Platform Review: Scoop.it – Brand as Curator Comes to Life

While a lot of attention is on content, brand as publisher and the ways a brand can push its message through the social, shareable formats of the social web, growing interest is in the curation aspect of establishing a complete brand presence.  Content curation can bring another dimension to a brands presence online, showing that it’s aware of and a proponent of those individuals and organizations interested in similar or related topics.  Being a convener of, as well as a participant in, the larger discussion alleviates the content burden and puts the brand in context.

One of the new tools to help accomplish this is Scoop.it.  The following is a review of the platform as posted on the Scoop.it platform where I used a free trial of the pro version they offered to kick the tires, create two curations (“Curationist” and the co-curated “MDigitial” curation with Greg Matthews.)

 Usability Overview – Curating the Content Stream

As brands begin to find more options to tell their own story, they’ll look beyond the brand as publisher model and to the brand as curator – or becoming a convener of conversation around a topic or industry.  Scoop.it promises to make finding, reviewing and curating content an easy proposition.

One of the challenges of curating content around a topic is being able to easily select from a stream of good content.  Scoop.it allows you to use keywords to pull in possible content to curate.  The challenge is that the search tool isn’t refined enough to eliminate unwanted content.  This returns results from individual Tweets that may not have anything to do with the topic other than a keyword. It allows you to remove sources from consideration, but this can be a bit more time-consuming that it’s worth.  Having only spent a few hours with the platform, there may be an easier way to refine results. (Originally began reviewing the platform Dec 20. Additional time revealed additional and compelling features – included below.)

Other Curation Options

In addition to pulling potential content in through keywords, Scoop.it also lets you enter specific URLs for the content that you’re interested in curating – a good option for adding a specific post to your curated selection.

Scoop.it also lets you create your own blog post to be published alongside of the other content you’re curating.  It’s the feature I’m using now to provide these reviews of the platform.

Curation Platform – Pros & Cons

As my free trial of Scoop.it’s pro edition ends, I’ve had a chance to test the features and functionality as a curation platform. My experience with the platform has been generally positive.

The features I liked the most include:

  • The ability to share curation responsibilities with others
  • The usefulness of the platform as a way to curate across keywords
  • Being able to add specific urls to your curation list
  • The browser plug-in that allows you to easily pull in items you’d like to curate
  • The blogging feature (which I’m using here) to add your own content to your curation
  • The WordPress plugin (although I haven’t yet set this up on my blog)
  • Easy to create and share new topics

Some things that could improve include:

  • Further refinement of the keyword tool to turn up more specific results, eliminating the number of results that are less useful
  • Spell-check in the blogging widget
  • The ability for those you share curation with to edit or add keyword filters
  • Overall UX could improve (some of the features that are hidden should be more intuitive)

I think platforms like Zite and FlipBook do a good job of bringing in content based on specific filters. Expanding the ability to pull in or integrate with Zite or FlipBook content over mobile and the addition of some of the features above could make the platform an indispensable tool.

At $79 per month for the pro edition, it’s a relatively inexpensive way for brands to test the waters and encourage curation.

UPDATE: Scoop.it President Marc Rougier left a nice comment related to the post. Specific to pricing he added, “I’d like to also complement your review: beyond the free version of Scoop.it, we actually launched three premium packages: Scoop.it Business ($79/month), Scoop.it Pro ($12.99/month), and Scoop.it Education ($6.99/month).” See more from Marc about the platform in the comments.

Final Assessment

As it stands, I like the platform because it’s a single tool with a single purpose and almost makes curation a simple task. It’s definitely worth taking a look if you’re considering ways to curate the broader discussion, themes and trends.  The ability to plug the curated content into a blog is also a useful feature.  If the filters were more refined, reducing the amount of work to dial in a topic, Scoop.it would be on to something.  But, it’s a platform I’ll look at as some of the brands I work with consider curation options.

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My Top 5 Professional New Year’s Resolutions for 2012

January 1 is a great day to lay out all of the things you’re going to do in the year ahead.  The day is crisp, and the intentions are strong. So, before daily realities and obligations undo those good intentions, here is my personal checklist of things I want to put effort against professionally in 2012. Some are tied to trends I’m interested in, others are personal interests.  Ok.  Let’s go year-from-now me. It’s time to get started on these resolutions:

Globalisms: Of course there’s a world beyond the geographic boarders we live within. But, there’s also a world beyond the social boarders of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.  I see all of the lists of the “YouTube of India” or “Chinese Twitter,” but to truly understand how the platforms work and the nature of the conversations in these channels, there’s no substitute for being in the channels, understanding the mechanics and types of conversations that happen there.  I’ve started to open accounts on platforms like Weibo in China and Hyves in the Netherlands.  I also started a Twitter handle a few years ago based on the premise that cultural differences impact how people use and engage in these channels. @Socialisms is where I share some of the news from these emerging areas.  In the new year, I resolve to continue my push into these new places, language barriers be damned.  Join me there.

