Women make up the majority of users on most social media sites, according to Information is Beautiful.
Here are some popular social networks with a majority of users being female:
- Flickr is 55 percent female.
- Twitter is 57 percent female.
- Facebook is 57 percent female.
- Ning is 59 percent female.
- MySpace is 64 percent female.
YouTube and LinkedIn have an equal ratio of males to female. Digg is the only major social network that is heavily skewed towards males, with 64 percent of users being male.
I have a lot of theories as to why there are more females on social media than men but nothing concrete. It’s clearly important, however, to understand the demographics of each social network, and news organizations — especially newspapers — have struggled for years to attract as many female readers/users as they do with males. Creating more social products can only help attract more females to news products.
Digital media exec: metrics are ‘in crisis’ — The only real way to sell advertisers on the value of a medium is with good metrics. Advertisers haven’t bitten too hard with digital media yet, and news that media execs consider Web metrics to be in a state of crisis is not good:
A major source of the crisis, said Kint, is the proliferation of newer research sources that, while aiming to improve metrics, have only made things more confusing. For example, he mentioned the increasingly common practice buyers and sellers blending together panel-based figures from companies like Nielsen and comScore with data from analytics companies like Compete and Google, which can lead to inaccurate comparisons and conclusions. “It gets pretty crazy,” he said.
Another problem that stems from the Web’s inherent trackability, according to Christy Tanner, editor in chief and vp, marketing, TV Guide, is that too many publishers get fixated on driving up the measures that advertisers care about, such as page-views—without considering their site’s user experience. “If everything you do is based on [driving] advertiser metrics, you’re gonna lose your users,” she said.
It’s so true. If you only care about making money, you’ll probably do a poor job at it. If you care about making a great user experience, however, you’ll probably end up making money because happy consumers equals money.
Twitter Search to dive deeper, rank results — Twitter will soon begin searching not only the text in each tweet, but will also begin indexing the content of links in tweets. In addition, Twitter search will be getting several other features that could make it a legit competitor to Google (especially for real-time results):
This will make Twitter Search a much more complete index of what’s happening in real time on the Web and make it an even more credible competitor to Google Search for people looking for very timely content.
Twitter Search will also get a “reputation” ranking system soon, Jayaram told me. When you do a search on a “trending” topic–a topic that is so big it gets its own link in the Twitter.com sidebar–Twitter will take into account the reputation of the person who wrote each tweet and rank the search results in part based on that.
Ning opens up more to developers — Ning has been a popular tool of journalists and news organizations, and it just got a more useful by allowing for more customization. These new features are long overdue, but they should help make Ning a better option for content creators.
Ning also has a new feature called Ning Apps:
There are a couple of things that make Ning Apps different from the social platforms found on the likes of Facebook or MySpace. While the earlier, limited array of apps offered on Ning was strictly for members to embed on their profiles, the formal Ning Apps product is geared toward the creators and administrators of Ning social networks. They can add an application–from a cash donation widget for a nonprofit network, to a ticket sales app for a band’s fan page, to a live video stream of what-have-you–and it’ll mesh right into the social network.
“A Ning network creator selects one of these apps, that functions basically like a full-fledged feature on the social network, and by choosing to install an app the app has a presence on the front page of the social network,” Jason Rosenthal, Ning’s senior vice president of business operations, told CNET News. “It gets a dedicated tab within a social network, and perhaps most interestingly, by default the app is installed on every (member’s) profile page of that social network.”
Ning: 1,000,000 social networks and counting — Ning has been a popular tool of beatbloggers, albeit with mixed success, and there are definitive pros and cons of Ning. But Ning has become the go-to-place for people to start up niche social networks. Ning allows anyone to start up a social network on virtually any topic for free.
That’s a powerful tool for many content creators. But there are caveats. Ning works best for companies that have already cultivated a community on blogs and in comments after stories.
Wired Journalists is one of the more successful Ning networks and is a good model to check out. What makes Wired Journalists work is that it has a healthy user base (this is key. A user base in even the hundreds is probably not enough), and it’s on a topic (getting wired for the new era of journalism) that spurs a lot of discussion.
