November 23, 2008
FOE3 Liveblog: Session 3 - Social Media

Our last panel of Day 1, liveblogged by Christina Xu, current undergraduate student from Harvard and whom some of you know as one of the organizers of Roflcon last year.

Joe Marchese (
Amber Case (Hazelnut Consulting)
Sabrina Caluori (Director, Marketing and Promotions, HBO Online)
Kyle Ford, (Director of Product Marketing, Ning)
Rhonda Lowry (Vice President, Social Media Technologies, Turner Broadcasting)

Alice Marwick (grad student @ NYU)


  • RL: Has been working in social media for a while. She uses a separate online identity to research virtual worlds. It's hard to grok virtual worlds without understanding social media, so she took a role at Turner to get people to understand identity as construct, leveraging talents across mediums and how that can transform you & the marketplace.
  • JM: Brings brands into social media. We're the answer to how you're going to make money off of all of this. It's not easy: brands have the opposite problem of media (instead of where media is going, it's where their brands are NOT going). Each person is a micro-publisher, and now brands need to have relationships with lots of people. There's a myth that brands reach people through social media, but people reach people through social media.
  • KF: Direct of product marketing @ Ning. Been there for about 3 years. Crossed 600,000 social networks. Before that, was at Yahoo TV & Movie and Fox, doing television site.
  • AC: Cyborg anthropologist, studies what it's like to be on the online space and what happens when people upload parts of themselves online. Blogs for Discovery Channel.
  • SC: Marketing at Aggregates social media activities that happen across the company and try to gather them back into the brand by keeping communities online past specific events.
  • Alice Marwick: Yochai says that online spaces are hybridized (commercial, amateur, academic, government, etc.) all interacting together. What current social practices/user practices are you seeing emerging from this blur?
    • JM:
      • Playing Palin card: answering Mike Arauz's question from instead.
        • Social media is not new, social media does not equal user created content
        • Other forms of social media: email, IM, places where there's a conversation is happening between two non-professional publishers.

    • KF:
      • We're an interesting case because we're not Facebook or MySpace. Each group is designed and joined around a specific topic area. We see a lot of brands creating social networks around themselves: some brands are getting more comfortable just sponsoring and taking a step back and letting the fans go wild, so you see the user-created content mixing with official content at the top level.
        • Example: 50 cent: mixing and matching and has a community about the hip hop scene in general rather than making the community explicitly about him.
    • SC:
      • The niche communities still exist: you still have smaller groups (and they exist even more). But what these large social networks has done is made it easier for you to transverse these mini-networks: I can like a movie, and support a candidate, and contribute to a nonprofit, and I can share all of these things.
    • AC:
      • I like the idea of hybrid spaces. Google is like a research + business: mobile while still constrained by traditional business practices. On Twitter, an individual can act like a business and have a brand that expands like a normal brand does, while a business can act like an individual, so there's a lot of crossover value. The mutable space allows them to become something they could not be before.
    • RL:
      • One of the reason we don't have more Kim Jones is that there's a new divide. Not a digital divide, but folks that didn't grow up online do not understand the basic norms of the industry. Most people don't understand what it means to "live your life online." There's a giant gap, so I tried to phrase it a little different. Yochai's book, Henry's book, and the "Medici Effect"
        • Powerful ideas (new renaissance) comes from unifying ideas into something better (sum of the parts)
        • So I talk to the CFO to the value of diversity of input. He understands the value behind hearing from a diversity of groups and how that builds perspective. I try to take away the mystery of social networks and technology and emphasize the construct.
    • JM:
      • That's part of what's confusing about social media. It's not one-dimensional. There's 3 things that media looks for: reach (for their message), (audience) research, reaction (Customer service). These things have always been siloed off: you buy research, you buy reach, and you dedicate resources to reacting. The big problem I see in the agency world is that they get confused when they want to do something that's social, because all of those 3 things come in one. Which department pays for it? But everyone wants the benefits. It takes a shift for people to understand that you have to drink from the firehose all at once.
    • KF:
      • The job of the future is community manager.
    • SC:
      • Our show runners are still trying to get up to speed on the technology, so we have to think about what the message is that we're sending out into that social space. We have to think about getting involved with the creative talent behind those shows rather than just looking at it as one package.

