Soup + Glue : Social Networks, Content Platforms + New Media

Do you every think about the shape, structure and emerging form of social media? Where is it all going? How does it make us feel inside? How does it bind us?

Have you ever thought that we each approach social media from our own unique silos and perspectives? Isn’t it time we began to think and act more holistically? Are you suffering from death by Silo?

Social media has changed a lot, and it keeps changing. It’s still in its infancy. There’s many moving parts and no naming committee. We just adopt and adapt. So, how does it work? What are the big cogs driving the engine of Social Media?

How do we segment these tools and experiences in our minds and in our hearts? I think it matters because, it determines how we pick the tools we use (or do the tools pick us?).

How does our thinking vary as consumer and as a brand? How do our motivations differ? This is a big question and an important one.

I’m seeing three interconnected types of “Destination” sites or tool “Segments”.

  • Social Networks
  • Content Platforms
  • New/Emerging Media

The first two have clear names and equally well understood functions. The third segment is morphing as we speak. It’s a catch-all of overlapping sub-segments. Let me quickly define the first two segments and then focus on the interesting third segment. Then I can explain why it’s like Soup and Glue.

1/ Social Networks

Social Networks are broadly understood as places where people hangout with a public identity. Today, for the most part, on social networks we are our real selves. Social networks are a proxy for identity.

  • Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter & G+
  • Email (yes email is the original social network – email is the ultimate call to action)

There are many niche platforms where people can exist and spend time, but they follow similar norms. Match.com for dating. Boardgamegeek.com for board gamers. The list goes on.

The bigger networks also become a means by which we can login to other services (an extension to our identity). There will always be niche networks and communities to attract people on any given topic. They don’t change the premise for a social network – people hubs.

Today we are far more defined by our passions than our geography. Social networks are one of the places to find other people who share our passions. Passion networks are clearly of great interest to brands.

Social Networks are one place where brands first connect with their target audience exist, but it’s not necessarily where you have to be to engage. Facebook’s frequent rule changes should be a reminder of that. We need to own our own destination sites. Owned media is different than shared media, but more on that shortly.

Social Networks have varied in how they do and don’t recognize brands as 1st class citizens and that struggle will continue. This is another good reason to view networks as a segment and a component of your Social Media strategy.

2/ Content Platforms

Content Platforms are similarly mature / adopted. We all know the value of having our content discovered via a content platform. Youtube is the 2nd biggest search engine in the world. We know the value of hosting content when it comes to being found.

If you make slidedecks and don’t load them to Slideshare, you are missing out. We’ve all seen the power of content platforms to amplify your brand’s story.

We expect to host our content on these sites and then embed the content as needed. It’s part of the friction-less, permission-less sharing that exists today. We love it people reuse our content. Reuse has become a goal. Reuse sure beats copying. Content platforms give you control and the metrics to know which of your content is working best and to see where it spreads.
Content platforms exist to support specific types of data:

  • Video : Youtube, Vimeo etc
  • Slides : Slideshare, Prezi etc
  • Audio / Podcasts : Audioboo, Soundcloud, Spreaker, BlogTalk Radio, Spotify, Rdio etc
  • Images : Flickr, Instagram, Visual.ly etc

One facet these 4 types of content share is that their content does not change beyond the moment of publishing. These networks exist for their static content.

3/ New/Emerging Media – Social Transports & Social Destinations

When you remove social networks and content platforms what’s left from the social media landscape?

To me that’s an interesting question.

Glue & Soup

What’s left somehow feels like the glue and the soup. It’s what binds us and fills us up inside. People are people. Content is content. It’s the connection between these two that lets us discover and express our identities.

Input, Throughput, Output : A virtuous circle.

I see these three segments within new/emerging media and they go somewhat to explaining the glue and the soup.

  • Input: Places to visit (destinations like blogs and news feeds)
  • Throughput: Ways to share and amplify (links and bookmarks)
  • Output: Tools to collect, share/organize our interests (collections / lists).

We can consume content, we visit places/sites/experiences that others recommend and we collect singular and shared memories. Content enters our psyche and bonds us emotionally to an idea or a meme. When our friends like what we do that’s incredibly validating. We learn to crave validation.

Preferences is how we find people and content. It’s also how we get found. Links are a breadcrumb trail that leads both ways. Our associations connect us and help us find others and connect similar things so we can find them too.

Media is a virtual changing room. We can try stuff on for size with a very low commitment level. “Does this feel like me?” – that’s what new media is. A medium of self discovery and self exploration.

I mentioned about how pure content does not change. People don’t change either in the sense that they exist or they do not. You may not have discovered someone yet, but they exist and will continue to do so for the duration of their life. In the context of social networks as identity, people are static. It’s their network and connections to people and passions that is dynamic.

New media differs from people / content networks in that it’s ever changing. Media is the ebb and flow of ideas. The rise and fall of fashion. Media is our fluidity, our ever changing preference graph.

Media is how we express what matters to us right now.

The Consumer View

Consumers tend to look at new/emerging media based on the tools and workflows they use/need. They use tools that brings value to them. That value is contextual. Content helps us discover and validate our beliefs and that bonds us to the tools.

Consumers are constantly using these tools to filter their perceptions of the world. I sense more and more that everyone will become more comfortable with expressing themselves through these tools (privately or publicly). The fluidity of media is on the rise.