Ning makes sense when you have a beat or a niche where people will want to carry on the discussion and create content without you. Any beat or niche that requires professional journalists to keep it going may not be the best for Ning. But for topics that people can discuss amongst themselves, Ning is an easy way to start up a dedicated, niche social network.
Combine a strong network with strong content and you have a winner.
Susan Boyle Videos To Exceed 100 Million Views — YouTube and singing sensation Susan Boyle demonstrates the power of social media. Virtually every media commenter and even my parents have seen the video of the unlikely Scottish singer blowing away the judges on “Britain’s Got Talent.” Social media has allowed Boyle to become a star.
News orgs that don’t understand social media risk being left behind. Social media is viral, and it’s the kind of grassroots marketing that any smart company wants to tap into:
The Susan Boyle phenomenon shows no signs of abating – in fact, one video tracking firm claims that momentum is growing behind the Scottish singer.
While the official YouTube video of the performance reports over 32 million views, tracking company Visible Measures is monitoring the statistics for all versions of the clip, plus fan responses and interviews. Their Viral Reach Database tracks views across 150+ video sharing destinations, including YouTube.
On Friday, we published metrics from the company that totalled 47 million views across 200 unique Susan Boyle-related videos. As of 10pm ET Sunday, the company has upped that number to 93.2 million views across 650 unique clips. Given the current viewing rates, the total count will almost certainly exceed 100 million views on Monday.
Can social media make us buy more cars? — That’s what Ford is trying to find out. They gave 100 heavy Web users Ford Fiestas (not yet released to the public) to use for free for six months. The idea is that people will tweet, blog and share their experiences all over the Web about these cars. It doesn’t cost that much money to loan 100 cars for half a year (these cars could become tester models when they are returned), and this could prove to be a great bit of marketing on Ford’s part.
This is a really interesting case to watch. At least no one can say Ford isn’t trying innovative ways to market. Will social media marketing prove to be more cost effective than traditional marketing? We’ll find out later this year.
Every journalist has at least heard of the big-shot social networks like Facebook and MySpace and many journalists have signed up for accounts.
But one of the great strengths of the Internet are all the niches it allows to flourish. These niches can be great for journalists, and sites like Ning make it easy for people to setup niche social networks. Gina Chen, family life editor at The Post-Standard in Syracuse, N.Y., has found great success leveraging niche social networks for her parenting beat. On her personal blog she gives this advice about niche social networks:
If you write about education, and you want to find people really interested in education, for example, a niche social network might help. You won’t reach as large or as broad and audience as Facebook, but a smaller audience that is super interested in your blog topics or stories is better in a way than a larger audience that isn’t.
In particular, there are two niche social networks that Chen has found really useful: Cafe Mom and Twitter Moms. Chen says they help “me connect with moms both in my geographic coverage area and throughout the world who may be interested in the parenting tidbits on my Family Life blog.”
These social networks have allowed her to connect with moms for stories and posts and have allowed her to build her network of sources. Once a journalist joins a Web site, Chen recommends they immediately let people know who she is, and Chen also recommends promoting that she is on a given social network:
You’re expanding your community two ways: widening the circle to include people outside your geographic area and engaging those people who already read you. In time, your regular readers will join the site you’re on. You’ll have access to them in a new way. You’ll be able to chat with them, find out what they think you should be writing about, even ask them to write for your blog or your newspaper. They’ll become your inner-circle of advisers.
Chen has worked hard forming connections with her readers on her Family Life blog, and that can mean off-line work too. When she first began working the family beat, she set up meetings with mothers’ groups in the area, visited local mothers’ homes and met their children.
“Nothing can take the place of that personal connection,” she said. “You’ve got to have it both face-to-face and online. Online readers want to connect to the writer, and if journalists don’t provide that, the reader will go search for it somewhere else.”
At the same time, Chen says blogging can’t be done lazily.
