Leverage Multi-Social Media Platforms to Tell Stories


The emergence of transmedia storytelling over the past decade has lead to or created some unique opportunities in social media.  First, let me back up and quickly explain what transmedia is to the uninitiated and in full disclosure mode I hadn’t really heard of the term up untila few weeks ago, but I dig the term.  

Transmedia, according to Henry Jenkins a professor at USC is “the art of conveying messages themes or storylines to mass audiences through the artful and well planned use of multiple media platforms”

Multiple media platforms. Boom.

So let’s think through that quickly about the multiple platforms that you, me, and your organization can now use to convey your key message themes: Blogs, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Forums, Websites, QR Codes, Group Buying sites, and LBS( location based sites)-to name but a few.

Transmedia is a cool word, and though I’ve not used it that much, the important line or word for me from the above ethereal definition is this. It’s all about story telling. A good friend once told me that we shouldn’t sell as much as we should tell stories, and you know what?

He’s right. We should tell more stories.

What’s cool is that digital media’s variety of platforms allow people and companies, equally, the ability, though some do not take advantage of it, to do just that-tell stories. Rich stories. The advent of open source blogging platforms like a Drupal or a WordPress, and the creativity that Youtube has allowed, have given users the ability to tell these rich verdant stories of their lives, our lives, and the myriad ways in which they touch us and we connect with them.

That’s cool.

So where is the opportunity? There are good marketers and Ad people that make a difference digitally. Not all of them are in it to use CGI to create a talking dog to sell a can of beans. The story tellers are the one’s leveraging the power of digital. These are people toeing the line of brilliant social and visual  creativity who are going out  and telling stories that open our senses, our eyes, our ears and cause us to respond in a mutual dialogue.

That’s part social media and part real life. It’s real people telling real stories of their lives, their  experiences and their challenges to each other and sometimes its not pretty. It’s social cinema verite’. It’s story telling.

Quit selling and go tell stories.

The Google+ Conundrum

It’s not a conundrum. It’s a logjam. If you’ve been in the social space for any amount of time now, you have seen Google’s “other” attempts at going/being social. Google Sidewiki, Google Wave, Google Buzz and in each case, the premise was clear but the execution not so. So now we have Google + and it may have a chance but…

What you need to understand in this social space is that the longer they(Google, Facebook, MSN, Apple, Yahoo, et al) can keep you in network, the better. That means providing you with the business services, tools, entertainment outlets and peripherals that can casually prevent you from thinking you need to use another service or site to achieve said service or tool.

Which leads us back to Google + and the logjam.  Google + is cool, it may even fill a need, but is it a Facebook killer? No. It will fill a need, and it’s ability to link your email connections into “social” Circles is a no brainer, but here is the bigger problem. The majority of people on a social network right now are on Facebook. Google is hoping, asking, assuming that maybe you want to leave Facebook for a “better” experience. Google is betting on you willing to reset your “socialness”.

Let’s say you currently use Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Ping, and half a dozen lesser social enabled sites; that really doesn’t leave much time to have a physical, in-body, face to face experience, Does it? So, someone has to suffer, someone has to lose. It’s been said that Google has 10 million new users in Plus in the first 2 weeks. Is that the new shiny thing effect? You betcha! Should Facebook be worried? No.

The only thing Facebook will do is evaluate the features that Google+ has created, see if any of them make sense for Facebook users-and then they’ll recreate them for Facebook users.  In Goggle +’s defense, They will create a decent fan base of loyal and ardent users, but a social networking behemoth? No. Google just needs to identify waters that are cluttered with…other logs and stay out of them.

Who’s making the rules in social media?

I know it sounds like I’m bucking the system right? Or I’m challenging authority. Or I’m that guy who says, why are we doing it this way on his first day on the job…  But here is where my head is at.  Back in the Oh so heady dot com bubble days I became part of a very large team working on a startup. I remember thinking I had died and gone to heaven-I mean it was a dot com, I was going to be able to retire by the time I was 35. I came into the project mid-stream and yet the product had essentially been built. And I remember that very first day that I got a look at the site that it wasn’t right.