Learn Chinese: Or any of the 10 primary languages in the world. If yours is a global brand, or aspiring to be one, understanding the social differences in those regions of the world begins with an understanding of language.  This resolution helps me better understand what people are saying on those new social channels I’m joining.  This is a pretty tall order, but I’ve found a few free apps that at least give me a fighting chance of learning to speak and understand the language.  Learning to write them is another story, but there’s also an app for that. In the end, Google Translate is only a click away. standing the social differences in those regions of the world begins with an understanding of language.  This resolution helps me bett

More Mobile: This is the perennial resolution. I’m fortunate to work in am industry that keeps me current and sometimes ahead of the mobile curve. But, I always feel behind.  So, more mobile apps on my phone, better understanding of how brands can embrace mobile and greater understanding of how mobile continues to evolve from a noun into a verb. Here are a few mobile apps I’m currently obsessed with:  Zite, Flipbook, Path and Scoop.it. If you’re not thinking about all of the ways mobile will impact your brand, join me in this resolution

Blog More: Blogging as a category didn’t even exist when I started my career. Today, there are more opportunities than ever toshare thoughts and experiences with unwilling masses online. I’ve steadily increased my blog posts over the past couple of years, but I’m still not where I’d like to be. In addition to conveying thoughts and ideas through text, I want to push farther into other mediums. This includes video, photo and audio. And, typically, we think of the publishing side of blogging – sharing our own thoughts and ideas, but a growing category is the curating aspect of blogging – or bringing in the thoughts of others by sharing blog posts and other content related to the discussion.  Look out 2012.  More of this, please.

Experiment, Experiment, Experiment: This is a fascinating time we live in. What used to take millions of dollars and hours of investment to take an idea from cocktail napkin to launch (I’m talking to you, tech bubble of 2001) can now be crowd sourced with dev runs that happen in real-time with real users all hosted “in the cloud.” What’s resulted is an acceleration of innovation – and it’s there for us all to play with. When I meet with a new web tool entrepreneur, app developer or social platform provider, the first thing I want to do is get under the hood and find what the real value of the platform could be for the brands I work with. I always want to do more of that – marry a big brand with a big technology to find something new in how that brand connects with its consumers.  It’s the thing that gets me out the door in the morning.

I’ve got a lot to do, so let’s get to it.  Happy New Year.

Change: How the Political Season Will Change Social Media – Infographics

This is the first in a series of posts that will look at how the brand as publisher concept and the shareable formats of social marketing will impact and evolve politics in the upcoming election season.  More political campaigns will embrace the tools of social media, bringing those tools deeper into the awareness and understanding of the general population.  And, in turn farther into the marketers toolkit.

One of the tools in the brand publishing toolbox is the infographic. Using pictures to tell a story has been around for a long time.  USAToday made the infographic popular in journalism.  And, today, more brands are using pictures to tell their story and to feed the insatiable social appetite for more content.  While slower to the social game, but catching up quickly, politicians and political campaigns are starting to see the value of the connected conversations of the social Web.  And, many are starting to take a deliberate look at their publishing models.

In the pending context of an election year, the tools of the social publisher, from blogs to Facebook and video to infographics, the strategy of telling your story through multiple channels and in multiple formats will expand.  It’s in this context of need and ability that the infographic will take off as a standard communications vehicle.  The ability to easily tell a story in pictures in a way that conveys data is a natural tool for political campaigns.  There are few places where confusing data meets confounded meaning than in the context of a political campaign.  Conversely, there are few context where clearly conveying a message though a single image can help convert those 63% of people who consider themselves visual learners into activated, educated, engaged and committed voters.

Below is just one of the early examples where an infographic, or data visualization, can be used to convey a political point and message. (No political affiliation implied.) While I can argue that this isn’t a true infographic, I think it’s one of the many formats data can take to help convey the point of it’s message.

