Look Out, Twitter: Pinterest on Your Tail

Most websites get the biggest slice of their traffic pie from Google; and Facebook is the most frequent #2.  But the other social networks are starting to be significant to some sites.

Now, let’s see how they stack up in terms of driving traffic.   As part of the Media Industry Social Leaderboard, we’ve been keeping tabs.

It’s worth keeping in mind that Facebook still massively outweighs its social brethren in total impact, making up 97% of social traffic to the top 50.  But in today’s world of meteoric rises and rapid falls, one of the players lurking in the other 3% (Twitter, Pinterest or Google+) could turn out to be the behemoth of tomorrow.

Twitter is definitively the #2 social referrer for publishers, but its share is declining – it grew by a lackluster 1% from February to May.  Meanwhile, Pinterest is emerging as a formidable competitor:  their last three months were just pinsane with 210% growth.  If they continue on that trajectory, they’ll be bigger than Twitter as a traffic referrer by summer’s end.

Will that happen?  Is Pinterest already edging out Twitter as we speak?  Stay tuned for next month’s Social Leaderboard results.

Social Leaderboard: March Results

How much social traffic did the top 50 web publishers attract in March?  The results are in – and it is a mixed month.

More Social Traffic

Measuring by total visits, March was the second highest month on record for social traffic to the top publishers.  The number of social (Facebook + Twitter) visits to the top 50 grew by 2.9% in March to 403 million.

But a Smaller Piece of the Pie

Volume growth aside, social’s share of traffic to the top 50 dropped slightly, dipping by 0.3% in March.  That’s because even while traffic from social grew, it didn’t grow as fast as traffic from other sources.

What gives?  It’s possible that each and every one of the top publishers’ social media teams was distracted last month by March Madness and solar flares.  It’s also possible that Facebook’s aggressive mobile push is putting downward pressure on this measurement (the comScore data we use for benchmarking overall site traffic doesn’t include mobile traffic, alas).

The Contenders:  NBC climbs, Us Magazine falls, and Wetpaint stays on top

The solar flares must have been particularly distracting to one publisher’s social team: Us Magazine continued its downward slide, falling out of the top 5 entirely this time after dropping last month from 3rd to 5th.

NBC is on a roll, climbing up another rung (after jumping two spots ahead in February) to #2 on the leaderboard.  NFL also ran the ball for an impressive number of yards, moving from #9 to #5.

Wetpaint Entertainment continued to hold a definitive lead, outperforming the closest rival by 9.3 percentage points.  We’re able to maintain this lead by constantly improving our proprietary social analytics and distribution system through rapid experimentation and a deep understanding of our audience.  The amazing thing is that our social growth has not come at the expense of search traffic.  Indeed, our search traffic has been rising as a result of our social success, and total traffic has recently hit record highs of 10 million uniques and more.

And we’re not done yet – social users are the most valuable users, and we want more.

The 20X Difference Between Facebook and Twitter

All social networks are not created equal.

We tend to think of Twitter as some kind of Facebook Lite, but this puts us at risk of missing the fundamental differences that make each platform valuable in its own way for brands and publishers on the web.

Facebook is a hub-and-spoke social network.  I share, you share, we all share with the common goal of promoting our identities within our social circles.  The assumption is that we share our lives – at least as we’d like them to be seen – with our friends.

Twitter, on the other hand, is an interest amplification network.  One person shares, one thousand people listen, and some retweet to thousands more.  On Twitter, the basic assumption is that tweeters share their interests with their followers.  And, with reverb built into the network, that followers do the same.   In this asymmetrical network, ideas can spread farther and faster.  And because Twitter’s connections are interest-based rather than relation-based, they transmit with far more “gain” on the signal.

But how far, and by how much?

Both Facebook and Twitter hold huge potential for publishers, and yet they are measured quite differently.  When a publisher posts to Facebook, they have a pretty good idea of the impact: ~16% of a brand’s followers see a typical post.  As with a radio tower, the signal is broadcast once and (while it may reflect here and there) largely travels by line of sight to its listeners.