The reason?  Simply put, a bunch of software engineers and developers built a system in which they assumed they knew what the user wanted without really asking. There was zero intuitiveness to it and I remember asking anyone willing to listen-How do they know the users will want this? Blink…Blink…

Let’s fast forward 11 years. I’m in a meeting in which I was talking to a bunch of department heads about the major social platforms, I alluded to Twitter in particular and how it has changed. The interface has not really changed and the “way” you’re supposed to use it functionally speaking has not changed-but the way in which we actually use it has-Dramatically. You see, when Twitter was first created it was meant to be a way to update people on what you were doing quickly right? Remember this comment from the naysayers? “Why do I care what someone had for lunch?” For the most part, the way it was built and the way it was intended to be used held fast. But…

What has changed is that we the users have redefined how we use Twitter. We have decided that Twitter is a great way to share links, to share content and to consume content. Sure you can have those short staccato like conversations, but we have chosen to use it in another way that suits are needs and desires. It is now purely a content consumption and content push platform. That’s not to say that Twitter is not good for conversations any longer, but obviously what Twitter has done for us, for them and for the Google+’s and the Facebook’s of the world, is that it has defined a new action that has been woven into the fabric of our social lives. The action of sharing a piece of digital content in the form of a link. Pure and simple.

In the evolution of social, we might say that first it was blogs in which the written word was used in long form, then Twitter in short form, followed quickly by Facebook who then realized that Twitter was onto something so they borrowed the Twitter stream idea… The underlying theme in all of this is that we, the users have determined what we want from our social networks and how we will use them-and not the engineers. Although I still have a problem with the narrowness of defining what the social actions must look like or be called, i.e. “likes”, “friending”, and “follows”-We still have the power to really define them in the ways that we want to treat them.

The biggest mystery however lies with marketers trying to get inside the heads of the users to determine how they can turn them into loyal brand advocates. Stay tuned.

The Rub of Social Ubiquity

Sometimes we just want to “lay low”. Sometimes we just want to pull back and do nothing. Sometimes we just don’t want to post, share, update, comment, tweet, or chat. We just want to be.  However, as each day goes by, we’re starting to see that social doesn’t sleep. The digital footprint isn’t necessarily in sand.  

Social ubiquity, unfortunately doesn’t know what laying low means. With the advent of Google+ and Facebook’s landgrab of all things social, we’re edging towards an age where we all can be found at any time. Our digital footprint is becoming one which isn’t etched in sand but more like one cast in clay and concrete. What we all need to understand though, is that Google, Facebook and Microsoft want to keep us in network, 24 seven 365.  This starts with a social network and then extends to email, to docs, to phone calls, to commerce, to video and beyond. Every one of these “actions”  has or will have a social component attached to it. If it hasn’t already.

So where do we go once we’re reached that saturation? We “retreat” and we “treat” social as a utility. It becomes part of the fabric of our lives that we use in moderation knowing that we CAN use it 24 seven 365, but we don’t. We will eventually become more identified by the social networks that we use all the time but right now we’re still deciding what camp we want to be in, while the big 3 try to figure out what we want.

Value Drivers in Social Media

Sometimes I’m not so sure I always know what that means. Value drivers.  It’s sort of a corporate speak type of thing to essentially describe the capabilities of your company isn’t it? But really the dumbed down version of value drivers is a  term to describe the competitive advantage(s) of your company.

But what if we say you are a “social company”? What are the value drivers of your social company? What should they be?

  • You are social, you are participatory and you are producing content? (That’s a given right?)
  • You engage frequently? (Assumed)
  • It permeates your organization? (Imperative)
  • Business is derived from your social activities?
  • You are measuring your activities?

Does your organization think like this? Does anyone think like that when it comes to social business? When we all start to think like this, then we get to move beyond the the “bright new shiny thing” stage of social.