Considering Content

The dirty secret of social media is that it requires a lot of content to establish and sustain a brand’s presence.  Content is the lifeblood of a brand’s online conversation.  Whether its a video, photo gallery, Tweet, SlideShare deck or Facebook update, there’s a piece of content that’s initiating or sustaining a conversation between the brand and its consumers.  Relevant, sharable content keeps the brand present in the consumer’s social stream and creates context and relevance for the relationship.  Content is also used to normalize contentious conversations and direct it into areas important to the brand. When creating content – whether you’re using it to initiate a conversation, establish a community or launch a product – should do one or more of the following:

  • Introduce – a theme or concept that others haven’t seen or heard before
  • Inform – people about something new and exciting
  • Inspire – others to think or act differently or to harness their creative passions
  • Incite – action, emotion or some forward-looking experience

With the burden of content growing for brands as they look to manage and grow community, it’s worth developing a deliberate approach.  Above all, content must be interesting enough to grab attention and compelling enough to share.  If no one is interested in your conversation, they won’t waste time talking to you or sharing your message.  Make relevant and compelling content often – your social media success depends on it.

Online Crisis Communication & The Impact of Social Media

With the continued growth of online mediums, from social media to blogs to forums and search engines, any crisis communications plan that doesn’t address the connected conversations and information online is at a disadvantage.  The degree to which you engage in those channels varies from brand to brand, industry to industry and depends on how interested your customers are in getting information there.  But, at a minimum, online channels should be accounted for.  And, for most brands, specific tactics should be included that address the proliferation of these online mediums among media and consumers.

The following outlines an approach to addressing the needs of a modern organization in managing the interaction that is enabled through and perpetuated by new communications channels and technologies.

Crisis Communication Readiness & Social Media

As a brand, you are a target online.  You can own it, or it will own you.  Gone are the days when a message traveled in a single direction.  The change that social mediums have brought is the ability of the channel to talk back.  For those with a deliberate approach to social media, this is an advantage.  As in traditional communications, a company’s message can’t be heard and important information can’t be shared without a channel to put the message through.  The same rule applies in social mediums.  The opportunity that social media brings is an unfiltered, immediate and direct channel to the public.  A deliberate, dedicated and integrated approach to social media increases a brand’s ability to communicate, manage and mitigate the impact of a crisis on a brand.

A viable brand presence in times of crisis includes:

  • A dedicated presence in social and online media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, company blog)
  • A pre-crisis presence that includes regular content posts and discussions with those who follow, post and engage there
  • An understanding of the most influential channels and individuals relevant to the brand and a way to instantly interact with them about the business of the brand (requiring relationships and understanding before a crisis hits)
  • A listening and monitoring program used to understand the volume, tone and level of engagement in social channels before, during and after a crisis
  • A fully staffed presence that includes a cross section of the organization to speed the information flow
  • An integration plan to address the speed at which information travels online – outlining the roles and responsibilities of each area of the business responsible for addressing a crisis
  • An executive-level understanding of the impact of social channels on the brand and a commitment to integrating social and online media into the brand’s response during a crisis

 

Taking it to the Next Level

For companies with an existing presence in social media, here are a few things to consider in crisis planning:

  • Consistency: The existence of a social presence also creates the expectation that the company will use social channels during a crisis.  The company has an opportunity and obligationto use these channels for the entire discussion about the brand, including during a crisis.
  • Staffing: During times of crisis, the brand should have resources to staff the discussion in these channels, providing regular updates and responses based on approved messaging. Delay in getting a message in the channel should be a result of anything other than the ability to get the message out.
  • Integration: Social media channels should enhance and support dissemination of information that is also happening through traditional channels.
  • Coordination: Close coordination between all channels will make engagement in social media an effective strategy to manage crisis situations. Other areas of the business should understand and be prepared to support the continuous, real-time needs of communicating in social media.

As consumers grow to expect more from the brands they do business with, a deliberate approach to managing the entire brand conversation online is fundamental to a healthy social presence.

Social Media: It’s Not Just for Marketing, PR or Advertising Anymore

There’s no doubt that social media is one of the more confounding things for marketers in recent memory.  Even the Internet itself wasn’t as disruptive for marketers as the open, connected consumer-controlled conversations of the social Web.  It’s a challenge that most companies will consider and reconsider for the foreseeable future.

One area that is challenging a company’s effectiveness in social media is answering the question, “who owns social media?”  It’s understandable that ownership is causing so much trouble.  On the surface, social media just is another channel.  Traditionally, channels of information flow in one direction – from the brand to people.  How, when and why a message gets out has an established set of rules. And, creating a message and paying for its dissemination is applied to someone’s budget.  If you own the budget, you own the decision about what happens with that budget, the message, the channel and so on along long-established corporate assumptions and expectations.

It’s comfortable to put social media into this structure, and it’s easier to assign it to a specific department to “figure out” or to “handle.”  But, some of those companies that have put social media into a silo are beginning to reconsider that approach.

The truth is, when determining who “owns” social media, you have to ask who “owns” the customer, or the public, or the stakeholder – because social media isn’t a mass medium.  It involves interacting with individuals in aggregate. And, chances are, this type of interaction involves more than just marketing, PR, advertising, IT or yes, even legal.