“You have to contribute something to the debate,” Chen said. “It’s not enough to just post a link you like and say, ‘Check this out.’ The reader will check out that link, but can forget you. Unless your blog presents an aggregation of links, or some extra commentary and reporting, readers won’t have a reason to come back.”
Chen created the blog to give more exposure to parenting issues. She and many of her readers felt that many mothers’ concerns weren’t getting enough coverage in the paper.
Last February, for example, Chen investigated a series of day-care center closings in Syracuse and found they were all related to a lack of state subsidies for child care. Along with a feature story, she also ran a blog post, which allowed her to add a ton of useful links for needy families. In addition, she gave her personal take on the story and a video looking at the crisis.
For Chen, blogging is not just a fun side job — it’s a necessity. She estimates 70 percent of her work is on her blog and in social media, (check out her daily online routine) and 30 percent is spent working outside on her beat. She’s by no means alone in blogging at the paper: Chen estimates about 50 percent of the Post staff are active bloggers.
Chen advises sticking to topic-based blogs. A general assignment reporter should avoid a blog on their daily reports, given the variety of topics that’ll come up, he said.
“A general assignment blog can easily lead to disaster,” she said. “Blogs are about targeted niche audiences.”
She recommends such reporters blog on a topic they’re passionate about, even if it has nothing to do with the job.
“You could blog about old movies and bring a readership to your paper that has never come to it before,” she said.
I mentioned my biggest concern about blogging, the fear that the more wired I get, the less time I’ll be reporting out on my beat. Chen took issue with that.
“If I’m a court reporter with wifi access on my laptop, I can be live blogging and twittering while on site, without ever having to go back to the office,” she said.
Though aware of blogging’s complexities, Chen has little patience for reporters who resist it.
“I would ask them, ‘Have you noticed how our industry is doing lately?’ Newspapers are crumbling. If we don’t change, we will get left behind,” Chen said. “Blogging is now a matter of survival.”
Many journalists and journalism organizations have considered setting up Ning networks to dive into social networking.
Ning allows people to easily set up custom social networks on virtually any topic they want (some “adult” topics are forbidden). Ning can be a great choice for many uses, but it can be overkill for others. Think of Ning as a way to set up a custom Facebook of sorts for your topic of choice.
Ryan Sholin, the co-creator of the popular Ning network Wired Journalists, has insight into what works and what doesn’t work with Ning. Wired Journalists is the third Ning site that Sholin has worked on, and it’s probably the most successful.
Many things are required for a good Ning network, but first things first, a good network needs cultivation.
“If you build it, they won’t necessarily come,” Sholin said.
Sholin recommends not only promoting the site, but also having someone be a cheerleader for the site, working to create content and stir conversations up.
“You need to have some sort of human interaction with a reporter or someone in the newsroom to draw people to it,” he said.
This is especially critical in the early stages of a network. Any Ning network requires users to log onto another site — and a site separate from your core product. This can be a significant barrier to the success of a social network. To get people into the habit of coming to a Ning network (and, more importantly, interacting), it requires having dedicated people around to create new content and to start conversations.
Eventually when a site reaches a certain critical mass like Wired Journalists, this is less important. It takes time and cultivation, however, to reach that critical mass. Wired Journalists has more than 3,000 members and gets hundreds of visitors a day.
In the beginning, Sholin and the other co-creators, Zac Echola and Howard Owens, discussed developing the site in Drupal. They realized that would be much more time consuming than what they wanted to do. Ning allowed them to set up the site within hours.
“If you don’t have a Web development team in your newsroom, and you’re looking for a way to create a site that at least creates and opportunity to interact with users … Ning is a great way to do that,” Sholin said.
Some other topics discussed:
- Would you choose Ning again if you could start over?
- How specific should a topic be for a Ning site to be specific?
- How many users are needed for a quality Ning network?
- How do you get the most out of Ning?
- What tips or tricks do you have for people interested in setting up a network?
Site analytics are not just for Web developers, advertising execs or managers.
No, they are especially important for content producers. I’ve heard many people say that they never check site analytics of that they only check them on a monthly basis.
