The 11th way to change the world through social media: a coordinated and simultaneous multi-blog post.
On May 12th, 2008, we published Ten Ways to Change the World Through Social Media as a guest post for Sustainablog. It was our first-ever guest post and came just six weeks after the launch of Max Gladwell.
We had a sense that this would be a significant step. We saw the potential for this content to establish the brand and clearly communicate the Max Gladwell message. This was our mission articulated in a headline.
The post became popular on Digg and generated plenty of discussion. We followed up five months later with 10 More Ways, which also found its way to Digg. The list became part of the Max Gladwell identity.
On May 12th, 2009, we published the third 10 Ways to Change the World Through Social Media, but we took a much different approach. As we considered the first anniversary of the list, it occurred to us that there might be a better way to share and distribute the content. There might be a better way to get it to more people who would find it valuable. The brainstorm lead to the idea for a simultaneous guest post across multiple blogs. Had this ever been done before? We weren’t sure. So we set a goal of publishing the third list concurrently on 100 blogs in a coordinated fashion. This is how it went.
As soon as the idea crystalized, we started reaching out to our blogging colleagues to garner feedback and get support. The response was almost universally enthusiastic. Our success rate was better than 95%, and we attribute this not just to the appeal of the message but to a predisposition among bloggers to embrace new ideas in this new medium. We tend to be an open-minded bunch.
The story was about changing the world through social media. And yet this exercise amounted to an experiment in changing the world through social media. In this sense, the social media was both a topic and a tactic, which is a founding principle of Max Gladwell.
The key piece of the puzzle was coordinating the simultaneous nature of the post. This would be a guest post authored by Max Gladwell, much like the original on Sustainablog, and though it would be published on multiple blogs, this would not be a re-post. The idea was for it to be viewed as original content by each blog’s immediate audience. Those who faithfully subscribe to that blog’s RSS, e-mail, or Twitter feed and who happen to be visiting at that moment would see it there for the first time. As such, the post might spark 100 simultaneous conversations about ways to change the world through social media.
We also decided to make the content open source. In other words, we proposed that bloggers could customize it and make it their own. We offered that numbers nine and 10 on the list could be wild-card spots, where they could substitute one or two “ways” of their own. Given our goal of 100 blogs, this had the potential to produce a total of 208 ways to change the world through social media. True to the spirit of open source, we also didn’t require any approval process for making changes or additions for any reason. The only restriction was the publication date and time: Tuesday, May 12th at 11:00 am PT / 2:00 pm ET.
Our friends at Triple Pundit opted to tailor the actual headline and in so doing pay us a most generous complement:
Cluetrain 2.0: Rob Reed, the venerable mind behind MaxGladwell.com had an idea today – get 100+ websites to simultaneously publish a post on ten ways in which social media can “change” the world. Longtime readers of this site know my affection for The Cluetrain Manifesto, written 10 years ago which states:
A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.
Rob’s site is devoted to this principal and to making the best, most intelligent use of social media for positive change – not just in business, but everywhere else.
We’re clearly fans of Cluetrain, as well, so this came a pleasant surprise. Incidentally, our favorite quote is that “a press release has all the dramatic tension of a phone number.”
Several days before the publication date, we supplied bloggers with the HTML content in a text document complete with links and images. For most it was a simple cut, paste, and publish. As Sommer Poquette of Green and Clean Mom remarked, we “made it way too easy to not be on board!” Several blogs set up author accounts, which we’ll use moving forward, while most just noted that this was the first guest post from Max Gladwell.
Below you’ll find links to all those who participated. The total was roughly 80, though not all published simultaneously. Note that the content is still available to be re-posted so we can reach the goal of 100. We’ll update this post with new links as necessary. And if we missed you this first time, please accept our apologies and let us know so we can add your blog to the list.
The 10 Ways post included a specific Twitter strategy. We realized the likelihood of retweets was high given that it would be so widely published. However, we went a step further and attached a unique hashtag, which was noted in the introduction. We asked people to use #10Ways if they wished to take the conversation to Twitter. So not only could we monitor the headline itself, but we had a unique mechanism for (a) aggregating and following the conversation, (b) promoting it as a Twitter trending topic, and (c) getting a sense for the level of engagement. The strategy appears to have been successful.
