Monday, March 2, 2009

OnlineSpin: How Will We Know When Micro-blogging Comes Of Age?

Last week Kendall wrote "Is Emerging Media A Distraction?"

Catherine Ventura wrote in response, "Thoughtful article, as always, Kendall.

I think the conversation will be better served once we drop words like 'emerging' and concentrate instead on trying to reach audiences in the ways they like and want to be reached.

Simple idea, but helps organize the dizzying array of media."

Brian Olson wrote, "Very good article, Kendall.

I get bombarded by invitations to seminars to teach me the latest and greatest about 'emerging' media, the newest and shiniest 'thing.'

All this is why I so much enjoy 'Mad Men' on AMC, the story of an advertising agency set in the early '60s.

Watching the show has taught me that despite the huge changes in technology, it's still all about planning and execution of good ideas.

They had tools. We have tools. It's all about how you use them.

We still have to think, we still have to be smart, we still have to work hard.

The key is learning the new tricks.

Today it's Twitter. Tomorrow it will be something else.

But it will always be about message.

No matter how shiny the wrapper, if the content sucks, the content sucks.

At least we have better livers than the guys on 'Mad Men'!"

Monday, March 2, 2009
How Will We Know When Micro-blogging Comes Of Age?
By Kendall Allen

For the past few weeks, I have been thinking about micro-blogging a lot. Interested in how emergent social media gets its legs, I have had Twitter on my mind. Or, I should say, back on my mind.

After a brief and un-gratifying trip around the block with the newly popular  Big T sometime last year, as a consumer and a marketer -- it lost my attention. In fact, it shot my attention. It agitated and upset me. I dropped it for a while. Still, it stayed in the corner of my eye -- a tool of choice for those around me.

Though I had been using Twitter purely as a consumer and social media enthusiast, not actively marketing my business or my identity there -- I  participated wholly, bathing in the crossfire of marketing messages from media, celebrity and consumer brands I know and love.  Crossfire was the operative word here: I felt over-accessed and over-served 24/7. And that level of intensity was too much. even for my own hyper-linked mind.

Flash-forward about a year. I'm going back in now, under a slightly different trial mode. More on this in a few minutes.

The Ingrained Pressure to Adopt
Despite my media habitat and professional circles, I am not an early adopter.  I always try out and adopt things when the time is right for me -- and freely release the things that fizzle. As a consumer, I cross numerous media channels every day. As a marketer, I obviously advocate integration. But, when it comes to social media, whatever I adopt has to be productive and cannot outright hurt me. These are my rules. Micro-blogging is a slippery slope. All you have to do is read the news to know it can hurt you if not handled with care.

Convergence Can Be Uncomfortable
Because business worlds have become so personalized for so many of us, there are fine lines to consider. As we banter with friends with whom we happen to do business, or whose personal "brands" we may support -- and also have access to each other's after-hours worlds -- we quickly realize how strange it can get.

If you fully activate your devices  -- really the only way to fully experience them -- it gets noisy fast. Even if you turn the alerts off between 1 a.m. to 6 a.m., the chatter 24/7 from your converging worlds is migraine material and can brew a stew of contact and too much information.

I recall an early experience with Yahoo 360 beta years ago. I'm unsure if this is exactly what happened, but it seems that several of my Messenger buddies had been selected to demonstrate the power of the blogging utility, so I was fed links to their personal blogs. One was a random business contact, and the other was an old flame. I no longer instant-messaged this old love of mine, but he remained on my buddy list. Mistake. I considered this a passive state of non-contact, until I was suddenly served -- or force-fed -- romantic travel photos of this gentleman with his new lady. I ran screaming from this new toy, lesson learned.

My experiences with Twitter last year were akin to this access phenomenon on a grander, more rapid-fire level. Amid the self-released flurry of over-access, I sometimes received streams of similar information.

A Consumer Side-note on Social Networking
For years, I have used Linkedin and made it work for me. It's all business and has delivered on networking and general connector stuff. I do not randomly open my door to cold inquiries, or more than a handful of trusted recruiters, and certainly not random social outreach.

When I eventually ventured onto Facebook, I went there with gusto -- creating a world that is primarily personal. I connect only with friends, or friends I've met through business whom I'm comfortable inviting into the little world I have crafted there.

In any case, when I get into social media, I really go there. It's always been my belief that a digital identity is a living being. If you don't tend to it, it will take on a life of its own. And, things do backfire. This is crystal clear to me.

Social Media and Micro-blogging in Business
Many of us feel that emerging and social media will reach maturity when we know their marketing value. We're talking about many tactics within the mix. In particular, though, we have seen remarkable use of social media and micro-blogging to stir buzz, spark connections and generally propagate brand -- both consumer, personal or celebrity. This interplay has played a big part in fostering consumer networks. And this whole phenomenon is approaching measurability.

It  is clear that  volume and reach stats are gradually becoming a reality -- as are influence metrics, within one's social media sphere. More of true tool kit seems to be emerging for micro-blogging itself. And applications like TweetDeck, Twitteriffic, and Twitalyzer beg for at least a solid run, to see if one might take things to a new level.  With the interplay between Facebook and Twitter smoother these days, it's kind of hard to resist.

Truth be told, the final push for me to return to Twitter came on a cab ride with my Tweeps @paulineo and @kevinmryan this past Friday. As I was barking what should be tweeted to a mutual friend in marketing,  I realized I had come to feel terribly left out. I had been watching and thinking about it  -- but as of Saturday, I was back on deck.

Since it's hard, amid the cacophony of over-access and merging worlds, to determine whether there is something sustainable to all of this, I will be taking a different approach. With new tools at my fingertips, I plan to learn something new. My social media experiment now under construction @alter_ego_kma.


Kendall Allen is senior vice president of Digital Marketing Services at MKTG, headquartered in New York City. Previously she was managing director of Incognito Digital, LLC, an independent digital media agency and creative studio. She also held top posts at iCrossing and Fathom Online.

Online Spin for Monday, March 2, 2009:

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