You should check daily. The purists will tell you that monitoring site analytics will cause you to produce shallow content that is link bait. That somehow all you’ll start creating is Britney Spears stories.
Those people don’t get it. Don’t listen to them. I monitor BeatBlogging.Org’s analytics all the time, and I’ve never written about Spears or any other celebrity. Monitoring the stats allows me to understand which content resonates with users and why.
BeatBlogging.Org focuses heavily on social networking technologies. I could guess which sites people are more interested in or what facets of each technology people want to learn more about. Or I could just check my site analytics.
Guess which social network usually shows up in the top search terms that reach BeatBlogging.Org? Not Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, Seesmic, MySpace, Brightkite, etc.
No. Ning. Time and time again people come to this site searching for information about Ning. We haven’t written a post on Ning in months. Still, people reguarly come to this site looking for information about Ning.
So, guess what? We’re going to start making more content about Ning. Now, I would have never guessed that people would be dying for information about Ning, but it’s true. It’s a network that many journalists and news organizations want to learn more about.
But, you’re probably wondering then, “Why should I check my site analytics daily? Surely, this trend is noticable on the macro level.” You’d be correct in one sense, but missing a larger point in another.
On a macro level, I can clearly see that people want more content on Ning. But I would have missed that yesterday a top search query to this site was “Ning complaints.”
Ning isn’t the easiest social network to use, and it can be overkill for many people. It’s got some quirks. People want to know about those, how to get around them and how to maximize the usefulness of Ning.
Another popular search query is, “Ning vs Drupal.” That query tells me that a lot of people don’t understand what Ning and Drupal are. They are not remotely competitors.
This is something that BeatBlogging.Org could help clear up. Ning is a site that allows people to make custom social networks, while Drupal is an open-source content management system.
The other huge advantage to frequently monitoring site analytics is that it can help shed light on why some stories where popular while others weren’t.
This might mean that you released content at the wrong time of day. Maybe your headline lacked SEO juice. Or perhaps you did a good job of marketing your latest content on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, etc.
Or maybe the content you produced just wasn’t in high demand. Sometimes we produce content that we think people want, when in reality there is a very small marketplace for it. Site analytics will certainly shed light on that.
There are a lot of valuable lessons to be learned from site analytics. None of these valuable lessons will cause you to dumb down your content. Rather, they can help you realize which content areas you’re undeserving, and they can also help you realize how to get the most out of your content.
There are many others, more detailed areas of Web and site analytics that we could explore. But I would strongly encourage all content producers to at least monitor which posts are popular, which search queries are popular and where referring traffic is coming from.
In my last post, I noted that Daniel Victor is moving on from his Ning network for his beat.
His experience setting up a social network for his beat hasn’t gone that well, but Victor is not giving up on using social and Web tools for his beat. This is just the beginning of his Web efforts and Ning has been a learning experience for him.
Listen to Victor discuss what went wrong, what went well and what he will be doing in the future with social networking for his beat:
One of the original 13 beat bloggers, Daniel Victor, is stepping away from his Ning social network that he built for his beat because of a lack of participation.
Ning is a service that allows people to set up their own social networks on any topic. Victor called his “Hershey Home,” because it was a place for people from Hershey, Pa. to talk about what was going on in their community. He also wanted to make contacts, and he did make some worthwhile contacts through the network, just not that many.
The problem was that the social network never got enough buy-in from the community, and Victor admits its not a very technologically inclined population. Just 36 people signed up and only 15 wrote something in the discussion forum. Only five members started their own discussions.
He’s not going to close the network, but he is stepping back and
concentrating on other Web efforts. Ideally, Victor would like to find
a community member to take over the network and try to make it into a
community gathering place. At first, Victor wanted it to be a place to discuss hard news, but he eventually realized that it would make more sense if it were a community gathering place to discuss any issue.
Victor, however, is not giving up on building an online community. His paper is launching a new blog for Hershey, which might allow for Victor to organically grow a social network. They are even allowing users to make their own blog posts (moderated, of course).
