Welcome to the Site-less Web
In last issue’s Tip of the Week I told you about Posterous, the new service that radiates a person’s social media activity out to a network of community sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Tumblrand Delicious. Posterous is one of a host of new services that automate the once-tedious manual process of cross-posting information to multiple websites and social networks. Other pure-play entrants in this category include Ping.fm, Dlvr.it and the WordPress plugin Supr, but the basic capability to cross-post information across multiple social media is rapidly becoming a part of nearly every Web application. Google Buzz, which was announced just this week, has some of the same functionality.
These are the first ripples in a wave of new technology that will make the Internet effectively site-less. By that I mean that the metaphor of the Web as we’ve known it for the last 15 years is breaking down. The Internet is increasingly not about sites, but about content and people. As technology makes it possible for our online scribblings to appear wherever we may choose, the task of assessing influence will become considerably more complex.
The big change in the landscape is that information no longer needs to have a homepage in order to reach an audience. Facebook kicked off this trend when it created a service that was so popular that some brands found it was more desirable to use Facebook as a homepage than their branded websites. Honda is a notable example of this. The auto maker has started listing a Facebook fan page as the destination URL in its TV ads. The tactic is a bit of a gimmick, but it’s also indicative of a shift in marketer perceptions. As Coca-Cola’s Digital Communications Director Adam Brown told me recently, “Our philosophy is to fish where the fish are.”
Only it’s becoming more difficult to figure out where the fish are. As social networks integrate their content, the contributions of individuals will become detached from discrete websites. On Twitter, for example, conversations exist in a stateless form that finds a home on Twitter.com, TweetDeck, Seesmic, blog widgets or any other listening device that catches them. How do we assess influence in this environment?
In the early days of social media (and by that I mean 2006!), online influencers used their blogs as a home base and relied upon word-of-mouth, inbound links and search engines to deliver an audience. Today, the blog is almost irrelevant. With Posterous, a blog entry can be created as an e-mail message and posted automatically to a couple of dozen social outposts, formatted for the unique capabilities of each destination. Some of these services publish fan and follower counts, but others don’t. Determining an influencer’s “share of market” is a matter of picking through search results and the metrics provided by various channels to measure a person’s total footprint.
In time, services will emerge that make sense of this chaos, but for now this is a classic case of technology outpacing people’s ability to understand it. For marketers, the key point is that the website as we have known it is diminishing in importance, influencers are magnifying their voices, and the rules of engagement are being reset. The good news is that everyone can use these tools, so if you’re currently limiting your publishing activities to a blog or Twitter, consider expanding your scope. The bad news is that the influencer you thought you had identified and corralled is now blasting messages to a whole lot of different audiences. Only time will tell what the impact of that new reality will be.
Tip of the Week: Google’s Keyword Tool
We all know how we want people to find our website, but we don’t always know how they actually find it. Google has a new tool to address that. It’s called the Search-based Keyword Tool and if you enter your URL,it shows you a list of keywords that match the content of your site. It also shows the approximate number of monthly searches conducted on that term as well as the price you’ll have to pay to buy the term using Google AdWords. It costs nothing to try, and you just might find that the search phrases that are really finding you aren’t the ones you thought.
Just For Fun: Japanese Rice Art
I’m not a detail person, so the annual endeavors of the people of Inakadate, Japan baffle and amaze me. Each year, the rice growers in this town create elaborate works of art by mixing red and regular rice in special patterns. But to call these images merely “special patterns” doesn’t do them justice. They are remarkable in their detail and scope, and they must require months of planning, not to mention elaborate orchestration at planting time. All for artwork that can only be appreciated from the air. Visit this website for photos, including time-lapse images.