Pass It On: Content, Marketing To Be Shaped By Social Media
Facebook has fundamentally changed the way magazine publishers need to understand content presentation and marketing strategies, David Kirkpatrick, author and former technology editor at Fortune magazine, told Seventeen Editor-in-Chief Ann Shoket during a keynote interview at the American Magazine Conference, held earlier this week in Chicago.
Kirkpatrick's bestseller, "The Facebook Effect" has been nominated for the 2010 Financial Times and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award. Sales have no doubt been helped by the release of the movie "The Social Network," which Kirkpatrick told the crowd contains a number of historical inaccuracies, including the idea that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was inspired to create the service because of a break up with his girlfriend, whom he later was unable to even get to be his online "friend."
One thing that is true in the movie, Kirkpatrick said, is that Zuckerberg's former partner Eduardo Saverin did not believe enough in Facebook, leaving the upstart company after only a few months—an attitude he warns publishers not to take toward social networking as the media and marketing landscape shifts under their feet.
Understanding Users as an Audience
Magazine publishers need to think of their customer primarily as the reader rather than the advertiser, Kirkpatrick believes. "The readers have been the subject of surveys and focus groups, but ... we don't really want them to mess up what we're doing. In fact, the world we're living in now does not allow for the luxury of that anymore. If it ever worked, it can't work now."
Fundamentally, Facebook represents the empowerment of the individual, and publishers need to recognize the extraordinary ease and variety of tools made available to individuals willing to share and pass on information.
Every Facebook user is a publisher and content creator, Kirkpatrick noted. "You gain authority that you never [previously] would have had as a consumer, customer and follower," he said.
The trick is to get users, as they publish information about themselves, to also, as Shoket put it, "publish information about our brands to their friends."
Kirkpatrick said publishers can take advantage of Facebook's viral power by "thinking about what it is about your content that makes them want to pass it along"—such as an effective image to accompany the headline. "Realize that is increasingly the way people will be reading your article on the Web, through pass-alongs," he said. "So when you publish an article on the Web, experiment with what it looks like when you pass it along on Facebook. See what that postage stamp looks like. Is there really a truly relevant postage stamp?
"You need to really be thinking about your content as a 'pass-alongable' quantity, because that's how your readers think of it."
Essential to Marketing Strategy
As for marketing, "The creative process now begins in social," Kirkpatrick said. Marketers have realized that you can design and test campaigns through this medium. "That is what is leading the smartest ad agencies as they are designing a campaign ... They are not going to think of the magazine ad first in most cases."
Marketers and their customers are even using social media campaigns to help redesign products or shape overall customer experiences, as Starbucks has done in redesigning its stores based on online feedback and engagement, Kirkpatrick noted.
The other key marketing component is Facebook's unprecedented "targetability," enabled by Facebook users' willingness to share personal information. "[Facebook does] use that very aggressively to help marketers target buckets of people," he said, noting small, local businesses as well as national brands are seeing success with such strategies.
The willingness of younger users to share every aspect of their lives is difficult for those over 30 to understand, but has profound implications for media and culture, Kirkpatrick noted. "The young are forcibly pulling the old into their world of transparency," he said. "There are plenty of communities in the world today where, if you are not on Facebook, you are not engaged in the social dialogue."
According to Kirkpatrick, Zuckerberg's philosophy and approach reflects his generation's belief that transparency makes us better people, and the more the world knows about us, the better we will be. Unlike baby boomers, the average 20-something today accepts this as intrinsically true, he says. "There is a generational divide that is serious," he says. "Even if Facebook tomorrow had a huge performance crisis or privacy crisis and went away, something else would come along that made it happen even faster, so this world is changing, there's nothing we can do about it and we have to learn to surf that way."
The takeaway for publishers, he says, is to stop disparaging the medium and figure out how to make content shareable, as well as how to think in terms of making the "social piece" effective for advertisers.
Referring to a list of magazines with the most Facebook friends, Kirkpatrick noted this was only the beginning. "Everyone on that list obviously has a lot to be proud of, and still obviously a lot more work to do, because nothing is static in this world."