The actual reach and impact of a tweet, though, remains nebulous  and hard to quantify.  It’s impossible to track how many of your Twitter followers actually read a tweet, and Twitter hasn’t offered any guidance on the norm.  But above all, Twitter is hard to quantify because the real value of a tweet comes from the ripple effects it creates outside of the Twitter stream.

If Facebook acts like a broadcast tower, Twitter acts like a newswire: think about its “tune in” format and its penchant for news-breaking.  More and more, journalists and bloggers are getting their news tips from Twitter and repackaging those stories for their own online readership.  Which means that one little tweet (unlike a typical Facebook post) can travel a very long way.

Twitter Traffic x 20

In fact, the total impact of a tweet can be anywhere from 1-20x the direct traffic you see from that tweet.  At Wetpaint, an average article gets 3% of its traffic directly referred from Twitter.com.  If a particularly influential person happens to tweet about one of our stories, however, that number goes through the roof.  When Grant Gustin (otherwise know as Sebastian on Glee) tweeted a link to the story “Grant Gustin has Superbowl Spirit,” Twitter’s traffic contribution shot up to 55%.  The same thing happens outside of the Twitter stream when our followers pick up on a story and blog about it – we see up to 20x the typical Twitter traffic in ripple effects.

It’s all well and good when that happens, but as publishers how do we consistently effect that kind of outcome?  Do we relentlessly pester celebrities and bloggers to follow us on Twitter, or amass a giant following in the hopes that some small percent will turn out to be influential?

How do you tweet for maximum ripple effect?

Creating tweets that achieve 20x their expected reach has little to do with follower counts and forced connections, and everything to do with the nuanced science of human influence.  Tapping into the power of influencers in Twitter requires a granular, case-by-case, relationship-focused approach.  Sound time-consuming and difficult?  It is.  But don’t despair – at Wetpaint we’ve been working on this for a while, and I’ll share a few of our hard-earned best practices:

1. Identify the influencers

Sounds easy enough: we all know that an Oprah is worth 1,000 Snookis, and a Snooki is worth 1,000 Elowitzes (sorry, mom!).  But celebrity isn’t everything: even better than a Snooki just may be a Stelter.  Brian Stelter doesn’t have the consumer name recognition of Snooki, but he’s far more influential in setting the agenda of the media and entertainment press.  Influence is all about relevance – and when Brian tweets, the ripples can travel far.

2. Take a look around

Once you’ve identified the influencers most relevant to your audience, it may suddenly become apparent that they’re, well, a bit inaccessible.  If Lady Gaga happens to be your target, then it’s time to get creative.  Who are the influencers of your influencer?

Every person’s interests are shaped and guided by the people around them.  You might read an article about silent retreats after your yoga teacher mentions her recent stint at St. Benedict’s, and you might start reading PandoDaily when your best friend launches a tech startup.  Highly influential people are no different – they pick up interests and news from their sister, their friends, and if they’re really doing well, their driver.  If Gaga retweets her barista, pursue a relationship with him.  And if the barista often retweets his mom, see if she might be interested in what you have to say.

3. Court sincerely

Once you’ve made a list of all the friends you want to make, start earning their friendship.  Relationships – whether digital or IRL – can’t be faked.  But they can be stoked.  Comment on their posts, offer them resources, and genuinely engage with them.  Just like in life, once you have a friendship, you can make asks from time to time.  And – again just like in the offline world – I’ve found that it’s always best to lead with giving for a while before even thinking about what I’ll get in return.

It’s not an overnight process.  Earning influence is just as hard in Twitter as it is in real life.  That’s because Twitter is a network of people, not a technology.

Social Science

These are just a few basics for starters.  At Wetpaint we’ve gotten this down to a science: we have analytical frameworks for identifying influence surround rings and continuous A/B testing to optimize every interaction.  But it all always comes back to real people building real relationships based on real interests.  In the end, even with all that technology to help us, I think it’s the real personal nature of relationships that have helped us be so successful with our audience.  And that’s what inspires our audience to honor us with ripple effects by passing on our content to their own friends.

