Popularity online – some have it, some don’t

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As any teenager will tell you, popularity is a fickle thing. Wikipedia defines this as the elusive quality of being well-liked; well-known; or in demand.

Not just a concern for teenagers – life is all about reaching for unattainable goals, being seen as ‘one of the best’ – and this is no different in the blogosphere. As a result, many bloggers have taken to offering tips on how to ‘become more well-known, more quoted, and more linked to’. In other words, more popular.

So you’ve registered a blog, you have funky ideas… but how do you build an audience that will keep coming back for more? Popular local blogger, Laurian Clemence (A.K.A Peas on Toast), states the following: “I think just from my experience, it’s all about how you write – not what you write about. A good example of this would be a very popular blog called ‘The Most Boring Blog In the World.’ The blogger writes two to five lines each day on inanimate objects – it’s true genius.” Peas adds that it’s important to engage and interact with an audience – replying to their comments, asking them questions, and making some posts interactive should get the ball rolling.

Good advice. Also keep in mind that while content is key, blogs that look good and are designed nicely also attract readers. Any blog with content that is controversial; pushes the envelope slightly; feeds drama; or is on a personal level, is generally popular as it is entertaining and creates a diversion from ordinary life.

Post your ways of increasing blog readership below.

A new take on a traditional sales tool

ImageSo, why not shift that trend across to the online space where we are spending more and more of our time, yes even shopping, and turn it on its head a bit so that this time you don’t end up with twice the amount of milk you actually need, but rather buy as a group and get great deals on a range of interesting products and services? This is the concept of social or group buying, which memeburn’s Jess Green writes has “literally boomed in South Africa, as it has all over the world”.

Aaron Toys, CEO of Wicount, South Africa’s oldest social buying site, explains that social buying works by getting a certain number of people to buy the same thing at a special rate, whether it is a meal at a restaurant, entry to a sporting event, a spa treatment, a theatre show or countless other options, but the deal is only successful if that number of people sign up before the deal ends. Toys says that his team contacts individual businesses and guarantees them an agreed minimum number of customers. If that number isn’t delivered, then the business doesn’t pay for the service, the customers don’t get the deal and Wicount doesn’t profit. However, if the marketing promise is fulfilled, then “everybody scores”.

So, it’s a ‘win-win-win’ for consumers, businesses and Wicount. Consumers get “great deals on cool stuff to do” and get the chance to discover new things to do; businesses get lots of new customers that they might not otherwise have attracted; and Wicount takes a percentage of the successful deals. Toys comments, “Our success is tied to the overall success of the marketing campaign.”

Such an interesting take on the traditional ‘buy in bulk and save’ concept’, capitalising on the increase in use of social media platforms to harness the collective buying power of consumers. And in a capitalistic world, it’s interesting to see a concept that isn’t solely about one company making money, but about all those involved gaining something and relying on each other for that gain.

Social media puts a new spin on the elections

I admit that I’m not the most ardent newspaper reader or TV news watcher – I get my news online, from a few favoured news sites and, of course, from Twitter. And, while I am a journalist, my first interest lies within the media and advertising industries – ask me about the latest ad or social media trend and I’ll probably be able to give my two cents.

So, when talk of the 2011 municipal elections first arose, I wasn’t particularly interested and I couldn’t really tell you much about the electioneering process. However, the elections took place yesterday, and thanks to social media, I think I ended up being the most excited I’ve ever been to vote (I was only seven when the 1994 elections took place – besides standing in a long queue with my parents, I don’t remember much!).

It’s no secret that social media has permeated society to an astounding degree, and therefore it doesn’t come as a huge surprise that our politicians jumped on the bandwagon. US President, Barack Obama, started the trend in 2008 and, let’s face it, it would take a lot to match his continued efforts (in more ways than one), but seeing@helenzille and @SAPresident trying their hands at Twitter (the one more successfully and prolifically than the other), both the ruling party and the opposition taking part in Twitter Q&A sessions and setting up Facebook pages is a sign that South Africa isn’t as far behind our first world counterparts as we sometimes fear.

