[FGJ] The Value of Social

By YopY on Monday 31 May 2010 10:00 - Comments (6)
Category: -, Views: 4.388

I was tempted to renew my WoW subscription today. Then I forced myself to open up the mindmap I made the other day and try to write some of the points down. Then I went to look at the competition, and from that I suddenly wrote an essay on market research, news websites, social interaction, user submitted and generated content, social networks, and other endless ramblings. Below is the result.

I wrote this last Friday after working out, pizza and beer, intentionally set it to be published a few days later for maximum exposure and because my last post was only published a day prior. I haven't proofread or made much adjustments to the text below, just added some links and intended to add some images but failed. It's also quite likely that this text is rather long and may bore you halfway through, but meh at that.

I've done a quick market research – the best tool for that being Google – and the competition is mainly from 'classic' news sites, where editors cough up articles on a daily basis. Most of the 'big players' only go for mainstream music, and the not-too-mainstream music usually has a site of its own. They both generally follow the same pattern though – articles posted in a blog-like fashion, some videos here and there, a flashy layout, and user interaction limited to people being able to post a comment on articles. Perhaps remarkably, this option is hardly ever used – in my five-minute market research run, I found only two articles with comments, limited to just one or two. For sites that appear high up in Google search results for queries like 'music news' and, based on that alone, should be seeing thousands, if not tens of thousands of users on a daily basis worldwide, that figure is ridiculously low.

I'm not an expert in this, but I'd blame it on the image the websites give. They all provide good and well-written news articles, but that seems to create a sense of detachment from the reader – the reader does not feel involved in the website, and the website does not make the user enthousiastic enough to reply to the article. It's like "I am The Website, I have no flaws, and if I do have flaws, I have a main editor that corrects it within 0.5 seconds. My word is your will, and my articles do not leave room for discussion or interpretation."

Next to that, there's also the 'one sheep' factor to keep in mind – nobody posts comments, so nobody's inclined to participate in the discussion, if any.

So, if nobody posts on the news websites, where do they vent their opinions?

The logical assumption would be 'Social Networks'. I'm quite convinced that nowadays (and for the past five years at least), a band's profile on networks like Myspace and Facebook is more frequently visited – and, more importantly, interacted with – than their own website or, indeed, news posted about them on some other website. I looked up the first band some news site (Blabbermouth.net, 'the CNN of heavy metal', yeah right) - which turns out to be Alice in Chains – on Facebook and Myspace.

offtopic:
(How come I only see Alice in Chains come by whenever there's heavy metal and such news on the internets? WTF, is it such a good band or something? Or does it just have good marketing behind it?)


On Facebook, I selected their wall. I'm not active on social networks at all (in fact, they creep me out), so all of this is new to me – bear with me if I make retarded remarks about it. On this wall, the band (or their spokesperson, more like) posts info about ticket sales, tour posters (?), and other small, seemingly insignificant tidbits.

However, each of these 'seemingly insignificant tidbits' do make the internet populace at large interact with it. In this particular example, each 'article' gets around 250 'likes' from various Facebook members, and (usually) between 70 and 200 comments. Quite different from the zero the big news sites get, and it's much more cost effective too – using Facebook is free, and writing up two sentences is cheap, especially if a band member does it in his free time. Based on the amount of user feedback, I'd say Facebook is much, much more effective than the random music news sites.

Of course, user feedback says nothing about actual figures or effectiveness, so I'm leaving that aside for now. However, I do like to assume that the amount of effective views and the 'information registration rate' (a scientific-sounding figure indicating which percentage of viewers actually read and remember the news) is much, much higher on Facebook than it is on the music news sites or even their own website (which, by the way, does not have any user interaction options or even references to the same news on Facebook – although it does have the mandatory 'social bookmark' links).

Now, to complete this mini-survey, let's look at Myspace, which I've long believed to be the most popular social network for bands.
I'd rate that page's effectiveness about zero. It doesn't work for me at the moment, =D. I'll re-check later.

To wrap things up, I'll make some conclusions about both the competition for the news site idea, as well as internet marketing and internet news in general.

The main competition for this website is social networks like Facebook and Myspace. Effectively, you can state that the website itself will grow into being a social network itself, with one of its main goals being to involve the visitors into the site itself – user supplied content, if you will, and to a degree user generated content as well. However, will it be able to differentiate itself enough from the established networks? If it is to have any chance at greatness, it will have to offer unique features or advantages over the networks.