    • JM:
      • That's the challenge with why you need someone to manage it. One thing that executives love is ROI. One analogy I use is driving your car: 0-60 uses a lot of gas, but once you get to 60 you can coast. Social media is kind of like that, but you can't do a post-mortem after getting 100,000 users. That's like getting out of your car.
  • AM: Media companies have long used the term community to describe the people who are gathering around their products or brands. Are the social media communities different from these older communities?
    • KF: Let's take the case of a TV show. It's the same audience, but they're excited now to have a new voice. They are probably excited about the opportunity to express themselves to each other and, especially, to the actual content creators.
    • AC: They have a power of co-creation. They can co-create their experience with the brand. The brands can't making unilateral decisions anymore, it has to get in there and respect and work with the community, and the community will continue to support the brand. It turns the brand into real people who actually care instead of a weird dark corporate cube.
    • SC: True Blood has this rabid fanbase that's been growing exponentially week after week. We're getting some great quotes from the community about how much they love the show, so we pulled quotes for our "critic spot". We emailed them to let them know that they were going to be on the network. The moments after it aired, there was a thread that popped up on the wiki that said "OMG HBO is actually listening to us!" We came on and when we started to reply to people, there were naysayers who didn't believe it was actually HBO. Once that trust was established, the behavior in the community changed. You see more threads where people were trying to get on air. One thing that the technology has allowed for is this 2-way communication, which we couldn't do in traditional communities.
    • JM: The community is a good actual representation of the people who are actually consuming these products. Like Legoland: it's a great experience, and once you go you're a Lego fan for the rest of your life. Now imagine if Lego only advertised going to Legoland everywhere else: those who went would be hooked, but you're losing everyone else. People like being asked by brands to reach out to their friends. What we're doing is allowing every person to get sponsored like an athlete would. Now, we're donating to their charity for however much value they're giving to our brand by sharing. People really responded to not being tricked into getting a brand on their page--they appreciated just having a corporation reach out and asking them to put the brand on their page. People are intentionally sharing certain things with certain of their friends.
    • RL: I'll disagree with one thing: it's not easy. Relationships are hard. If your whole life you've practiced means of communication where you come home, say what you did and go to bed, but the two-way conversation is not simple. It's really hard. If you've developed a whole wealth of resources who are practiced broadcasters and you have to ask them to react in real-time, it's really hard. The transition is naturally slow because we have built large-scale industries around the old model. Example: say what you will about Second Life, but I led CNN into Second Life. iReport is a citizen journalism site, an opportunity off-brand for people to submit their news stories. Built on a white-label service with all the neat packaging. Business model for people to record real news, and CNN now uses that as a news-gathering source. CNN didn't REALLY do that until Virginia Tech, where CNN got very compelling and disturbing footage from cell phones at Virginia Tech. The people in the gunfire did it because it was the easiest way for them to share their news. If you look at the virtual world of Second Life, there are stories happening there that are important there, so can you not do news stories about important things there? The most valuable part of the SL experience has been learning how to talk to people in real life about real issues.
    • JM: It's easy to understand what you're supposed to do, it's hard to actually do.
    • KF: You could bring someone in from the outside to do it, but the likelihood of that depends on your organization.
    • JM: Being good at social is like being good at a cocktail party--you want to be funny, you want to be nice, you want to bring something of value into the conversation. It's easy to know that you're supposed to do this--it's hard to actually do.
  • AM: What are the best practices for engaging w/ communities in a social media space?
    • SC: Understand where your audience is and speak to them in the language that makes sense in that environment. Example: we used to talk to bloggers (4 or 5 years ago) when we were getting press releases out. The first mistake we made was to directly send press releases to bloggers. It was such a disconnect for me that people don't understand that it's so easy to send an email to that blogger in the voice that their blog is written in and explain why this is of value to them rather than blindly sending something out. Understand the message and the medium of the messages and offer something of value to that community. This is something I fight against every day at HBO, this attempt to push broadcasting everywhere. Putting a trailer on facebook is not offering value: think about how we can actually make the fans' experience better.
    • KF: Yeah, people will think "Yeah, Twitter is cool!" and then carpetbomb it without researching the social norms and the protocols. That's why I think the Obama twitter account is really interesting: he hasn't updated it since the election. It'd be interesting to see if it gets picked back up.
    • AC: Nike tried to make this skateboarding shoe. So then they went to local skateboarding communities and did embedded ethnographies and understood their language and started selling it at tiny little shoe stores that were really trusted by the community and people started buying the shoe. Every social group has a base, and you need to tap into that. If there are 26 different social networks, you need to speak 26 different "dialects". if you don't speak the language, you need to find someone who does.
    • JM: You need to be iterative. It's not linear path. We are a community in and of ourselves--about a half million people--and I had no idea 2 yrs ago what it would look like now. You need to figure out what your benefit is and make it easier to share. User generated content should not be distributed amateur production. So if your social media strategy involves everyone producing something, you're in trouble because most people are NOT producing. Instead, you should make it accessible to people who just view.
  • AM: Beyond marketing, are we seeing new forms of entertainment content that take advantage of social networking benefits?