Social Done Right Is a Multiplier

A number of people have asked me to share the math behind something I said last week:  that social users are much more valuable than users from search.

As some of you will recall, I was referring to the most powerful use of social: to build loyal audience relationships.  It’s worth far more than a chance at a viral hit, a millionth fan, or even a social comment or like.  That’s because the social networks are really “relationship platforms.”  The currency of social networks is the data describing what users like.  And with that data, anyone can serve an audience – and build a branded relationship with users – far better than a blue link in Google can do.

In the interest of proof, I’ll share some of my company’s data with you.  We’ve been tracking the long-term value of users from various sources for some time – about 7 months and counting now.  And the results couldn’t be more conclusive:

Users from social visit more often and stay longer. 

How much more often?  Our Facebook users come 70% more often over the course of our dataset.

And each time, they stay on average 50% longer – consuming more content, pageviews, and advertising.

Put that together, and each Facebook user brings us 2.5x the revenue of a search user.  And that’s without yet even adding in the value of engagement and viral referral to drive even more audience!

You may be wondering why that is.  Well it’s not just pure luck.  The reasons are twofold:

First, social users are in a branded relationship.  When your property shows up in a Facebook or Twitter feed, you can be identified with your logo and brand name.  One better is when someone Likes or Follows you.  When that happens, you’re now talking about the chance to build a relationship many times a day – with each and every post.  From a brand building standpoint, this is nirvana – and it’s probably the most important reason why advertisers will spend billions of dollars to get into the social news feed this year.  But even better for content publishers:  if you do it right, you can get in for free.

Second, the social relationship platform actually doubles as a data platform.  It gives publishers real-time feedback data about what works, when.  If you watch and measure carefully, you can tune the content, packaging and timing with real-time feedback so you can give the audience exactly what they want, when and how they want it.

So while social users are outperforming search today, the good news is that next week, if you use all that data to improve what you do, they’ll do even better.  The chart above is an average value over the last seven months, and what it doesn’t show you is that social users have been increasing in value over time.  Take a look:

In January, the average user who came from Facebook looked at 9 pages – that’s more than double the number we were seeing just 5 months ago.

I’m actually not surprised that not every publisher is seeing this kind of loyalty and engagement from social users.  After all, it didn’t come without effort – I credit the dramatic increase in social user engagement in the chart above to our advanced technology helping the Wetpaint team understand and serve our audience.

But that doesn’t mean that every publisher can’t get more loyalty from social users than they’re getting today.  It just makes sense: social users should be more engaged and brand-loyal.  They have a strong incentive to read and watch what their friends are talking about, to be included in the conversation.  The only reason that many brands aren’t seeing the full value of social is that they’re blind to the opportunity of rich connections and data – and ultimately, they’re the ones who will be left out of the conversation.

Living Up To Your Social Potential: Understanding the Emotions That Drive Sharing

Last week I shared how most publishers are realizing just a fraction of their potential audience because they lack a social distribution strategy, and showed which topics are most likely to be shared by connected audiences.

But is topic the only aspect of content that influences sharing?  Could articles with topics as disparate as gardening and bull fighting share some other characteristic that would make them both go viral?

The Journal of Marketing Research published the study What Makes Online Content Viral? in 2011 to appease inquiring minds.  Researchers analyzed 7,000 New York Times articles over 2 months to determine what factors made an article more likely to earn a place on the Times’ “most-emailed” list.

What they found:

  • Intensely emotional content is  more viral
  • Positive content is more viral than negative
  • High-arousal emotions  (like anger, awe and anxiety) increase sharing
  • Low-arousal emotions (like sadness) decrease sharing
  • Practical value, surprise and interest (you don’t say!) all increase virality

But wait a minute…are the factors that predict email sharing the same as those that predict Facebook or Twitter sharing?  Here’s where we run into the difference between broadcasting and “narrowcasting.”  Remember that purple rash I mentioned last week?  I’ll email that WebMD article to my significant other (anxiety! practical value!) but I most certainly won’t tweet about it.