All told, we estimate there were more than 4,000 Tweets about the post and it could easily be 5,000. Unfortunately, Twitter Search doesn’t go back farther than 1,500, so we have to estimate based on the Tweet rate. We can clearly see that there were more than 900 Tweets using the specific #10Ways hashtag. This speaks to the level of engagement with the content because one had to be aware of it in order to use it.
At its peak, the post claimed two concurrent spots in Twitter’s top-10 trending topics. The #10Ways tag was fourth, while “World Through Social” occupied the fifth spot. It appears Twitter gives a preference to hashtags. Otherwise, these two topics fluctuated in the top 10 for the bulk of the day.
When a single blog post becomes a trending topic on Twitter (this could be a first), it’s much like hitting the front page of Digg with one key distinction: the traffic goes to more than one place. It’s distributed. We suspect that this can provide more aggregate traffic than Digg, especially considering Twitter’s growth, and that the quality of the traffic, measured by page views and time spent per visitor, would also be greater. But this is pure speculation at this point.
Since Twitter’s trending topics is now integrated to the main user interface, it exposes these topics (together with the underlying content in this case) to all of Twitter. There’s a natural curiosity about why #1oWays or “World Through Social” is trending. And when these topics trend, it becomes self-reinforcing if the story is compelling. It exposes the content to a huge new audience, which might also decide to retweet it.
This particular strategy might only be possible under a scenario where the content is distributed across multiple blogs. It requires a collective effort of Tweeting and retweeting for a single headline to trend. When it does, though, it drives awareness across the Twittersphere, which drives traffic to any and all of the blogs involved. It’s quite possible that many of the blogs that posted 10 Ways received higher-than-average page views for that post. This would be counter intuitive because we typically rely on a combination of search and exclusivity to drive traffic. Twitter alone may have disrupted this formula.
And more than a week later, the #10Ways and “World Through Social” Tweets and retweets are still coming.
We plan to survey all those who participated, both as a blogger and a subject of the post, pursuant to publishing a detailed case study on this social media first. We’re analyzing the data that is currently available and hope to report on everything in July, which will coincide with the next 10 Ways list. But first we’re interested to hear various perspectives and points of view about this experiment.
Is it possible this represents a new content distribution model? If content is well written or produced and if publishers agree to an embargo (date and time), is this method of distribution viable? Does Twitter make it more viable? If so, could it sustain itself with relevant, embedded sponsorships or advertising?
This assumes, of course, that content authors and producers maintain high levels of integrity and transparency. It also assumes that publishers will be willing to post duplicate content, albeit in a coordinated and simultaneous fashion, on a frequent basis. The quality of the content may have to overcome any perceived loss of value in not being unique. Or the Twitter strategy would have to pick up the slack. Then again, publishing duplicate content has historically been the norm.
This model is not all that different from the Associated Press…except for the part about providing the content free of charge. In our distributed scenario, the author of the content (and/or their partners) can monetize it through embedded ads and receive fair compensation for their work in proportion to its quality and performance. Publishers can monetize the page where that content resides, provided the advertising messages aren’t competing. This is obviously something they’d know beforehand and could decide accordingly.
It’s possible that this model could provide a solution to the imminent downfall of journalism and the Fourth Estate. Because it’s not newspapers we’re concerned about. It’s the content they publish and the vital role the press plays in our democracy. Just as we no longer need CDs and music labels, we don’t need newspapers and publishing conglomerates. We can do without the dead trees. But we do need journalists, and journalists have to make a living.
We’d love to hear your thoughts, either in the comments or privately. And if you’re a blogger or publisher of any size who would like to be included on the distribution list for the next 10 Ways post in July, feel free to contact us.
Lastly, in the spirit of #10Ways, feel free to re-post this content (whole or in part) on any relevant blog, pursuant to starting your own conversation about this social media experiment and a new content distribution model.
The 10 Ways Blogs
These are in no particular order (except maybe the first few):