    • KF: Nike is a good example. It took running (which is solitary) and put a social spin on it so that you are competing your friends and what not. I think the iPhone gaming platform thing will be really interesting.
    • AC: LHC is my example. The meme exploded on Twitter, and everyone wanted to watch it and so the webcams were clogged. So I started using Flickr to make a copy of a webcam stream and allowed people to watch it live through Twitter. I got tired and didn't want to do it but now I had a following/responsibility, so I passed it like a baton in a race to my friend and transferred my power. That experience was weird in a couple of ways.
  • AM: Many young people get criticized for their use of social media, for blurring the private/public and not being careful about what they reveal.
    • JM: I think it's interesting. If I meet you in person, I wouldn't ask you your political/religious affiliation, but if I meet you on facebook I know about that stuff instantaneously. I really feel that there is an increased fragmentation of media, which allows people to become more niche as people. It used to be that if you wanted to dress up as a vampire, you wouldn't because of social norms. But now you can find a community where that's perfectly normal. Think about more mainstream: we used to have 3 channels giving us our news, and they had to be centrist (due to advertising), but now I can watch Fox and MSNBC and get totally different views. So now people get more and more niche-y. Now, we see the elections get increasingly hotly contested. I'm slightly concerned, but I don't know where we'll end up.
    • RL: I do believe that there will be an entirely new field of research about identity emerging. These new spaces allow us to be more than what we are--what we want to be. Identity is a construct and it has many facets and it can change. The problem with that is that while it's real today, our society as a whole doesn't see it that way. They see people with fragmented identities as possibly ill. The possibility that you can express your fragmented identities through social media, but society as a whole doesn't accept this yet. So there's near-term pain and long-term benefits. We're at the cusp of the near-term pain. I advise people to make up a name and explore the world and once they understand something, to then "out" themselves once they're comfortable.
    • SC: I have a hunch that there's going to be a backlash. The youngest generation are coming up with facebook/myspace as part of their lives. It's part of their growing up where they put everything up online, but the generation right after that is starting to pull stuff down. I wonder if the youngest generation is going to have a moment where they say "holy shit, maybe I put too much stuff out there before I understood the impact." Facebook, since they're keeping all of that data and making it available to developers, is going to start receiving a backlash about how much info they have.
    • AC: This isn't new: safeway cards, where you get discounts so that they can do statistics on what you're buying . But they also give you benefits by giving you more what you want. Presentation of self in online life--you have to think about who your audience is to know how to present yourself. If you know that your online life is going to last longer, then you need to consider how you're presenting.
    • KF: College orientations now have blurbs about this to warn people about it.
    • AC: Reading Laura47's comments on backchannl--it's true that as everyone does it, the stigma is reduced. There's going to be so much data that companies won't even be able to datamine, and it'll be okay because everyone is up there.
    • JM: Chevy Tahoe's mashup debacle. Chevy eventually took it down, but they kept it up for a long time--kudos to them. It was a victory for them: nobody saw the ads and thought "Oh my god, they DO have bad gas mileage"--no one was surprised. On another level, at the time lots of auto companies were trying to stop production of everything except SUVs. If they had done something like this and saw this strong vein of people who care very strongly about the environment, they can use this to understand that certain decisions will hurt them in the long run.
  • Backchannl: Can you talk about the Motrin ad?
    • JM: Basically, Motrin did an ad about mothers carrying babies in pouches in the front and the back and how it's a pain for the mother. What happened was Twitter/Facebook went crazy. People were tweeting back and forth about how terrible the Motrin ad was. What happened there was that social media was a megaphone for opinions. I guess the only lesson from that is that opinions will be amplified.
  • Backchannl: What was the importance of social media on HBO Voyeur?
    • SC: There was a blog used in the development of the campaign, but that's about it.
  • Backchannl: Do you have any strategies for negotiating between young people and older ones in companies? What has worked for you to bridge this gap?
    • RL: it's not an age issue, it's a scholarly issue and an environmental issue. What I've done is developing a grassroots campaign around the company for people who understand social media and want to spread the word. I encourage them to become ambassadors to talk to other people and show other people how it works.
  • Backchannl: Are there structural power inbalances in social media? Does the idea of commonality erase differences
    • KF: You have to be able to get to the computer and phone, so that's cutting a lot of people out. There is a learning curve and an economic curve.
    • RL: Schools are cutting off access to these sites that the children will need to develop these skills. So it's not democratic yet.
    • JM: You have to better manage your online self. Using Twitter looks easy, but then figuring out what was tweetworthy and what wasn't was hard. It's a very valuable asset. Some people build a critical mass/following and have more power. Symmetrical (Facebook)/asymmetrical (Twitter) social relations. So I don't think there IS democracy in it. Some level of expertise is necessary, though.
    • AC: People need guides. You need a sherpa who can teach you how to get up the Mt. Everest, otherwise you spend 4 or 5 times as long to get used to the space. Right now, we have no idea how to map our social spaces. People have to be taught how to save time and space.
    • SC: What is democracy? How can you have true democracy when you have corporations involved? I represent a major media company and that always has a power shift. What we try really hard to do is strip away some of that corporate shell to try to make it more democratic, but that will never happen.
    • JM: Online social life HAS to impact offline social life. We mail these pink stress balls to people, and people really care that their online actions are creating real world things.
    • SC: We really try and reward fans for their contributions. You'd be amazed at how far a DVD or a t-shirt can go. We're trying to feature these fans who have done really creative things and then rewarding them with real-life goods.
  • Backchannl: Social media is a vital authorship space for many minority groups. Can panelists speak on any brands that deftly use this space to engage minority consumers?
    • Univision
  • Backchannl: How does anonymity on the web relate to social media?
    • AC: It allows people to be who they want to be. The choice provides an outlet.
    • RL: It depends on what you're trying to achieve. We talked about the nature of communities, and what you have to understand is what the community is about. Is it about reciprocity or reputation? If it's about reputation, what does it mean to be anonymous? Panopticon, self-inforcing values of the community
    • SC: There have been really good examples of social media used by anonymous sources. SecretTweet, PostSecret. There are outlets for that voyeuristic impulse that social media encourages.
    • JM: Identities can be stolen which is a problem with anonymity (real Shaq vs. fake Shaq), so the best way to prevent this is for you to be participating. There are places for kids like GaiaOnline where it's kid-safe because it's anonymous, which allows them to do cool things like working in a world economy at a young age.
  • Backchannl: What happens when a good goes rogue? Digg, for example, with the DVD encryption issue? Is there a way to rein it in, or do you just have to let it go?
    • KF: It's really hard to say as a blanket policy, you have to deal with it case-by-case.
    • SC: It's something we struggle with every day. We knew fansites would popup, so we created fan toolkits with pre-approved stuff that linked back to our official stuff so that you still have some control.