 

I looked again at the Most Shared Articles on Facebook in 2011 to see which of the study’s findings held up on the social networking stage.

Sound familiar?  It mirrors the formula for success that Nieman Lab found Buzzfeed using to achieve record results.  And, notably, practical value, the #2 driver of email virality, falls all the way down to the bottom of the list on Facebook.

In social network sharing, emotion is king.  As Jonah Lehrer of Wired puts it:

“We don’t want to share facts – we want to share feelings.  Because people have a deep need to share their emotions, there will always be an insatiable demand for funny baby videos, angry political rants and Justin Bieber songs.”

Before you go and replace all of your content with funny baby videos and Justin Bieber songs, remember that this isn’t about sacrificing the integrity of content for traffic.  It doesn’t work that way.  This is about engaging readers on the most important axis of all: the axis of significance.  Emotional content helps us connect with friends online in a deeper way than a how-to video might.

But what if you’re a publisher of practical content?  No need to despair:

“The future is going to be about combining informational content with social and emotional content,” says Jonah Peretti (founder of Buzzfeed).

We all have a powerful emotional drive to live a great life, and getting there means knowing how to be healthy, how to fix a leaky faucet and how to maintain successful relationships.  Oprah’s tagline “Live Your Best Life” is a beautiful example – no one is better at linking home décor and health advice to something far greater and more aspirational.  Publishers in the midst of developing a social distribution strategy (especially those of us not lucky enough to traffic in Bieber songs) will be wise to follow her lead.

Social Leaderboard Update: Twitter and Pinterest Are Underdogs to Watch

After I published the Media Industry Social Leaderboard numbers for January, I realized that I haven’t spent much time talking about the other social operating systems.  While Facebook is the clear #1 traffic distributor, there is a race on for second-in-command.  Twitter holds its solid lead (with 61% of the non-Facebook social referrals); however, Pinterest has shockingly pinned the #2 spot, beating out Tumblr.

The odds may not look incredibly promising now, but Pinterest is undeniably gaining clout in certain niches – they became the top social referrer to marthastewart.com this past summer.  Tumblr, neck and neck with Pinterest at 17%, is another underdog with potential.

While these are certainly horses to keep an eye on, your bookie should remind you that Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and Google+ combined account for only 0.2% of total traffic to the Top 50, which is well below Facebook’s 6.7%.

Living Up To Your Social Potential: How Much Social Traffic Should You Be Getting?

If you’re Buzzfeed and your raison d’etre is to find and distribute viral content, then it’s fair to assume that you should be getting the majority of your traffic from social (and indeed, they do).  But what if you’re Parenting Magazine?  Or Consumer Reports?

While we know that social traffic is increasing as a referral source for publishers, it stands to reason that social traffic would be more relevant to some publishers and less to others.  When I search “how to get rid of a purple rash,” I may find an extremely useful article on WebMD (and I may even forward it to a friend with a similar problem).  But am I going to post it to my Facebook wall?  Doubtful.

If you’re a publisher, you know how much social traffic you are drawing right now.  But how much should you be drawing, relative to your competitors?  To know this, we need to understand what types of content are highly shareable (and which are less so).

Pew Research studied the distribution of topics on Twitter and compared them with the distribution in traditional news sources.  To add one more dimension, I broke down the Most Shared Articles on Facebook in 2011 by topic and threw those into the mix.

The conclusions are striking:

  • Facebook users Like pop culture, parenting and weirdness.
  • Twitter hearts tech.
  • Traditional news content lines up barely at all with social sharing.

None of this is to say that traditional news isn’t getting social traffic; in fact, 53% of Facebook’s Top 40 came from four very traditional news sources: CNN, New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.  But while much of the most shareable content comes from newspapers, the average story ends up pretty lonely.