The idea of allowing community members to make their own guest posts whenever they feel like it might be a good way to get buy-in from the community. Whether or not community members will regularly make guest posts remains to be seen.
The other big issue with Ning is that it’s not part of Victor’s newspaper, The Patriot News. People have to go out of their way to get to Hershey Home. The new blog, however, will be part of his paper’s Web site. That should make it much easier to get buy-in from the community.
Kent Fischer told me that he wishes he started blogging before trying to set up some other social networking utilities around his beat, and Victor came to the same conclusion as well. Those efforts didn’t pan out for Fischer, but a social network organically grew around his blog. Once a blog gets established with regular users, a Ning network might be a way to take it to the next level.
In many ways, blogging before something like Ning is like learning to walk before you run. Establishing a successful, dedicated social network is difficult for anyone to pull off, especially if there wasn’t an online community to build around in the first place. A blog can give you that base to build from.
“At the beginning it showed some promise,” Victor said about the Ning network. “People were contributing a lot, but by the end the participation had gone down a lot.”
Victor originally hoped that people would make their own posts and that he would be more of a moderator, but he found out that he had to the catalyst for discussions on the network. Victor didn’t always have the time or energy after he got done with his other work to be starting discussions.
Victor also listed on his blog what worked well and not so well with Ning:
WHAT WORKED WELL:
- Though the network didn’t bear much fruit in terms of immediate translation to the print product, it did help create offline relationships that were very important. Contacting these people, either by phone or by e-mail or by messaging new members, meant I was able to make personal contact with 36 potential sources I might not have otherwise. A lot of public and private messages on the forum led to productive phone calls.
- As I detailed in an earlier post, the site’s mere presence was an advertisement for my willingness and desire to hear from residents. I called it an “Open for Business” sign.
- Due to my insistence that members use their full, real names, the quality of conversation was usually higher than some of the noxious forums that are used otherwise. The members often expressed appreciation for that.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK WELL:
- It hasn’t been the “Set it and forget it” reporting solution I hoped it might be. One time a big story broke, and I only had about two hours to gather community reaction. I took 20 very precious minutes to pull into the Panera Bread parking lot to use the wifi and solicit reaction on the site. I e-mailed all the members to let them know of my desire to hear from them. When I came back two hours later to see the mountain of riches that had come in, there wasn’t a single message in response. I ended up just calling one of the members.
- In a community with very little activity on social networking sites, it was difficult to find a full buy-in to the concept.
- The site did nothing to overcome what residents have repeatedly called a “culture of fear” when it comes to criticizing local officials. So in some of the most contentious and important issues, the ability to be anonymous elsewhere redirected traffic to those other forums.
None of this is to say that a Ning social network can’t work for your community, or that “Hershey Home” won’t be popular one day, but it may not have been the best first course of action for social networking.
Listen to Victor discuss what went wrong, what went well and what
he will be doing in the future with social networking for his beat:
Three of our beat bloggers are working in Ning.
Their sites are more or less built. None have actually sent out a formal request to any sources – but they will soon.
Before they do, I thought it would be good to examine and get feedback on two important questions.
1. How can we organize a Ning site
2. How do we go about the recruiting process (assuming you have already written your pitch)
To do this I thought I would list some of the Ning sites I know that are live – comment on the organizing principles and even ping the owners to see if they have any words of advice on either of the two topics above.
1. WiredJournalist – An incredibly successful open network. I think part of its success is due to the niche it is filling: A way to teach web newbies, for an industry in panic, how to get online. But WiredJournalists tapped into that in a brilliant way – they created a mission statement front and center, gave a list of five ways to get started. I like that the RSS feed is at the very top, with such a big community – it’s the only way to get oversight.
2. Next Newsroom: Originally Chris O’brien was going to build this in Drupal. In the end, however, he decided that he didn’t need everything Drupal had to offer – and as a result, it wasn’t worth the effort. What he really needed was a communication tool and that’s what Ning offers – albiet with a bit of a blocky design. I especially like the map graphic they have highlighted near the bottom of the main page. I also appreciate that they included RSS feeds to other relevant blogs.
