Thursday, July 31, 2008

Social Media: It’s Not Just For Early Adopters

I know the label “social media” means many things to many people. I still like Fred Wilson’s definition of it the best, but I’m not here today writing about the way the label is used.

I see a lot of people who are focused on “social media” do and say a lot of things (some of which I think are completely insane!) with regards to social media. There are a wide range of services in the sphere from FriendFeed and Twitter to Facebook and blogging. With a whole lot of Digg, Stumbleupon, Reddit and Delicious in between.

There’s another label that means different things to different people: mainstream. Relative to the products and services referenced above, only Facebook can make a case for the mainstream. I believe MySpace and Facebook are already completely mainstream for people under 25 or so. But relative to the number of people who use a web browser, both still have tremendous room for growth. But both did scale big and scaled big in a hurry. Twitter? Decidedly not mainstream by comparison.

Digg? No way it is mainstream! Big numbers, and a real business, for sure. But still not mainstream. And I’m not saying that based on the fact I’d never use Digg and think it’s a dopey way to get news. I don’t use MySpace, but think it’s pretty mainstream. My view of Digg is based on the numbers.

I’m pretty sure if I was a tech or social media blogger or attempting to be, I’d probably wind up chasing Stumble, Digg and even TechMeme traffic. The blog I work on, TVbytheNumbers, isn’t in that space so we’ve never worried about chasing traffic that way much. The whole reason I’m doing that blog with Bill Gorman is pretty simple. In April and May 2007 for reasons I won’t get into, I was trying to chase down some TV ratings data.

Sometime around then at one of my regular lunches with my friend Bill Gorman as a complete aside I tossed out: “I can’t believe there is actually a hole in the blogsphere that hasn’t been filled yet. TV ratings!”

Bill says to me something like, “Oh come ON, you’re insane – there has to be something like Box Office Mojo for TV!” I told him there wasn’t, he went home and did some Googling and a website was born.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a ton of TV ratings data out there – it’s just scattered all over the place. Our goal was to get as much of it as possible in the same place. We figured this was a niche, but we figured that it’s probably easier to get traffic for a niche that hadn’t quite been filled than for a big topic (say tech) that has tons and tons and tons of competition. We’ve been up about 10.5 months now and that’s pretty much been validated. There is demand for the info, and even if it’s a niche, if it’s an unfilled niche to some degree it becomes a "if you build it they will come" deal.

I bring any of that up only because it’s the primary reason we don’t spend any time chasing traffic via social news services. We figure it’s better to spend that time putting content up on the site and hoping people wind up finding it in Google. That’s largely come to pass.

But the point I really wanted to make in this is that one form of social media happens all around us. And people get involved whether they’re sixteen or sixty. People with like interests quite naturally find each other on the web. Below are the top 10 traffic referrals to our site since we launched (9/18/07) through yesterday (7/30/08):

The first three items on the list make complete sense to me. If you’re anything like me, you’d never heard of number four before. JokersUpdate is a website/forum dedicated to fans of the show Big Brother. About half of the visits (around 5,000) listed above came over a day and a half period. Due to the writer’s strike CBS ran Big Brother, typically summer fare during the winter and spring. When it first launched I wrote something about how CBS should consider pulling it. Though to be honest as the strike impact continued, I changed my tune. But that’s another story.

The bigger story for us is that even though it wasn’t particularly good traffic (it’s actually still a bit better than what we get from Digg and Stumble) something we didn’t even know existed became our fourth largest referrer. Wikipedia was not a big surprise. We’d hoped that it would happen that people editing the articles about TV shows would link to our ratings data sometimes. and the CBS discussion board for Jericho, like, that’s just like-minded people coming together over something they enjoy. In the case of Jericho, once they actually rallied CBS to bring the show back. Moonlight was on the ratings bubble and unfortunately for its fans – like Jericho, the bubble ultimately burst.

The hard core fans of those shows have worked hard to try to bring the shows back. And whatever you may think about where their passions lie, they’ve done some good works too. In the case of Jericho, for instance, they did some charitable deeds for our young men and women in Iraq. In the case of Moonlight (a show where the central character was a vampire) they’ve fittingly done blood drives.

Since the label “social media” gets applied to so many things, can’t we also apply it to people coming together for a cause? And it doesn’t have to just be a cause like saving a show (and even doing some good deeds in the process). The cause can simply be to have some fun. Our tenth highest TV referrer was from TVBigShot was a fantasy league style game for wannabe television moguls run by Television Without Pity which is run by Bravo/NBC Universal.

I’d argue with the way some of the digerati try to apply the label “social media” that things like fantasy league baseball, football, etc. are all forms of social media. Sure, they’re not new and shiny and I don’t have much of an issue with the digerati and social mediati not focusing on anything that’s mainstream. I’m just bringing up that there’s a whole boatload of really cool social media happening all around us. All the time. And it’s going to keep happening in the mainstream whether any of the digerati care or not.

It’s not just for early adopters.

1 comment:

Ken Stewart said...

Solid post, Robert... and I agree.