As for the most-shared topics, if you’re a publisher on the subject of parenting, you should be rolling in Facebook traffic.  SEVEN of the top 40 shared articles on Facebook are about parenting (e.g. “How to Talk to Little Girls” and “Dads, Wake the Hell Up!”)  If you’re a tech news publisher, well, Twitter wants to take you out for a lobster dinner and introduce you to his parents.

The wheels are greased, but are these publishers living up to their social potential?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s just say there’s room for improvement.

GigaOM gets a shockingly small amount of social traffic for a specialty publisher directly aligned with the interests of social users.  Parents.com fares better and beats traditional news, but lags far behind People (even though parenting as a topic is 2x more shareable on Facebook than celebrity news).

I would venture to say, of course, that ALL of these publishers should be getting more social traffic than they are right now (traditional news and celebrity gossip included).  But if you’re lagging behind other publishers with less shareable content, you especially need to get smarter about using distribution channels like Facebook and Twitter.  The social networks are ready for you – are you ready for them?

At Wetpaint, we’ve been rapidly ramping up our social traffic (from 14% to well over 20% in the last two months) by constantly refining our social distribution system.   Having content that lines up with what people like to share is only half the battle; you need to be savvy about packaging and delivering that content into the social feed.  That takes not only a great editorial savvy to understand your audience, but a tech mindset to help get it into the social groove.

Now that’s good news for GigaOM, Parents.com, and everyone else as well:  Your content is highly shareable.  Don’t let it go to waste.

Staying Connected – The Right Way to Re-Invent Publishing for 21st Century Audiences

This is the concluding entry in a series of 10 posts about the future of the media industry contained in a report titled: Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web.

I feel blessed and inspired to be connected to the incredible thought leaders whose insights and perspectives you’ve just read. And I’m hoping you feel challenged, provoked, and, ultimately, inspired to think about how to make the social Web a media success.

Over the last year on my blog, Digital Quarters, and in my newsletter, I have shared stories, analysis and prescriptions – all in the name of driving this new digital era forward.

To me, one essential principle lies deep at the heart of the rewired Internet.  It is a simple and basic concept, but one that guides all the promise of the social Web: We must truly understand and delight our audiences.

The social Web fully enables this concept in a way that did not exist over the last decade, much less the century before it.

Indeed, never before has the data existed and been accessible – in real time, with precision and detail, and to every publisher – to know the audience and serve it well.

But today it is.

Between usage analytics, audience data, social graphs, global Twitter feeds, and direct interactive feedback, we can receive millions of signals each minute that tell us how well we are serving and, more prescriptively, what we can do to better serve our audiences.

For the publishing industry, this provides an unprecedented opportunity for content experiences to earn deep relationships with audiences who are now connected like never before. We can know our audiences, create for them, and reach them – and, in the process, make our own brands stronger and more meaningful than ever.

And therein lies a path that will lead to the re- establishment of our industry’s success.

The future prosperity of digital media will certainly have some things in common with its past legacy; but a host of other things will undergo massive change.

What’s clear to me, though, is that the revolution in our data and connectivity-rich environment will help us create content and experiences that honor the best that our industry has ever put forth, while pushing even further.

I can’t wait to work side by side with the industry’s greatest thought leaders and practitioners to make it happen.

And, as we look forward, if you’d like to join the discussion, I’d welcome your thoughts, opinions, views, comments and criticisms.

Please send them to me at ben@wetpaint.com.

And, if you’re interested in participating in a future edition of this thought leadership gallery, by offering your take on things, I’d love to hear from you as well.

Thanks for reading.

Ben Elowitz


To download the complete report, please click here:  Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web

How ecommerce Is Blazing a Trail on the Social Web for Publishers

This piece from Theresia Gouw Ranzetta is the eighth in a series of 10 posts about the future of the media industry contained in a report titled: Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web.

Q:  How does the rise of Facebook change the relationship between media and its audience?

Facebook becomes the jumping off point for many browsers who count on their friends to curate interesting media for them. How news gets “found” becomes less about searching Google news, and more about checking your Facebook newsfeed.

 

Q: What’s changed fundamentally about media with the rise of the social Web, and what do publishers need to do to adapt?

