shel holtz

News Doesn't Matter...

...Only the medium in which it was conveyed matters. Or at least that is the impression I get after reading a recent post by Dave Armano about how he used Twitter to report some teenagers heroically saving an old woman's life. Technorati reports that Armano's Twitterophilic post has 13 links to it (at the time of this posting), while the actual news site first reporting the incident only has 2 posts linking to it .

Similarly, Cisco recently issued a Social Media News Release. Both Shel Holtz and Todd Defren were quick to jump on the story, both with posts exclaiming how great Cisco is for having done this.

As Holtz points out, if you've got the material (text, quotes, images, website, video), it really isn't very hard to create or understand a Social Media News Release. "Why people are opposed to this simply baffles me," wrote he wrote on his post.

Todd Defren writes that he doesn't "want the Social Media News Release to be special anymore" and I couldn't agree more.

Part of the reason I'm so in favor of his statement is because I'm sick of hearing about how great these new communications platforms are. While Defren devoted one little quote to what the Cisco release was actually announcing, Holtz didn't mention their news at all (embedding the video, but only to show how easy it is).

As Marshall McLuhan once so famously wrote, "the medium is the message."

In the case of the current communications industry, it seems that the message is to blog, to twitter, to facebook, and to use social media in every way possible in order to continue discussing social media.

Just like studying McLuhan back in school, the whole thing is starting to give me a headache.


MyRagan 1, Parker 0

As a result of the overwhelming response that I've received from the post I made on MyRagan's forums last week, combined with Shel Holtz's similar appeal for pro-MyRagan stories, I'm conceding defeat in this round. (UPDATE: I find it slightly disappointing that neither my comment from Friday nor any other comments have appeared on Holtz's MyRagan blogpost. What gives, Shel?) While I had thought that MyRagan was a backwater, the number of people commenting on my blog in favor of MyRagan showed me two things. First of all, it showed that there are a number of people who are passionate about the site, passionate enough to vocalize their opinions and defend MyRagan. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the number of people connecting from my original post on the MyRagan forums and Shel Holtz's MyRagan blogpost was overwhelming, and proof that there is a very active community of communicators.

If you want to read through all the comments that I received, take a look at these two posts of mine (first one, second one). Some of the highlights:

MyRagan's managing editor Micheal Sebastian points us in the direction of this article from the New York Times website with a ton of comments in favor of niche social networks.

In one of the most valuable comments, Valarie writes "I’m not a big networking kind of gal, but myragan has been very helpful to me as a professional resource. For example, my boss is working on a report about Internal Communications for senior management. She wondered where the Int Comms dept reports into in other companies (PR, Marketing, CEO, etc). Instead of spending ages on the web trying to research the matter, I put the question to a myragan forum. I received some good responses, including one from a Ragan staffer who recently conducted an Int Comms survey and could quote me exact percentages from his research. So I was able to retrieve some good information with a minimal amount of time invested in the research."

It is her idea that we can get solid data and great ideas from MyRagan that has certainly made me think twice.

And another good argument in favor of MyRagan comes from one of their own employees, Benswetland (I don't know if I should be thinking of that name as Ben's Wetland or Ben Sweatland, but both are pretty sweet): "What I like about myragan in particular and niche social networking sites in general is that they allow me to show a different “face” or side of myself, something I couldn’t do if I was only on one site. I have a myspace site for my band, another for my friends, a facebook profile for my friends, and a myragan page for my colleagues.

In a very real sense I’m different people to each group, and it’d be silly (and bad for my career) to use the same profile for each one. I take it you’re on Facebook for professional reasons only, but you’re in a decisive minority there. Maybe someday Facebook will figure out how to show different sides of ourselves to different groups of people (a personal profile/a professional one) in some kind of intelligent way. I think it’s a major hurdle for a Facebook to solve. But they haven’t yet to my knowledge. Until they do I see social networking going the way of magazine publishing: diversified niches."