It has a bonus in that it will be aimed at music and bands primarily – making it more concentrated than the established social networks. However, even if it is better (if that goal is ever reached, which is very debatable at this stage), it would still need to gain momentum, get people to actively post news on it, and – in the long run – get bands to transfer over to it, either partially or in full. Larger bands – like the example Alice in Chains I've used in this post – are quite likely to include it into their marketing machine if the site picks up. However, I'd personally be more pleased if smaller, more 'close to the populace' bands use the site as their main 'home'. Call it 'exclusive content', if you will.

Classic news sites, the ones that have a set of editors that spew out news (or copypaste it from somewhere else), do not seem to be very effective. I'm sure they get thousands of visitors every day, but what is the effective value of those visitors if they only skim their site and move on to the next thing (say, Facebook)? I'd say it's pretty low. A goal should be that a user spends a lot of time on a website. Facebook itself has reached for this goal, and has succeeded in it quite well – I've even read somewhere that Facebook is effectively a 'mini-internet', where its visitors find so much stuff to do that they spend many hours a week on it.

A news site that actively encourages its users to interact with it – and thus makes them 'think' about the news itself (or the band) when they write up their responses about it – will almost automatically make it more effective. Compare it with a laundry detergent brand. You all have seen (and secretly love) the TV commercials, but I'm sure that most of you have grown deaf and blind to such ads. If, however, there was a textbox underneath the ad, and a keyboard in your hand, and there was an element in the ad that triggered your 'YOU SHALLT RESPOND!'-reflex… Well, you'd most likely spew out the worst profanities, under the guise of anonymity. However, even when being negative about the ads, its creators, the French woman presenting the laundry detergent as heroin to your laundry, you actively think about the product, and it gets imprinted into your mind. Even years later, you will suddenly remember the event where you combined existing ones into all new and excellent profanities.

That is effective. I should totally go into advertising instead of webdevelopment.

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WAIT! This already happens. A friend I sent a draft of this post to reminded me that good, catchy TV ads (not the bland ones) already get uploaded to Youtube - more recently by the advertising agency themselves, or the company they represent. If done right, these ads create their own cult following, and/or become a meme on the internet itself. And once your ad reaches memehood, it will forever be imprinted into the minds of hundreds of thousands of internet denizens - whether positively or negatively. A prime example would be the Old Spice ad campaign(s). I saw these amusing-if-you-can-stand-them ads on Dumpert, then googled a bit and found they were re-posted on very popular sites like Flabber, Collegehumor, wimp.com, Today's Big Thing, and even big news sites like CBS report on it, not particularly on the ad itself, but about its popularity on the internet.

You know you are ultimate win if your ad becomes more than an ad, when it becomes a viral, when there's ten million views on just one of your ads, when it becomes newsworthy material. And the crown of it all, when your ad is copied. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Imagine dishing out a million or two on such a campaign or however expensive it was, and watch it become a viral. Your video becomes shown all over the world, by hundreds of thousands of people, and [i]it doesn't cost you zilch[/url]. Free advertising? It's possible. Free advertising right in the middle of another TV program that gets a multitude of active viewers that watched the 30 seconds advertising time you dished out two million for? Yes. The internet has become the most (cost-)effective advertising medium.

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[offtopic]the above was injected into the post randomly, so it may have broken the train of thought here. The below may make no sense now.[/url]

But the same thing (promotion, popularity, user involvement) applies to news. It too needs exposure. A band is a brand, its music is its products, its revenue is its sales combined with the cultural and musical value. I'm not a big fan of the financial aspect of music, so I'd rather focus on the latter. Good music deserves to be promoted, especially if not backed by big record companies and their social networks spamming marketing machines. One way to promote a band is to seriously invest in user / fan involvement. A band's music is only so much responsible for its popularity - its image is another, and I personally believe that its fans' involvement is just as important.

Case in point. A few days ago, Slipknot's bassist died. You can effectively put the responses to this into two camps: One side says "Who?", "Meh", or "w/e", the other says "OMG NOES!". The former category has a slight chance of going out to buy or listen to Slipknot. The latter most likely already did, and if they didn't, they will be more likely to do so now.

But the value of fans to a band has probably been described elsewhere, and much more scientifically than I am trying to do right here.

To add an end to this overly long post I (as it turns out) have been writing all evening now, news should be social. The website I'm planning should be social, and have good content. To be social, it should be inviting. To be inviting, the user should be involved with it. To be involved with it, the boundary between the article or the band it's about should be thin and wobbly, accessible. The article should also be inviting to comment on (this entails writing style and editorial additions), and the community should be inviting to interact with itself (be it a happy, child-friendly and strictly moderated or a 4chan), to invoke more user contributions in the form of comments and resulting blog posts.