Publishers need to understand the “start” point for their digital users. It used to be a portal, so you cut a deal with one of them. Then, it was a search box, so you SEO-optimized your content. Now, it is a social media platform (Facebook or Twitter), and publishers need to understand how to optimize their content for maximum social sharing and social media amplifications. Don’t get me wrong: in each phase, it has always been about great content. But that is just the necessary first building block. Then you need to figure out the distribution to get maximum audience engagement.

 

Q: We’ve gone from SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to SMO (Social Media Optimization), so how will search change as the Web becomes more social?

Reference or informational search will remain relatively unchanged (for example, “What is the capital of Iowa?”). But “search,” where you are looking for guidance or information that has a subjective or has a taste aspect to it, will be completely transformed by social. Instead of typing in “Best sushi restaurant in Palo Alto,” you will ask your friends, or go to a site with a like-minded social groups (foodies, vegans, etc.).

I think we are still in the early days of SMO. Many large publishers have not yet even thought about this, nor are they aware that they should be. As with SEO, they will need to upgrade their content management / publishing systems and processes. Many will turn to start ups, like Wetpaint, to help with this.

But SMO can be even more. Unlike in the search world, where a supposed Chinese wall existed between SEO and SEM, leading platforms can now encourage their advertisers to also invest in SMO as well. So a very savvy company can leverage and get synergies from their investments and learnings from SMO + SMM (Social Media Marketing) in a collaborative way.

As with the early days of the portal and search platform eras, the ecommerce players were the first to experiment, invest and learn about the power of the new platforms to get broader distribution / audience. This is understandable, given that their business models more easily lend themselves to direct data gathering and learning for marketing spend. Once again, in social, I see the ecommerce players blazing a trail for publishers: the GroupOns, Zyngas, ModCloths, and Birchboxes of the world are good places to start.

In parallel to social, I think we are also seeing a platform shift – from PCs to mobile Internet devices. So, clearly the rise of iOS and Android are important platforms for publishers to understand and adapt to, both in terms of the technology and the distribution nuances.

 

Q:  How do you build a brand in publishing when, with greater frequency, media is distributed through social channels?

You need to learn how to build your brand following on social media and realize that, no matter how strong your brand is in other channels, this is a whole other effort. It is not just an add-on and thinking of how to get “Likes.” The “packaging” of your content needs to be social media optimized for sharing and tie to your social media presence on your Facebook page and Twitter. It is an interconnected ecosystem that cannot be thought of as separate pieces.

 

Q: What are the critical success factors in publishing as we look to 2020; and who will be the winners?

Understand that we are in a new era. Social media distribution, branding and user-driven pull – not your push distribution – will win. Also, understand how your mobile approach is intertwined with what you need to do. The winners today will be the companies that have created these new social and mobile platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Apple iOS and Google Android), as well as the market leaders who have successfully built the first leading companies on top of these platforms (Zynga, Groupon etc.). As for the winners in 2020: I’m in the business of funding start up innovation, so I would say it’s the companies that may not even yet be formed – but they will be, in the next year or two.

 

Theresia Gouw Ranzetta joined Accel Partners in 1999. She is an investment Partner in Accel’s Palo Alto & New York offices and focuses on companies in the social commerce, vertical media, consumer mobile applications and privacy/security markets.

To download the complete report, please click here:  Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web

The Three S’s of Social Media – Surprise, Serendipity and Spontaneity

This piece from Jason Hirschhorn is the sixth in a series of 10 posts about the future of the media industry contained in a report titled: Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web.

Q:  How does the rise of Facebook change the relationship between media and its audience?

Facebook is obviously a transformative platform.  It’s a disruption in the distribution of content. The social endorsement in “sharing” or “liking” a piece of content on a platform like Facebook is almost as important as the content itself. And while they like the digital “word of mouth” I think this scares the film, TV and publishing industries. Why? Because, unlike in the past, they are not controlling the distribution and conversation the way they used to. The “feed” is taking on search, too, because users are ultimately using it as a discovery platform. You may go to Google to find what you already knew you wanted but now the content streams deliver you content you had no idea you wanted, and with an endorsement from someone you know or follow. This social endorsement changes the way you discover and consume content.