3. Troopspace.net: One of the few Ning sites that – in the center coloumn on the front page has static, not dynamic content (ie: not a blog post or forum). The blog posts are on the right hand side and the forum is on the left. One complaint I have about Ning – the forum and the blog are functionally the same: There is no point in having two – it just separates the conversation. Going with one over the other is more about what kind of ethos you want (single voices and opinions versus discussion) and less to do with if you want a specific functionality. To its credit, Troopspace.net has the best banner.
4. Social News Central: Is a Ning site I actually started myself about two weeks ago. We already have over 165 members – all joined via word of mouth. We have a “group of the day” which we highlight on the left, to point out what other people are talking about – and at the bottom you’ll see we’ve tested (but haven’t used) a live chat feature.
Management: I can only speak for myself in terms of managment of the Ning site – but I will ping the owners of the Ning sites also listed above who I hope will feel publicly pressured by me – and will comment below (HA!).
Social News Central has only been up for two weeks – so it’s been light. Since it’s a completely open network, I did have to deal with one spammer. I simply deleted the content which was slightly offensive – although it was an attempt at humor. To figure out what to do with the community – I created a simple Google Form survey. If they want live chats – we will do it. If they don’t want any moderation or organized activities – so be it. I will simply watch.
Recruitment: Same as above: I think a good discussion on how these sites found members would be beneficial to any journalist interested in starting a Ning site up. I did recruitment in three phases.
Phase one: Just the closest confidants. This was maybe 5-6 people who weren’t really doing anything on the site, but I knew they’d get a kick out of the idea.
Phase two: The oh-so-cool “beta.” Leak it to a few people let them join and play with the site. Observe what they do and see where the site can be improved. Get feedback from them in terms of design. The beta had 25 or so people.
Phase three: Spread the word.
I don’t claim to be the expert – that’s just a rough analysis of the steps I took.
Now to get comments from other Ning site owners.
The San Jose Mercury News’ Green Tech beat is almost ready to launch a Ning site of their own. I’ve checked it out and it’s looking very clean (with a light green background) and I think will be easy for people to interact with.
Similarly, Education Week and the Patriot News have Ning sites as well – all three are ready to launch and probably will very soon (one even has a fantastic video introduction which I hope to re-post later).
I wanted to get in touch with Katharine Fong , the deputy managing editor at the San Jose Mercury News to find out how things were shaping up at, especially after their recent executive editor change.
With a drastic change like that in the newsroom it’s completely understandable for everyone to do a quick gut-check. But Matt Nauman and Kathy decided to move ahead with the beat blogging experiment, truly championing a mantra I think all newsrooms should adopt if they want to start a beat blog of their own: It’s cheaper and easier to just start something online than it is to hold all the meetings to decide whether or not to try it.
That’s not to say that people’s attentions are cheap: You don’t want to try an ill-planned experiment that involves readers and loses their faith – that is your bread and butter. But online tools for collaboration are quick and easy to use and cheap. Dirt cheap. Free. You don’t need to have meetings to discuss the cost analytics of beat blogging. If you are having that conversation, stop right now. The conversation you should be having is: Do we know how to do online organizing? That’s what Matt and Kathy have been circling around – which is great. That’s the shift a reporter needs to have in beat blogging.
Still, the change in managment and regular work load has understandably slowed the launch of the green tech social network. But as I have repeated to all the beat blogging editors/reporters – this is not a race and it’s much better to take it slow than rush into something and realize you weren’t prepared.
At this time Katharine and Matt Nauman, the beat reporter are thinking about the overall strategy of the Ning site. Do they give it a mission statement or let it run as it is? Should they start very small and grow organically, or try to push things as wide as possible.
For now, the goal is to seed the network without over-extending Nauman. This will be a difficult balancing act, but it seems that it is an integral part of it: While online organizing can help a reporter – we have to remember that we are still reporters.
That said, Katharine had lots of ideas about how the network can be organized and approached. Once this network launches it will be a live experiment.