Volgende: Kekke serietitel dag 1: JavaFX Script 06-'10 Kekke serietitel dag 1: JavaFX Script
Volgende: [FGJ] Organizing your ideas 05-'10 [FGJ] Organizing your ideas

Comments


By Tweakers user CodeCaster, Monday 31 May 2010 11:26

Let bands be about making music, let fans be about being fans and use web sites to inform fans about the band.

Bands as I figure aren't interested in two-way communication other than the making of music by them, and the cheering of the fans.

By Tweakers user Adion, Monday 31 May 2010 13:21

I suggest that for future blogs you try to make a better introduction so that we know what the post is about. Also if you make an essay, try to explain what it is exactly you are researching.
For me it was very confusing to read this blog. First it says some things about WoW, then you were checking out the competition, and doing a market research about something.
Only when reading further into the article it slowly becomes more clear that you are comparing music news websites. Only at the end it becomes clear that you are going to build your own music news website.
Since blogs on tweakblogs are sorted by time I think you shouldn't expect readers to have read or remember every one of your earlier blogs. If an earlier blog is important to understand a newer blog, it might be a good idea to post a link to it first.

By Tweakers user afraca, Monday 31 May 2010 14:46

The FGJ development sure is interesting. Adion is right, this blogpost is kind of confusing for people not aware of the "series", so you should point that out at the beginning of every [FGJ] blogpost. Keep up the great work.

By Tweakers user wheez50, Monday 31 May 2010 15:02

Je hebt uitstekende punten. Ik vond het alleen vrij pittig om te lezen: Ik wist niet waar je heen ging en al snel ook niet meer waar je vandaan kwam. Nu hoef je van mij niet de standaard kop-lichaam-kont-benadering te gebruiken, maar die geeft wel de lezersstructuur om je text te begrijpen.

Doordat je als lezer niet precies weet waar het heengaat of waar je het over wil hebben, kan de lezer veel moeilijker een geschikt referentiekader opbouwen en onthoudt juist daardoor veel minder.

Dus alsjeblieft: structureer je tekst volgende keer meer. Je boodschap is veels te interessant om ongelezen te blijven. En of je daarbij een standaard essayopbouw gebruikt of zelf creatief bent kan me niets schelen :)

Over de inhoud:
Ik heb geen plan om een website op te bouwen. En al zeker geen sociale website. Wel ben ik van plan een mooie tweakblog te maken. Maar dat is veel meer eenzijdige expressie waarbij ik commentaar toesta. Desondanks is je 'onderzoek' erg interessant. Je uitleg met casestudie lijkt me vrij correct. Er is niets wetenschappelijks aan, maar het geeft naar mijn inzien een vrij goede weergave van gebruikersparticipatie op (semi-) sociale websites.

Nu is wel het probleem: Ik denk dat deze participatie wel verschilt over culturen. En daardoor dien je je participatiemodel ook aan te passen op je doelgroep. Ik ben nieuwsgierig wat je daarover al weet te schrijven.

By Tweakers user YopY, Monday 31 May 2010 19:57

I didn't know where I was going halfway through the post either, so you guys aren't the only ones, ;). I really should've postponed publishing this and read it over - I'll try to be more coherent next time. And stick to one subject, of course. Thanks for the negative, yet constructive criticism, I appreciate it.
quote: Wheez50
Nu is wel het probleem: Ik denk dat deze participatie wel verschilt over culturen. En daardoor dien je je participatiemodel ook aan te passen op je doelgroep. Ik ben nieuwsgierig wat je daarover al weet te schrijven.
Welke culturen bedoel je hier specifiek - qua land van afkomst, of qua de cultuur van verschillende muziekstromingen?

Wat betreft land van afkomst, de site zal in eerste instantie in het engels zijn, dus hoogstwaarschijnlijk zullen er 'vanzelf' voornamelijk Amerikaanse mensen op af komen - dat is ook een nogal grote markt natuurlijk. Echter, ik kan me goed indenken dat mensen uit bijvoorbeeld Nederland iets heel anders in een website zoeken, en dan niet te spreken over niet-westerse landen, die nog veel anders denken over muziek en, waarschijnlijk, het internet.

Natuurlijk zal het, mits er genoeg animo voor is, mogelijk zijn om 'gelocaliseerde' versies van de website aan te bieden, echter dat is op dit moment zover in de toekomst dat daar ik daar op dit moment geen rekening mee zal houden.

By X-SOLDIER, Tuesday 1 June 2010 05:47

I think that non-interactive ads really need to focus on presenting facts & information about their products, where at meme/cult ads can rely on people investigating about the product / ad on their own time.

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