 

Q: What’s changed fundamentally about media with the rise of the social Web, and what do publishers need to do to adapt?

It’s clear that media is becoming unbundled. It’s also multi-platform as the access points are fragmented. It’s real time or archived and it’s on-demand. This sets the trend for what and where people consume. In today’s new and evolving social  environment, the packaging and distribution are under less control. Again, the social endorsement of content is just as important as who created the content or what it’s about. Our interests widen on Facebook or Twitter, and we’re able to see the tastes and interests of people we respect or know. We used to turn to TV, radio and print for all our cues, but we’re now going to Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr… to our friends and the people we follow. Traditional media seems slightly hindered because it holds on to its traditional standards. Whether it is scheduling in television, definitions of journalism, and creators as curators or controlling the entirety of your brand. But things are slowly changing. New forms of media bring spontaneity, serendipity and personalization. There are always surprises within your content stream. I realize now I only know a little about the things I like. The fun is in discovering those things you never knew you’d be interested in. That’s what I like about it.

 

Q: We’ve gone from SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to SMO (Social Media Optimization), so how will search change as the Web becomes more social?

My personal view is that search is falling down. People are now using it more for navigation than discovery. “Where is the thing that I want?” Maybe search isn’t about real discovery. I use search less today because of Facebook and Twitter, which are becoming significant parts of my content decision-making process. I’m interested in seeing the news that my friends are reading today. That would keep me on Facebook even longer, and add to the discovery element. Despite its huge impact, though, Facebook and Twitter haven’t even begun to really take advantage of content discovery experiences. They will. It’s going to be a great evolution to watch and positively disruptive.

Those changes will be a perfect match between gathering or discovery technologies and a truly human filter. Ultimately, content discovery needs to have human layers. Without them, it has no “life”, no context. This is where Google has fallen down as a product company. Algorithms vs. Humans. When it comes to content, which always has an emotional bent, humans always beat the computer. Clearly Google+ is trying to address some of that, but they have a ways to go.

Going forward, I believe we need to see more influencer targeting and noise-level targeting. How do you help people or companies find those who are moving the social media mountain? How do you find these influencers and deliver highly relevant and personalized content without infringing on their privacy or conversation and then let them run with it? That will be a key part of the new optimization. These changes will revolutionize advertising and make media spends way more efficient. What it takes to get “lift” will be far different and mediums like television will need to fall in line and adapt.

 

Q:  How do you build a brand in publishing when, with greater frequency, media is distributed through social channels?

From my point of view, curation is the next great layer of value on the Internet. In a world where everything is available, Curating content helps users sift through everything. Trusted sources are coming back. The New York Times is curating when it decides what it will cover. But they don’t seem to curate other’s work. And yet the journalists at The Times pass around links and stories on Twitter that are written by other sources. Those journalists are trusted sources and now curators. I think publications should be establishing relationships with curators; and then they can re-package and re- bundle content into new and important layers. You can build big and important brands with curation today. I know I’m going to try.

 

Q: What are the critical success factors in publishing as we look to 2020; and who will be the winners?

There are five areas I’d touch on here:

1.  Curation, for the reasons I’ve explained above.

2.  Form factors. Content should be allowed to shape shift.

3.  How you distribute. Your site to RSS to email to Flipboard to Twitter and beyond.

4.  How you allow social media inside your content.

5.  How smart your paywall strategy is. The New York Times has done the best in this area.
Allowing for social media linkages while continuing to build a pay-model.

 

Jason Hirschhorn, a media and technology entrepreneur, is the curator of Media ReDEFined (@MediaReDEF), a free daily news feed covering the changing world of media, communications, entertainment, marketing and technology. The former President of MySpace, Hirschhorn has also served as President of Sling Media, Chief Digital Officer at MTV Networks and is on the Board of Directors of MGM Studios.

To download the complete report, please click here:  “Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web”