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Archive for July, 2010

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Social networking doesn’t work. Crowdsourcing doesn’t work. Nobody cares.
Most of the folks who come to these conclusions don’t even bother to post them publicly (although plenty do). It’s enough that they posted a question, asked for help in a topical forum, or tried to build a community online. And nothing happened.
Perhaps nothing happened despite a firm belief that something would happen. Heck, ‘thought leaders’ are making thousands a day in speaking fees and making the best-seller list preaching that it will happen. Even if sometimes we’re not on the same page about what it is.
The power of the crowd. Collective consciousness. Socialized business processes. Social media. The gift economy. Personal brand. Somebody is making it off of all this stuff.
Got a question? Just post it on Twitter and you’ll get an answer. Need a government job? Join LinkedIn and GovLoop. You write and need an income? Google Adwords.
Maybe no one says it exactly like that, but that is what is conveyed. And it doesn’t work.

What Does Work
Social networking is perhaps best simply described as community building on the Web. It’s not terribly different than networking offline really, although it’s now much easier to get a message out to more people. But when it looks easy, it usually isn’t. Some of it is luck – the million-view YouTube video is a rare phenomenon among millions of lame self-produced videos. Social media? Blogging is really just a simple publishing platform, and, like many a poet and an artist throughout history, not many are making a living off of it.
Most of this is just hard, hard work, training and consistency, just like traditional activism and political and cause campaigning, just like other modes of self-employment.
Some of us do get our questions answered on Twitter, usually because we’ve answered literally hundreds of other people’s questions first. And the folks making a living at building online communities are generally making that living because they work really, really hard.
Hard work, and perhaps a little luck. It’s always been what leads to things working out, and it’s the same today.

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Did you know that you can blog any public photo right from Flickr? Until very recently, I didn’t. Now I’m happily populating two personal blogs (Adriel Hampton and Travel Tokyo) and my Twitter account with fresh and archived shots from my photostream.
It’s dead simple to link your blogs and Twitter account to Flickr. One you do, it’s a few clicks to posting new content. Flickr’s blog integration allows you to write your blog or edit a tweet right from the site and the native formatting is sound.
Flickr supports:
  • Atom Enabled Blogs
  • Blogger
  • LiveJournal
  • Manila
  • Meta Weblog API Enabled Blogs
  • Movable Type
  • Typepad
  • Vox
  • WordPress
  • Twitter

Aside from fun personal use, this is a great tool for government communicators, as documenting events can quickly turn into a whole range of content for your social media efforts, from photo sets to a week’s worth of tweets to a great blog post with key context or the event press release. You can also use others’ photos to populate social media streams, just be sure to check for appropriate licensing.
I’d long used Flickr for research, and admired the work of many fine professional photographers. But it’s only upon recent experimentation that I realized how foundational it can be for social Web content creation efforts.
Dan Slee, a UK local government communicator and avid blogger and photographer, recently wrote a great post about 11 ways local government can use Flickr, calling it “a Cinderella social media platform without a Stephen Fry to champion it.”
Without a celebrity champion, Flickr’s great qualities are just going to have to stand for themselves. Check it out, and if you do, be sure to add me as a contact. I’d love to see what you’re up to.

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Much of the hand-wringing in government social media practice – or more so, the decision-making behind whether to have a government social media practice – centers on return on investment, or even “return on engagement.” Does it work, and how do we measure whether it works?
From measuring retweets, to numbers of fans, unique blog hits, to overall influence within sites like Twitter to Facebook, there is a whole industry around measuring social media engagement. The next phase of growth in social media-for-gov best practices is likely to come from the realm of analytics.
For the past couple of months, and particularly over a recent vacation, I’ve been experimenting with a new startup that merges social media and a fantasy stock market with the goal of measure engagement and influence across Web 2.0 communications channels. Edmonton CIO Chris J. Moore first introduced me to Empire Avenue this spring, while it was still in a closed “family and friends” beta. When it launched as an invite-beta soon after, he sent me one and after a week or so (who has time for another site, right?), I signed up. I’ve found the game mechanics of the site to be extremely engaging, and, it is also very interesting to watch what happens when folks sign up, integrate their various social media feeds and then basically ignore the gaming aspects of the site.
Empire Avenue centers around buying and selling stock in people and businesses. But it also functions as social media aggregator, with overnight “market makers” that analyze a broad range of social media metrics, including engagement with followers and growth in connections. Folks who sign up for the site continue to see swings in their share prices even if they never log back in, and even if no one is buying and selling them, all based on measurements of their broader social media activity. Guessing the strength of a profile immediately after someone signs up – by looking at their Twitter account for example – is a popular way of making sound stock picks on Empire Avenue.
Eventually, the EA founders plan to have a real-word advertising function on the platform, with members able to run ads and do profit sharing. Some may be playing with this end game in mind, while others enjoy the networking opportunities of a smaller social media site, some are pure gamers, and others just want to get another measure of their social media influence.
What does this mean for government social media? Well, it’s still a bit early to make many judgments about the site, it’s market-based system and analytical chops. However, it sure is interesting to watch. Today I took a look at three official government accounts that have set up EA profiles, each with at least a few weeks of maturity on the site: City of Manor, TX; Oklahoma City; and the Washington State Department of Transportation. Manor has linked a Twitter account to its EA profile, while OKC has Twitter, Flickr and a blog, and WSDOT has a blog, Twitter, Flickr and a news feed. Right away, from EA, I can follow these agencies there or on Twitter, can see how many followers they have, and view a simple report on their activity. I see that Manor has 492 Twitter followers, up two in the last week, and sent one tweet in the past week, down 4. I find that OKC has 3,582 Twitter followers and added 7. WSDOT’s very robust Twitter account has 9,047 followers after adding 47 in the past week. Facebook pages are not yet supported, but for personal profiles, the same kind of stats are included. Even more interesting is the stock price for these accounts. Each has been almost inactive on EA for the past few weeks, but their feeds keep pushing new content for their site followers and those analytical market makers. With 7 being the floor price for any stock, Manor is at 8.271, OKC at 9.409, and WSDOT, with it’s very robust social media activity across several platforms, at 22.476.
EA goes public beta (no invites required) on July 28, and it will be interesting to see how its market system plays out in the larger social media community, and in government engagement efforts.

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