Of course, it hasn’t only been the politicians tweeting and ‘Facebooking’ up a storm. In the immediate run-up to the elections, Twitter was flooded with tweets by disgruntled users mentioning that they’d received unsolicited SMSes from the DA, while@mikesharman called on fellow ‘twits’ to share pictures of their newly inked thumbs, with the hashtag, #thumbshot, not to mention the continuous coverage and commentary during and post voting.

So, while I would have voted anyway, out of civil responsibility and because it’s what my family has always chosen to do, it was with a sense of excitement that I announced on Twitter that I was heading to the polls and that I had made my mark – because not only does that make me part of history, no matter how tiny, it also allows me to be part of the social media conversation.

Become the editor-in-chief of your own ‘newspaper’

ImageGlancing at my Twitter timeline at 14:44 on Thursday, 12 May 2011, there’s news on the Kenya ICT Board, a fire at Sandton City, the line-up on Carte Blanche this weekend, a traffic update from Pigspotter… and the list goes on. Some relevant news, some very time-based and some that I could really do without, despite the fact that I elected to follow these people. So, how do you make sure you get all the relevant news and information you want out of Twitter, without having to log in at the right time or sift through a lot of other nonsense to find it?

SmallRivers has come up with a solution in the form of Paper.li – a ‘buzzword’ I’ve been hearing more and more on Twitter and even around our office as people are out to promote their own personal ‘daily newspapers’ or try to tweet the content that ends up in said newspapers.

So, what exactly is Paper.li? In a nutshell, it’s an online newspaper app, updated once a day, that compiles all the articles, blogposts, videos and photos shared on Twitter and pertaining to your particular, pre-selected interests. To read more about how this is done, read my Editorial Desk article this week.

Commentators are saying, on the one hand, that the fact that Paper.li is only updated once a day is its downfall because we’re used to being able to access the most up-to-the-minute news at the click of a mouse or simply by glancing at our smartphones; although on the other hand, it is certainly a useful tool to make sure we don’t miss out on any news during our hectic schedules – it will be waiting, neatly packaged, for when we have time to read it properly.

In a society that is more and more interested in customisation and knowledge, Paper.li certainly offers a useful service. I haven’t tried it yet because, to be honest, it intimidates me a bit and I already feel overloaded with too much to read – but I guess that’s exactly why I should be using it… maybe I’ll give it a try…

Have you tried Paper.li yet? What are your thoughts?

Who are you speaking to in the social media space?

ImageIn our office, we all have some level of social media presence, varying from using Twitter as a platform to spread our articles, to keeping our Facebook and Twitter audiences up-to-date with our every move and thought. But who are we really talking to out there? Sure, we may have hundreds of followers and friends, but how many of them really care about what we’re saying – do they even take notice?

Klout goes a little way to provide these answers by showing just how much influence you have online, as well as your level of engagement and amplification in the social media space. Klout Scores ranging from 1 to 100 are based on True Reach (the size of your engaged audience based on your followers and friends who actively listen and react to your online activity), Amplification Probability (the likelihood of your tweets and status updates generating actions) and Network Score (how influential your engaged audience is).

There are several pros and cons to using the tool, which you can read about in my editorial desk article this week, but at the end of the day, while it might tell you you’re influenced by Justin Bieber when you’ve never even tweeted about him, as COUP’s online marketer, Gavin Coetzee, points out, it is one of the very few systems for the measurement of online influence out there currently, and this is becoming an increasingly valuable tool, especially for marketers wishing to operate successfully in the social media space.

So, if you’re serious about tweeting for business or pleasure, then perhaps it’s time to visit www.klout.com to find out just what your Klout is in the online world. Then share your thoughts below…

The scrap about so-called scrapping of grammar

by Leigh Andrews on 04 March 2011

ImageIt’s funny how people who work in the media industry often just don’t have the time to watch, read or listen to the news – but our reliance on social media means we don’t miss a thing. I’ve written before about how social media addiction isn’t just about keeping up with the intricacies of my friends lives (for the most part), but also for the fact that it’s possibly the easiest way to see which news and entertainment headlines have tickled their fancy, that you may well have missed in your busy day.