We live in interesting and fast changing times. Just think how your sharing patterns have changed. How differently do you log your preferences today vs a decade or more ago?

This shift is happening most actively in new media.

We can take a category or a tools view, but I’m not sure many people think this way. People don’t wake up and think I need a tool today. We stumble upon tools via recommendation and other people’s usage. We find tools through their connection to our passions.

Tool Discovery

Which tools do you use? Do you see them as distinct? How did you first discover them?

  • Bookmarks & Links: Keeping a record of what interests you one link at a time. eg Bit.ly, Delicious.com, Kippt.com, Visibli.com, Stumbleupon.com, GetPocket.com, Instapaper.com etc
  • Newsfeeds & Aggregators : Curated Links and commentary grouped and themed into niched magazines. eg Paper.li, Scoop.it, Pulse, Flipboard, Reddit etc
  • Collections, Bundles, Lists or Stories : Simple tools to let people gather their thoughts and preferences. eg Pinterest, Listly, Storify etc
  • Blogs & Websites : Blogs are ultimately destination sites. Destinations for different purposes. Blogs are where people record their thoughts and share ideas. Communities can form and conversations and ideas are exchanged. eg Wordpress, Tumblr, Blogger, Drupal etc

I believe in many cases it’s the content, the media that leads people to the tools. Tools are communicated via people with passions. Pinterest’s growth is a testament to that.

The biggest challenge with these tools and this segment is that it involves changes in behaviour and testing new tools to see how they work. We use them as we please. We don’t spend a long time assessing any of the tools. We make snap judgements. We can always come back later. It’s a very casual affair.

Content has changed structurally too. A slide deck can include an embedded video. A blog post can embed a slide deck that plays a video. A story or list can consist of a images, video, slides and podcasts. With new media, creativity rules.

The Brand View

From a Brand / Marketing / PR perspective, they focus on the content destinations based on ownership and intent. Paid, Owned, Earned & Shared Media is a well accepted segmentation.

  • Paid Media: refers to purchasing advertising or sponsorships to create awareness with a specific audience.
  • Owned Media: includes your company website, corporate blog, magazine, email newsletters and so forth.
  • Earned Media: organic coverage about your brand on television, radio, blogs, video sites, etc, because you did something particularly newsworthy or you have a talented PR person.
  • Shared Media: is the documented engagement between a brand and a user where that engagement is reflected in both of their networks and not fully owned by either entity.

These have been documented in many forms:

What’s most interesting to me is that consumers don’t see a difference in each of these types of “media” and brands know this. Brands plan their mix accordingly using paid and owned to tip as much earned and shared media as they can.

Paid is clearly paid. There’s no shades of grey here. Earned media is pretty clearly distinct too. Owned vs Shared for me is a little fuzzier, more on that shortly.

Pay and Owned vs Earned and Shared

Brands are shifting to thinking more holistically. I recommend watching these 5 videos from PSFK. They do a good job of telling that story.

Convergence: Future of PR Video Series by @psfk
View more lists from Nick Kellet

I loved the “Silo” drawing above, which was drawn by Hugh McLeod (@gapingvoid) for Geoff Linvingston and Gini Dietrich’s book “Marketing in the round” – Another pointer to the need for a holistic approach.

I also found this post on Forbes by Peter Himler, who I believe was 1st to coin the term “Shared Media”.

Is Shared Media well defined? I think not. What do you think. Check out this  list of peoples definitions of shared media. Each definition links to a source post. There is no single truth here. Technology in New/Emerging Media is shifting faster than agency thinking. Or that’s my sense. It needs to catch up with the humanity of the experience and the technology that’s making it so fluid and hard to categorize. – the glue and the soup.

Some of the challenge comes from the definitions made for Paid, Earned and Owned. “Owned” is such a categorical or sterile word that limits our thinking. I think there’s a difference between a destination site (your blog) vs a destination channel (e.g. on Youtube).

A Youtube channel is only loosely owned, but then it’s also a content platform. For shared to be fully understood owned needs a very tighter definition.

Returning to my opening segmentation: Social Networks, Content Networks vs New Media, I’m left feeling that Paid/Owned/Earned and Shared media vary in how they intersect with these three segments.

I feel like I’m asking more questions than I’m answering, but I’ve been wanting to write a post to dig into paid, earned, owned and shared media for a while.

It’s not a simple topic to dissect. I think I’ll be writing more on this topic. Got any questions/thoughts??

I’m mostly fascinated by how brands and consumers have unique perceptions of the same content. What do we each take from our experiences?

Most importantly, do we choose tools we use or do the tools choose us?

Certainly from a Listly perspective I know our value is dispersed across different disciplines. We connect the silos. That’s a real strength. Listly is a lot about convergence of disparate list types. We let people rethink the utility of lists.  In some ways were a glue for connecting disciplines and silos. To the consumer were the soup connecting their passions and their community. Play lists for the web is also an interesting angle, focussed on the utility of content. The collaborative nature of Listly puts at the intersection of owned and shared media. Lots to explore.

I’m sure I’ll dig into these ideas in future posts.

NIck Kellet (118 Posts)

Nick’s ventures range from a visual segmentation tool sold to SAP, to an award winning board game. Today, Nick is co-founder of Listly, raising the profile of lists to be on par with Slideshare & YouTube.