Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Geoff Livingston goes after "vote for me" syndrome

On a blog devoted to Bad Pitches, Geoff Livingston explains why he won't be voting for all the people begging him for votes...for conference panels, for blog awards, for "influencer" lists, and so on.

He says: "For the magazines or products behind it, this is complete self-promotion--and for the request-makers, it feels like desperation!"

I do feel his pain, absolutely.

Not even bringing up their egregious Influence Project, but when Fast Company decided to shift from doing their own reporting and homework to name their "Top 25 Women in Tech", as they've done for the past two years, to running a popularity contest instead, I was deeply disappointed. Traditional media goes on and on about the value of "real" journalists and "real" journalism, But I guess they discovered the lure of getting others to do the work for them...and of racking up meaningless, valueless page views in so doing. [Full disclosure: BlogHer was on this list the past two years, and I fully expect us to drop right off of it, given we haven't "campaigned" at all.]

But I also know why organizations enable community voting...reasons beyond the obvious answer, which is: Link bait.

Sometimes organizations actually want to honor and act on what their community thinks or likes or supports. And whether you provide a public forum for the community to share such thoughts, or ask for those thoughts in non-public ways, it's unrealistic to think that people won't want their community to support their efforts. For many in the BlogHer community, their communities want to support them...and might feel disappointed not to have the opportunity.

I also know why collecting such support publicly makes sense for organizations. It answers one of social media's clarion calls: Transparency.

But it also can set up popularity contests...which are by very definition exclusionary and antithetical to community-building (if you care about building a diverse community, of course).

Geoff asks for a better way to crowdsource, and I'm with him on that. BlogHer has tried a variety of ways to collect community opinion, and none seem perfect.

But he's also right that the crowd needs to take a harder look at their community and how they communicate with them...because in all likelihood, their community has radically changed since just a few years ago.

Back in the day (oh, say, two-three years ago) your community may have mostly been found via your blog and the blogs of those you followed. I'm not going to get all crotchety old man on you and call it the good old days, particularly since I'm a full-on Twitter fiend, but it is likely that people who read your blog chose when and how to read your blog. Whether they visited your site or subscribed in a reader, blog reading wasn't quite a real-time, always-on kind of activity. And it's quite easy to scan headlines, especially via a reader, and decide what topics interest you and dig deeper to read about them.

Fast forward and now our communities also encompass Twitter and Facebook.And now the headlines pretty much *are* the content, what with that pesky 140 character thing.

And, at least on Twitter, your community is very unlikely to be going to the landing page of each person they follow and see what they're up to one by They're going to dip their toes into the river of updates coming at them via a Twitter stream or Facebook news feed.

Twitter and Facebook are also both more conducive to casual banter and keeping in touch with those with whom you have looser ties.

If you blog about the contest your blog is participating in and ask your readers for support, you are more likely to be reaching people who have a vested interest in you, your success, your blog, your talent. And let's face it: You'll probably blog it once. Maybe once again when voting comes nearer to a close. You probably take great care that your blog content is of value to the reader community you know you have and balance any self-promotion with a whole lot of the kind of content that got you those loyal readers to begin with.

If you FB or tweet the same plea, however, you're likely reaching that reader community...PLUS a bunch of people who don't really care. I don't mean they don't care in some harsh heartless way, I just mean that they're expecting your banter and bromides in that forum...they may not even really follow the more substantive expressions found on your blog.

And then add this little wrinkle: Because the stream of information is so full and goes by so fast, you start re-tweeting or posting your little plea more often...maybe once a day. What's the harm? OK maybe once for the morning crowd, once for the evening crowd. So what?

Well, before you know it you're begging...frequently and annoyingly. The "harm" is that you've crossed a line into spamming. Maybe not for everyone. And maybe most folks are like me and just turn a blind eye to the content that doesn't interest me. "Take the best; leave the rest", that's my motto.

But it's also likely that a whole lot of your friends, fans, followers and readers think exactly what Geoff is expressing...and just aren't taking the time to tell you or tell the world.

So we, as an organization, keep looking for that better way to crowdsource that Geoff asks for.

But we, the crowd, can also be a part of the problem or the solution.

Which are you?

Labels: , , , , ,

You nailed it. When it comes from a community member with whom I have ties, then I'm happy for them and do my part, but when a tweet in my stream is from someone I don't know very well, it feels like they have crossed an imaginary line in the spamming sand.

And, the lists...ugh. I hate the lists. I love you, Babble, but you sure do know how to give a mom-blogger a complex.
I absolutely loathe lists. Anything "top" or "best". It's actually quite impossible to measure, and it's depends on your definition to boot.

That's when I cry "Link Bait!!!" for sure.
Totally on the spot with this. Until the crowd stops commenting and supporting this kind of activity, organizations will keep offering them. Mindful organizations will do more, but I wouldn't expect that to be the norm.
Nice read and thanks for shared.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?