Case in point, my Facebook news feed last night alerted me to the fact that there was quite the furore brewing regarding the potential ‘scrapping of grammar teaching’ from Grade 10 upwards (that’s Standard 8, to those of you as old-school as me.) News24 quotes the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa), which stated that such a move would ‘negatively affect literacy, particularly among second language students’ First comment in the thread that caught my attention was ‘The kids don’t need no edukaishun’ Granted, the comment was made in jest to prove a point, but that, my friends, is the crux of the matter. Probably the only reason that particular comment stuck out at me above all others is the intentionally incorrect spelling.

I remember my horror at learning of the ‘kill the apostrophe movement’ and at picking up on glaring spelling errors in certain media. A move away from teaching the basics at schools will surely result in even more of these, especially when coupled with the fact that we current technological inventions are symbolic of the move towards a word-centric society where we read more on screens of varying sizes than ever before.

Then again, there’s the movement of thought that states you can still read words clearly if the first and last letters are in the correct place. So maybe a lack of teaching the intricate bits of English won’t have quite the disastrous effect everyone’s predicting… especially if the basics are already in place.

Share your thoughts below.

Relationships in the world of Facebook

ImageThere’s always something to be said about Facebook as a marketing tool or as a way to keep abreast of the latest world news, but let’s go back to basics for a moment. Essentially, Facebook is a social network centred on relationships. The phrase ‘in a relationship’ has gained popularity and gravity since the birth of this social network in particular as most of us, whether we care to admit it or not, place some level of importance on whether the person we’re dating has taken the step to make it ‘Facebook official’… and there’s that inevitable rush to be the first to change your status back to single when things go south!But that’s all very well, and complicated enough, for heterosexual individuals, who can choose whether they’re ‘single’, ‘in a relationship’, ‘married’, ‘divorced’, or that ever vague ‘it’s complicated’… I’m sure I’m forgetting a few. And one could argue that this really shouldn’t be any different for homosexual Facebook users – especially in our ever liberal world where there’s a good chance you could be legally married, whatever your sexual preference.
Be that as it may, Facebook has introduced two new same-sex-friendly relationship status options – after all, as Lady Gaga says, “A different lover is not a sin… I was born this way” – so why not broadcast exactly who you are online? The two new options? ‘In a civil union’ or ‘In a domestic partnership’.

And in other Facebook relationship news, have you heard of the Breakup Notifier? This app does exactly what its name suggests – notifies you when certain friends’ relationship status changes on Facebook. The tagline is: ‘You like someone. They’re in a relationship. Be the first to know when they’re out of it.’ The app got 700 000 hits in the first 36 hours after its launch.

There’s no doubt that Facebook has become a popular way to keep tabs on your contacts’ love lives – sometimes it’s the only source of this type of information, as hyped up and false as it may be. Facebook certainly adds some drama to our romantic lives, allowing us to live them like a soap opera while the rest of the virtual world watches. Of course, when you’re the dumpee, having that broken heart showing up on your news feed might be entertaining to everyone but you – and now with the Breakup Notifier, it will be even more public than ever before.

My take on it? Don’t take your virtual self, or anyone else’s, too seriously. It’s great that, with the inclusion of same-sex relationship statuses, everyone is able to be more themselves online than ever before. However, with that in mind, we should also consider firstly that this means there are real people with real emotions behind those online personas, and secondly, having said that, that the online world is a great way to have a bit of fun – and being married online might not mean the same to everyone as being married in the true sense of the word, offline.

Increased audience interaction across the media board

My favourite thing about local reality TV shows these days? The fact that the audience’s input on social networks actually has an influence. And with shows like Idols, the viewer’s vote is everything, in the long run…

This is just one classic example of how audience interaction is rapidly increasing across all forms of media, with social networking as the top instigator of this feedback and commentary. Certain media, such as radio, thrive on feedback from their listeners to determine popular topics and what the ‘man on the street’ thinks about community, national and global events. Then there’s the ‘reader’s letter’ page, long a staple of consumer magazines and newspapers, as well as new TV shows that are focused on reader suggestions and interaction.

Added to this, blogs and social networks turn everyone into a journalist as we have the power to share our opinions and images over the internet for the world to see, with these first-hand accounts and opinions often becoming sources for breaking news by bigger media outlets (once curated, of course).

What are your views on greater audience interaction in the media – a good way to ensure the audience gets the news it wants, or damaging the quality and authority of hard news journalism? Please leave your comments below.

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