Social Outposts and RSS Feeds
Social Outposts such as Facebook and Twitter fulfill an important function for those coming rather late to the Internet. The reason Outposts are popular is because they’re easy. Easy to setup because they don’t require any specialized skills, easy to make look nice since you’re coloring within the lines. We all remember the days when Facebook started its relentless march passing teenage sweetheart MySpace with an adjusted platform. I remember telling clients in 2006/2007 to open accounts on Facebook and they all came back to me with the remark that it was too difficult.
Facebook made it simpler and since then acquired almost 600 million users. Social Media Sites, also called Outposts, are valuable and exciting networks. The social web as a whole continues to expand daily in a similar manner as the Universe keeps expanding as I indicated in yesterday’s blog post.
I see the Internet as a 3 lane highway. The high speed passing lane is occupied by professional people like us, who spend most of their waking hours studying, developing and testing internet strategies, creating new venues constantly. There are relatively few people in that lane and movements go fast with mobile being the latest addition. The middle lane is reserved for those who have committed to a web blog or site to brand themselves. They go a bit slower, but still much faster than the slow lane which is massively occupied by the Social Outposts (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc.). Because of the sheer volume of traffic in this lane, they are the ones that are presently catching the spotlight, but the real internet value centers around the middle lane, the one that uses the medium to profile themselves without the limitations of the Social Media designs.
The reason why I’m bringing this up is because stream-based platforms are essentially “a problem in search of a solution”. Everyone within them (just look at Facebook and Twitter) wants something to point at. Something unique, useful, interesting or creative that exists outside the stream. The stream’s purpose isn’t to talk about itself, but rather to find things to talk about, comment on, amplify and share. But here is the warning: many businesses that today feel that a Social Media presence is enough, are missing the boat.
Every Company is a Media Company
Understanding and accepting the notion that every company is a media company, the opportunity that is staring us in the face for the longterm, points at the need to have or start a blog. That is true branding. Appealing to and creating networks of like-minded individuals and groups
Even as social outposts grow in popularity, the ease of spreading new, original and relevant content and ideas just continues to increase. In fact, as the average user decides to forgo a self-hosted platform in favor of yielding their presence to the stream, the opportunity for the company or individual who is above average able and willing to vest the effort to build a real web community – is mind altering. And honestly, that can only be done through time and money investment in appealing, well maintained individual web logs (sites).
A stream based platform, however popular, simply doesn’t foster the same type of community as one that is platform agnostic. To use social networks you don’t own, without having your own self-hosted destination that is updated with frequency and priority, is to act tactically – not strategically. You’re not building any longterm momentum this way.
In addition, social platforms are exclusionary by nature. Not everyone uses every platform and that’s something a lot of people seem to miss. For example by choosing Facebook as your only platform, is a bit like building a brand through the “old-school” mass marketing approach. You spend a lot of time (and possibly money) to reach a market that is unspecified. If you seek to penetrate an entire category and not simply a single network, then becoming a publisher is the answer – the only answer.
Other benefits having a self-hosted blog has over any network you don’t own/self-host:
• Your own domain with clean URLs is still the most accessible, find-able and share-able asset on the web. You do however need to apply Google Places, Maps and Mobile to your profile.
• Blog content can be shared across the web, in any way a user prefers.
• Media have become very comfortable directly reacting and linking to blog content, far more than any micro-content like a Tweet (ephemeral) or a Facebook status update (tough to link to).
• Self-installed analytics packages like Google Analytics or Omniture offer far more detailed and meaningful reports than any data from social sites and provide the full picture – all the way to conversion.
• Once sustainable traffic is build, you can point the firehose of traffic at any outpost you have a page on and grow it. For example SearchAmelia has a 43% traffic build through Facebook and 19% through Twitter.
• Three words: search engine traffic.
• A truly creative, personalized design that is as you define it, not constrained by someone else’s rules.
• On blogs, archives are valuable and continue to be re-shared and used to thread the past with the future. In stream-based platforms like Facebook, today’s updates are lost to eternity by the time tomorrow comes around or in search terms, page 2 might as well be page 90. At SearchAmelia we are sometime amazed getting comments on stories that were posted one or two years ago!
• You can run calls to action next to your content and get to an outcome (leads generated, talent solicited, ads clicked – up to you!).
• Traffic is distributed with a self-hosted blog: if one source dies up, there are many more.
• You can build opt in at the source, bypassing the noise of the real-time web and distribute content directly to high value (but unloved) email and RSS readers. This is essential if you want to capture your markets within the time constraints that everyone has these days. An RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feed allows your followers to pull valuable information from your site, rather than you trying to push it upon them. It also supports the two way communication module that is called Web 3.0 Here is a short video in plain English on how to set this up.
Of course the early adopters of the Bell Curve will continue to voice the message that “blogs are dead”. Interestingly enough however, you’ll notice the most popular place they do this is on …you guessed it, other blogs. It’s essentially an absurd conversation. My advise is to ignore this and instead focus on reality: that the single best place to build a voice for you or your brand and dominate your category remains blogging.
Remember, you are not just another web user. As someone reading this post: whether a marketer, an artist or an entrepreneur, you’re hardly average. Rather you’re looking for the most potent approach to share ideas. I know it requires work, but to think doing so does not, is naive.
The waves of change on the web don’t knock over the past, unless your equity is tied up in a single network. A distributed presence not only provides accessibility, it provides security.
It’s still a great time to start a blog, but every day you wait is another day you fall behind savvy competitors who haven’t been taken in by the hype of Social Outposts.