Like many people, I was glued to my computer and smart phone much of last Saturday monitoring news of the massive earthquake in Chile and awaiting, with morbid anticipation, the possibility that it could trigger deadly tidal waves in other parts of the world.
As the predicted 4 PM arrival of the first tsunami on Hawaii’s shores approached, I turned my attention mainly to Twitter. Three years ago, it probably would have been CNN or the New York Times, but Twitter brought a dimension to the coverage that I couldn’t get anywhere else: thousands of perspectives from around the world.
A tsunami is a visual event, a fact made grimly clear to us more than five years ago when videos of the tragic waves that swept across Indonesia were posted on YouTube (see photo above). News junkie that I am, I wanted to see the events in Hawaii in as close to real time as possible.
Instead of clicking around to various websites or hunkering down with one and hoping for the best, I was able to monitor a constant stream of advice from people pointing their followers to webcams, live news coverage and reports from observers at the site. Most of these sources would have been unknown to me if it weren’t for Twitter. It was like having 1,000 eyes watching the media for me. Thankfully, the fears turned out to be unfounded.
No media organization would have delivered this kind of value. In fact, media organizations are hard-wired to do the opposite; an NBC affiliate would no sooner send viewers to a CBS station than a Ford dealer would send a prospective customer to buy a Toyota. But when the collective eyes of a geographically dispersed crowd are put to work without a competitive agenda, they can deliver a tapestry of views unlike anything we’ve ever seen.
This story dramatized to me one of the realities of the new media landscape that I think will have huge implications in the future: Curation is an increasingly important part of the information value chain. Wiktionary defines curation as “the act of organizing and maintaining a collection of artworks or artifacts,” but today the term applies equally well to information.
Think of it: A decade ago we had relatively few sources of news about what was going on in the world. Even in the first decade of the Internet, we still relied mainly on traditional media for the story.
Today, three billion people carry around pocket-sized devices with built-in cameras, many of them capable of capturing full motion video. Some of these smart phones can even upload videos in minutes to a server. It won’t be long before wireless live webcams are ubiquitous. No longer is our problem lack of information; it’s that we’re drowning in information.
That’s why curation is so important. Trusted curators who point us to the most valuable sources of information for our interests will become the new power brokers. Matt Drudge figured this out many years ago and a host of popular aggregators like BoingBoing.net, Digg.com, Metafilter and Fark.com have been building upon it with great success for more than five years. Twitter adds a new dimension because it introduces so many additional voices to the process. But Twitter is also imperfect; its great shortcoming is that no one can possibly keep up with it all. Another opportunity for curation.
Marketers should take this trend into account. Creating new content is important, but an equally valuable service is curating content from other sources. This demands a whole different set of skills as well as a new delivery channel. It also means ditching the “not invented here” mindset that prevents content creators from acknowledging those sources.
In a cacophony of voices, the leader is the one who can make sense of the din. That’s a role that any editor — or business — can play.
Meet Me At South by Southwest
My schedule at the big South by Southwest conference next week is packed tighter than a Tokyo subway car at rush hour, but if you’re in the area and you want to connect, drop me a line. I can always find time to meet with good friends. Here’s a link to the lineup of sessions I’ll be attending. That doesn’t include several evening events that aren’t on the formal schedule.
Author Seeks B-to-B Insight
I’m looking for insights and experiences in the following areas for the book about business-to-business social marketing that I’m co-authoring with Eric Schwartzman (Wiley, late 2010). If you have advice to share and would like to be interviewed for the book, please contact me. I’m particularly interested in case studies and field experience.
- Market research
- Gaining buy-in from stakeholders
- Organizing marketing or the company around social marketing
- Social media policies
- Lead generation
- “Social CRM” (customer care and sopport)
- Best practices for measuring ROI
Tip of the Week: TweepML
Twitter Lists are one of the most popular new features of the micro-blogging service. Introduced late last year, they enable members to group like-minded folks into themed lists that others can follow. For example, you can follow Time magazine’s list of funny people or a list of NFL players on Twitter.
The problem (or benefit, depending on your perspective) with Twitter Lists is that you can’t follow every person on the list, only the list itself. The tweets of individuals on a list aren’t added to your main stream. That’s where TweepML comes in. This curated service gives visitors the ability to follow every individual on a list. So if you want to follow all 18 members of this list of b-to-b marketing thought leaders, you can do so with a single click.
The benefit of TweepML is being able to bulk up your principle tweet stream with people who share your interests. If you’re interested in simply driving up your follower counts, check out the lists of people who follow back. You can add a couple of thousand followers to your count almost overnight this way, although I’m not sure why you’d want to. Numbers for numbers’ sake is a pointless exercise.
Just For Fun: Those Wild and Crazy Goats
What? You’ve never seen a goat in a tree before? Turns out the evergreen argan tree is a favorite among Moroccan mountain goats because of its tree olive-like fruit. But trees aren’t the only thing these nutty animals can climb. How about sheer rock cliffs? Yup. Cars? Yup. Mama goats? Of course. These pictures will make you realize how very specific Nature is in designing animals for their environment.