Never Cry News

Let's be honest, at one time or another, we've all probably solicited to our social network. Whether it was for our company, a client or a cause, we've tried to market a product, service or company for free. We've tried to use the system -- the social network platform of our choice -- in a way that, while hopefully wasn't a violation of the TOS, was definitely not the way the network would prefer us to do. The network would prefer that we market by buying ads! But instead, we've gone the unpaid route.

One manifestation of this is the practice of soliciting retweets -- a topic that Geoff Livingston wrote about last week, and one that really sparked this train of thought. Geoff raised concerns around both the efficacy and the ethics of this common practice. Essentially, he asked:

Does the practice of asking for retweets on Twitter hurt the efficacy of retweets, does it ultimately damage your reputation, and is it in the end unethical, or at the very least against the law of transparency?

I would argue that retweets are becoming less effective, not necessarily (or primarily, at any rate) because of some kind of "never cry news" phenomenon, but because at the same time that social networks are tightening controls, the signal to noise ratio has dropped and our use of filters has increased.

Tightening the Belt
Twitter has begun to enforce its TOS around batch following. Facebook won't share its contact information with other platforms. Myspace is laying off half its staff. All around us, belts are tightening as the social networking giants get ready for a drive to revenue and profitability. And in the process, they're going to find new ways to monetize, close loopholes (like those that TweepML enabled) and generally make it harder to market for free.

Sending a Signal
Meanwhile, there's more and more content being pushed out there (though you'd never know it by looking at our poor blog). More twitterers, more facebookers, more bloggers (despite what some people claim to be the "death of blogging"), more video, more podcasts. It's harder and harder to get your message through. The social networks know this, and it's why they're making it easier to leverage your "social graph," because you're more likely to read content from, and share ideas with, people you know well.

What'd You Say?
On top of the degrading signal to noise ratio, or indeed because of it, our use of filters has increased. I've limited my blog reading to a very small circle of blogs. Even my podcast listening, which I used to do religiously, has been dialed back. And social networks are allowing increasingly better fine tuning over what and how you get your content.

Where Does This Leave Us?
Let's face it: the days of free marketing will soon be over. Welcome to the world of "pay to play." Sure, you can still try to "socially engineer" a "viral campaign," but you're going to need a very large seeding to get anywhere (and you may need to start offline). While you still might be able to cash in some favors to have an impact, you're going to have to have a pretty big favor bank to make any kind of impact.

If that means you think twice before calling something "news," all the better.

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4 comments to Never Cry News

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Todd Van Hoosear and Chuck Tanowitz, Tatiana Caplan. Tatiana Caplan said: Never Cry News […]

  • It’s funny you wrote this because I just published a post today on blogging in the post RSS era. As you know, I used to have top ranked blog a few years ago, and recently recommitted myself to achieving this goal. The game has changed so much though I find that I had to really practice a better level of blogging to rise above. There’s a great deal of noise out there, and you really have to kick butt to rise above it. Good post, Todd.

  • Todd,

    How about good old fashioned pitching? Doing the research on journalists and bloggers who may be interested in a story, and asking them to write a story, or at least get involved?

    I do agree that you should focus on making the best content you can, there’s more chance of that content being shared with the community. But I also think that marketer’s focus should not just be on Promotion.

    I like to go back to the four Ps… Product, Price, Place and Promotion. Many marketers focus on promotion, yet if the process is too expensive, or no longer free as you suggest. Maybe the aim should be to think of a creating something unique, a new product, a new feature, something that’s newsworthy about the price of the product.

    Google did that with Google Analytics, the service is now the leader in the industry, has helped thousands of marketers measure their effectiveness, and achieved Google’s real goal, get more spent on Google Adwords.

    If marketing is about finding client needs, satisfying them, and selling more stuff. I think social media can be one way to ask or observe how to make a better product. Then when you have a better product, you will have something to talk about, or you don’t need too, because your customers are talking about you because you built something newsworthy.

  • John,

    You make such a good point — so much of what was once the purview of the marketer has been ceded to other management roles, at least when it comes to the conversation about marketing. You’re right: marketers own, or SHOULD own, all four. It’s another way to prevent “talking head syndrome” as I call it.