When you take another step back, you can also view ownership through the lens of the conversation.  Who owns the exchange of an idea, the image, or the feedback loop?  These are all part of the social conversation.  So, in the end, asking who owns the conversation gets more to the point than asking who owns the channel.

Unlike traditional channels, these channels are intended to be two-way mediums.  Programs that aren’t set up to expect, encourage, entice and promote that two-way interaction treat social media like any other traditional channel.  Unlike television, a print ad or even a press release, the content in these channels are intended to be consumed, shared, deconstructed, mashed up and responded to.

These are the inherent characteristics of social mediums that make them unlike other channels.  And, it’s why the outcome of using social media is unlike the outcome of using the traditional channels marketers have used for years.

The dynamic nature of the medium calls for all hands on deck to be able to cultivate and manage the one-to-one, two-way conversation that happens directly with individuals in full view of everyone. The people who just saw the billboard you bought can now talk back – not through the billboard, but through social media, and you’ve missed an opportunity if you’re not able to respond. Your new customer who just spent two hours on the phone with your call center but still can’t install their software is Tweeting at you, and your lack of a response is apparent to all of the others watching the social discourse.  Or, you’re experiencing an outage across the western portion of your service area and your customers are lining up on Facebook demanding updates.

These are all real issues.  And, each of them requires coordination across different parts of the business.  The same parts of the business that may have had trouble working together in the timeframes of traditional mediums driven by newspaper deadlines and insertion dates.  Now, with the real real-time pressures of social channels, it’s more important than ever for everyone to understand their role and know that their job now includes helping the company address and meet the expectations of a connected world with connected customers and connected issues.

(From “Unfollowed: Pentagon Deletes Social Media Office” | Danger Room | Wired.com)

There is a path to integration.  It’s not straight, it’s not easy, and it’s different for every brand.  But, it will become increasingly important to brands who want to engage in these channels beyond what they’ve been able to so far.  If you’re still running your social media presence in silos, it’s likely getting harder to:

1) See and show increasing degrees of measurable results

2) Grow your social communities – breadth, depth and reach

3) Manage the entire conversation about the brand – the good, the bad and the unimaginable

4) Create enough new, compelling content to keep the community engaged and interested enough to share with their friends

I’m going to tackle each of these points in another series of posts that will highlight what an increasing number of companies will experience this year, if they haven’t already – that social media isn’t the realm of one particular group or business area, but takes the entire organization to carry on a fruitful and sustainable conversation.

PART 3 – Mine! Mine! Mine! – Who “Owns” Social Media?

Who “Owns” social media? This is a question that keeps people up at night, because the question has a direct impact on who “owns” the conversation, the experience and (in the end) the budget. Ask instead, “Who owns the customer?” and the issue begins to expand and involve more functions along the customer continuum.  This same continuum exists in social media.  While customer service departments may be responsible for the direct interaction with the customer, can they also make a repair, schedule a product upgrade or install a new phone line?  The speed at which information travels in social media puts additional pressure on internal processes.  How quickly can the company respond, and in effect, “turn a complaint around?” How many steps are there along the resolution channel within the company? Can steps be removed?

The answer to each of these issues likely cannot be resolved by a single group; rather it is the responsibility of the entire company to ensure the customer’s experience is a good one.   In an attempt to break out who does what, below is a look at some of the general responsibilities for a social CRM program with a view of both the reactive and proactive functions in the social CRM continuum.

*These roles and responsibilities are generalities used to draw some distinction between functions. Lines can, and do, blur.

Lean-back & Lean-forward

Business Group Reactive Activity Proactive Activity
Customer Care  

(community-facing)

Monitoring and addressing messages sent directly to the brand through social media Proactively searching and addressing messages about the brand in social media; identifying systemic issues
PR/Community Manager  

(community-facing)

Monitoring and addressing direct messages from influencers Delivering information specific to broad company initiatives, messages specific to issues, and official company views; identifying systemic issues
Marketing  

Responding to the needs of customer care and the community manager team’s request for content Proactively engaging community managers to bring better, more frequent content to the channel; assessing systemic issues and operationalizing change
Advertising Bringing compelling paid opportunities in support and defense of the brand, including paid search, sponsored Tweets/trends, etc. Coordinating with the community managers & marketing to dial in advertising and search efforts to lead to the brand’s social channels when appropriate
IT Giving teams access to the tools necessary to monitor and engage in social media Becoming part of the process by advising on best-in-class tools for monitoring, tracking and engagement
Leadership Assessing the bottom-line imperative of social CRM; empowering teams to explore community needs Supporting the overall social CRM effort; approving operational changes; ensuring cross-business integration and cooperation