Jason Cormier of Room214 on the basics of social networking

The following are my notes from tonight’s presentation. I apologize that they’re a bit rough and I didn’t include all the links I should, but I hope you’ll find this interesting and helpful reading.
Jason Cormier, co-founder of Room 214 gave a presentation on the basics of social networking and social media for The Rocky Mountain Internet Users Group. It was, as you might expect, a bit basic, but Jason did a nice job of giving attendees an overview of this new space, which was – rather surprisingly – new to at least 20% of the approximately 40 people in the room.
Before we started, however, RMIUG exec Josh Zapin asked the audience a few warm-up questions: how many people use social networking for marketing? (answer, less than 30%) How many people think that it’s just a buzz and not anything real? (2-3 people raised their hands)
Then we jumped into Jason’s presentation.
The premises of social media and social networking are that

  • Markets are Conversations (from, of course, The Cluetrain Manifesto) (markets are dynamic, ongoing conversations where fluctuations in credibility and visibility are common)
  • Word of Mouth Spreads (monologue has become dialog)
  • Search Engines are Media (keep them updated and attracted to what’s relevant)
  • Content is Still King (but the kingdom only grows if the king is relevant, dedicated and available) — the point: just creating an account doesn’t do much for you: you have to update the content!

The return on investment and measurement of how social media programs can be successful tends to weed out “the clowns” and leave the professionals. There must be some accountability for corporations. Jason relates clients saying “I know because we spent our money, I see metrics and a return, or I don’t want to pay for it at all.”
At this point there was an interesting question from the audience: What metrics are established in the industry?
The short answer from Jason: they’re not very well established. The Association for Downloadable Media is trying to get standards in place for things such as the value of a podcast. An ROI that everyone can agree to. If we all abide by those standards then it’ll help the industry grow.
Next, he explained how social media is mainstream, and that there are 80 million blogs “and we do know that most are garbage”, as Jason mused, and that 69% of all social media users have participated in user generated content (leaving comment on blog, etc). Live prime time TV viewing is also down 10% year over year.
Room 214 LogoThere are four main pieces of social media:

  • The Aggregators – examples: friendfeed, flock, plaxo
  • The Connectors: LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace
  • The Feeders; YouTube, Flickr, Google Maps
  • The Publishers: Twitter, Jaiku, YouTube, Flickr, Digg

As an aside, we talked about the importance of RSS as part of your strategy, with a focus on how Google has evolved to not just use Googlebot’s Web scraper as input, but also scan millions of RSS feeds too. As Jason says, Google’s latest strategy (e.g., input from Googlebot + RSS) confirms that you should be looking to RSS as the future of your own marketing and communications efforts.
Another question from the audience was: Can you explain RSS more?
Answer: It’s “extensible markup language”, a structure that provides a news feed. An example: the difference between a blog and a web page on which someone is keeping a journal is really the RSS feed. It’s the idea that you can “subscribe” to receive an update to content. It’s a one-way update and completely anonymous, unlike an email newsletter.
Stepping back, social media objects are:

  • Listening: build sentiment measures and listen to the larger web – tools include Google Reader, Collective Intellect, Filtrbox, BuzzLogic, Google Alerts. He used the example of how Anthony Bourdain of The Travel Channel said “bitches” on a recent show, and now TTC is monitoring the online buzz, which has much discussion about his profanity.
  • Talking: Build a content plan to speak about the overall space, leverage blogging, podcasting, twitter, etc, learn how NOT to pitch bloggers. You need to “give a little” first. Room214 has the 80/20 rule: 80% of Digg’d articles should NOT be about the client or vendor.
  • Energizing: add social bookmark links to your most important pages, offer embeddable players, spread good ideas with reblogging, bookmarking, vote them up at social sites but be a good citizen

The reality is, you need to meet people where they are. If there’s a facebook group, you need to be on facebook. Anthony Bordain has 30,000+ fans on Facebook, even though he doesn’t DO anything about it. It’d be a mistake for The Travel Channel to say “no, all content needs to be on our site”
Next up were some thoughts on planning your social media campaign:

  • Identifying Options and Requirements
  • Identifying and Establishing your Baseline
  • ID/Prioritization of Distribution Channels
  • Audience and Influencer Identification
  • Assets (content, people, web properties)
  • Tactics (blogger outreach, video widgets)
  • Programming / Integration Measurement
  • Response Protocols

Speaking of measurement, we saw both qualitative and quantitative measures that can be applied to social networking and social media:

Qualitative metrics
relevance rankings
sentiment vs. competitors
performance vs influencers
share of voice
influencer rankings
% of influencer’s engaged
theme impact
Quantitative metrics
Total conversations
activity levels (# of postings/reach)
total inbound blog links
search visibility
installs and views
friends and registrations

Jason then showed some examples of the great work that they do at Room 214:

  • Blog, produced by Room 214: “Bernina Blog” — he highlighted the “Subscribe via Email” in addition to RSS button.
  • Sample podcast: alltel racing — used to highlight that you can subscribe with an “rss” feed OR click on the “iTunes” button. Explained that on the page that the “iTunes” button is clicked on more frequently than the “rss” button and that, unsurprisingly, more people are also clicking on the “play” button than the “download” link.
  • Sample widget: a mockup of a very slick widget for the Denver Broncos — can reside on MySpace, Orkut, Blogger, LiveJournal, Typepad, iGoogle, etc. As he said, wouldn’t it be neat if you could have the Broncos schedule, headlines from bloggers, etc, in centralized widget?
  • A very cool demonstration of keyword-based RSS feeds that they built for MTV (they called it “roll/mash your own feed”), but to date, MTV hasn’t actually implemented it yet. That’s dumb on their part, this is a very slick idea.
  • The Facebook page they created for The Travel Channel
  • Sample Twitter profile for Anthony Bourdain, who, in the screen shot, has 392 following and 444 followers [today he has 525 following him and 740 followers, FYI] Worth noting is that the Twitter account is “NoReservations, not “Anthony Bourdain”, and it’s second person, about Tony. Sample Tweets: “Saudi Arabia episode on at 10pm EST.” and “Tony heads to Saudi Arabia tonight in the FAN-atic casting call winner. You don’t want to miss it: http://tinyurl.com/2lmlra”

During this same period, we also talked about the example of local Colorado business EventVUE and how he tracks occurrences of the phrase “conference registration” on Twitter, then personally connects with people and says that he offers those services. He’s seeing a 90% response rate (albeit not always a positive response)
A question from the audience: From a marketing psychology viewpoint, what needs are being met with these social media services?
Answer: at a very basic level, people want to be a part of something. They want to feel like they are contributing, or connected. Feeling connected inspires them to contribute. There are a lot of public relations firms, etc., who have been busted for adding cheesy marketing messages on blogs. Then they’re caught by the rest of the community who polices their own community. Used example of a client company who had an employee from an ad agency who astroturfed (masqueraded as someone else to plant fake comments). It was like “blood and sharks”. Blogger did research, found the real name, and posted an entry “I hate deceptive marketers” and the employee was fired the same day.
There were some additional questions, but I’d run out of battery by that point. Jason did a great job and the audience very much appreciated his knowledge and candor.

One comment on “Jason Cormier of Room214 on the basics of social networking

  1. Thanks for the post Dave, and the kind words. As locals who are interested in diving deeper into the subject matter, I’m expectant you’ll see some familiar (local) faces at your upcoming social media aloha summit in October. Did I get the name right?
    Also, I should clarify that although Facebook management is a part of how we help the Travel Channel, the page we featured in our slide was not actually built by Room 214.
    Regarding Anthony Bourdain, his Facebook page now has more than 46,000 fans. I don’t know him personally, but everything I have heard suggests he has a loyal appreciation for his fan base. I can only imagine that watching a fan base grow like that on Facebook inspires the consideration to engage in the space even more.

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