    • KF: It's like parenting.
    • AC: It's important to just not step on people.
    • RL: If the outside is a totally different world with a totally different culture, we wouldn't figure out what to do by asking each other (which is what media groups do.) You just need to ask people and figure out what they want.
    • JM: You have to be willing to accept that with a hot-button issue, people are going to disagree. You can't really maintain credibility and police things, because there are common spaces. As soon as you start deleting contents, then it's editorial and then people are upset when you don't take down something else that's offensive.
  • Longevity of social spaces: what happens if a social network's demographic dies? Does that social space die?
    • KF: Depends on corporate policy. Interesting and sensitive territory.
    • JM: People have killed themselves on or because of social networks.
    • RL: Some of my friends have cards with usernames/passwords so their family can log on if something happens and let people know.
  • Have we seen any exciting new fiction that is native to social media?
    • AC: Two examples: a novel written with Twitter, and Mad Men Twitter. And Chad Vader.
    • JM: Unlike a show or a series, past performance is not indicative of future performance, so it'll be hard for advertisers to buy in.
    • RL: Superstruct is an Alternative Reality game that was recently released. I think they are creating all kinds of new fiction and compelling entertainment beyond what we understand as the classic forms.
    • KF: On the video podcasting front, Ask a Ninja could not exist without social media.
    • JM: Following gives momentum to content. The line between a game and a story is kind of blurring.
    • SC: Fanlib, fanfiction incorporated into media.
  • Backchannl: What is the most powerful emerging shift in the social media landscape for 2009?
    • KF: Mobile social networking, which can be creepy when used wrong but can be really cool.

    • AC: Everything has a certain amount of space, and you can fit a certain amount of data into that space. The little chunk that works for everything is like an atom of social information. Everything is getting smaller. And the speed with which data can be exchanged--interoperability.
    • SC: Consolidation of social networks through simple tools.
    • AC: It's a time-value liability when they have to update multiple things.
    • RL: What does it mean psychologically to people when we're in the economic situation that we're in? I think there will be a blending of online activity and face-to-face because people will need to feel that personal exchange.
    • JM: Every single year I hear that this is the year for mobile advertising, so I wouldn't look for huge shifts. Look at the behaviors that are out there.
    • AC: I think w/r/t economy, resource sharing is going to become more prevalent and important. Twitter meetups about raising chicken.


  • JM: If you just think about social media as a reflection of real world social interactions.
  • KF: I don't like the phrase "double viral loop"
  • AC: Make a lot of mistakes, or you won't know what's going on. Don't worry about it too much, just start doing it. Worst thing that can happen is that no one pays attention.
  • SC: Listen, especially if you represent a big brand. Try to tell the people who make all the decisions. That's the trick.



I've found that social networking is the domain of a few vocal users. We see that with our audio books.