Ben assumes wrongly that I'm on Facebook for professional reasons, however I do have a number of professional contacts on there. While I am able to use the limited profile setting to prevent them from seeing content that is, uh, 'unprofessional' it would be nice to have more content control over the content I'm sharing. Separate identities on different social networks such as what Ben suggests certainly makes sense.

There was also still some encouraging objectivity in a few of the comments.

As Richard Becker* writes, "the ideas are not bad over there as much as the execution and attitude. I’ve seen a few niche social networks work well (just not one that seems to resonate with communication-related professionals). Social niche networks rely on leadership more than platforms. If there is a challenge with MyRagan, it’s in the presentation of their own material and the lack of content leadership (as opposed to content management)." He goes onto provide some examples of this, and I urge you to take a look at what he has to say in the comments section of this post.

Donna Papacosta makes a similar statement when she suggests that MyRagan should have a better way of informing users about new content on the site.

I'd still like to hear what Jeremiah Owyang has to say about MyRagan (considering his views on Facebook), but in general I'm going to make greater efforts to involve myself in MyRagan. I'm still not 100% convinced that the site will make it to a successful first birthday, but if they do I accept the invitation to the party. I'll be the guy in the corner eating a big serving of humble pie. In the meantime, add me as a friend on Facebook or MyRagan.

Thanks to everyone who commented or came over to BlogCampaigning to take a look.



UPDATE: Take a look at what Buzz Canuck has to say about Facebook

*Love that moustache, Rich

Social Network Sluts

As part of the recent debate that Shel Holtz and I had in the comments section of an earlier post I had made, Holtz provided me with this link to an article about how users of social networks have little or no brand loyalty. However, rather than reinforce the idea that niche social networks have their place, this article made me think that investing time in them is a waste of resources. Wouldn't this energy be better spent interacting in one place?

Holtz's comparison was that Facebook was like a large athletic park with a bunch of people playing various sports, whereas niche social networking sites like MyRagan are more like an organized team or league (please correct me if I've gotten you wrong here, Shel). What he fails to take into account is that Facebook is indeed the large athletic park, but it also encompasses all of the organized teams and leagues by way of the groups and specialized applications.

Part of the reason that greater interaction might be taking place in a venue such as MyRagan is because it is still the early days. While the social networking graveyard (R.I.P. Friendster) is proof that everyone moves onto something eventually, I feel that MyRagan won't even make its first birthday. The novelty of the site no doubt intrigues people at this point, that won't last much longer. As I've asked earlier (without answer), how many of those 8,000 members are actually active? Satisfied? Have fulfilling communications experiences with MyRagan?

MyRagan and its members would probably benefit much more from having all of their interaction take place in one solid place, where it becomes easier to recruit members.

Until some sort of token or universal passport system (allowing us to move between various social networks without having to create new ids, logins, etc) is created, it is a waste of time to invest heavily in multiple networks.

That said, I'm not against trying new things. By all means, check out the latest new development. If it is easy enough to use, people will flock to it, and it will replace the old system.

We're all probably social network sluts, but we also all probably have our ol' faithful, that one that you just can't give up. And I'm sure that at the end of the day, the numbers will choose Facebook, or the next universal social networking giant. Niche networks have had their fun.

If you have any success stories from MyRagan (or other niche social networks for that matter), I would like to hear them.


Blog Hard and Blow Hard

What's the deal with Shel Holtz? I mean, I realize that he is some sort of messiah for a lot of social media nerds. But do we have to listen to everything he says? Its fortunate he has a disclaimer at the end of this post about how great MyRaganTV is. Otherwise, I'd be calling total bullshit on his bearded act. I've called the whole MyRagan-deal out before for being pretty useless and redundant in the face of superior social networking sites (ahem, Facebook, anyone?). I'm really surprised that Shill, sorry I mean Shel Holtz, doesn't recognize that

Oh, wait...maybe it's because he is on their payroll! Although we can't be too critical of him because, as mentioned above, he does make sure to disclose this fact. However, I also feel like he could be a little more objective.

In fact, I think we all need to be a little bit more objective about social media and web 2.0. While I respect enthusiasm, I'm a little weary of self-aggrandizing behavior.*