users.
Consider an individual, a company, or even a popular consumer brand with Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, a Twitter account, Flickr photo page, and a WordPress blog. That’s five separate entities that, in many scenarios, could benefit from consistent and efficient content management.
Ping.fm and similar tools such as Hellotxt.com and Socialthing.com have emerged to address the growing challenge of maintaining content at multiple online locations. They offer users a one-stop destination for creating brief text messages (typically 140 characters or less) with or without images. Messages are pushed simultaneously to all or whichever microblogs, blogs, and community profiles a user chooses. (At the time of publication, Ping.fm was supporting more than 30 social networks and promoting soon-to-arrive video sharing capabilities.)
Channeling outbound messages through Ping.fm provides immediate time savings. Consistency is another benefit. Of course, you won’t always want to post the same message to every community. “Handle with care” remains good advice for social media and any communication opportunity.
Brandon Zeuner, social media launch strategist at bzkicks.com, signs up for just about every social network and tool he hears about.
“For me, it’s good to evaluate everything out there, and measure the speed at which it is adopted. As a technologist, I figure I owe each ‘new thing’ a look, so I make it a point to invest my time,” Zeuner says.
“With Ping, I’m now able to better manage the message volume I commit myself and my clients to. It’s great for managing outbound communication, but it doesn’t consolidate replies from each community. You need to return to each to fully interact.”
Lifestreaming, the full-meal deal
While the debate over how many social networks can have a presence on the Internet may continue, Zeuner’s view — contrary to some other social media experts, who suggest dominating one niche with one tool — centers on casting a wide net via the communities and message networks most appropriate for his clients. The concept of lifestreaming, then, is one he and others might consider to broaden their social media footprint and improve awareness.
Lifestreaming takes content management and aggregation beyond the boundaries of 140-character messages. Blog posts of any length, photos, videos, podcasts, and social bookmark pages, plus those microblogs you’re pinging, can all be packaged and received as a single, catch-all feed. Content creation from multiple locations is still required in some instances, but the unified output can be worth the effort when communicating with your audience.
The lifestream feed by Edelman Digital’s Steve Rubel is perhaps one of the best examples for PR practitioners.
Imagine the possibilities a lifestream can create for your own personal brand or product campaigns this year. Simple instructions for creating one with Google Reader and FeedBurner are available here. See the Oct. 29, 2008 post.
Ryan Zuk, APR, is a media and analyst relations professional and Phoenix PRSA Chapter member. Zuk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @ryanzuk on Twitter. He also blogs at criticalmasspr.com.
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