Social Aggregators

Reflecting on 2010, I have noticed that Social Media aggregators have become a popular tool for many social media marketers. They come in many different shapes and forms, but essentially these tools help brands bring together disparate conversations across multiple platforms. Through aggregation brand are looking to demonstrate to their audience the volume of conversations around their products or services. The idea is that aggregating multiple streams of conversation into a single view will give the general public a holistic view of a conversation and thus the impression that their products or services are popular. It will also provide a single, easy to find location to allow new consumers to engage with an existing conversation. Brands are looking to use an aggregated page as a launch pad for existing influencers to engage with new advocates. Thus, aggregation will bring in fresh thoughts, opinions, and feedback to the broader conversation. I believe this is still an important component of a healthy community.

IBM and other companies have made attempts to use content aggregators across several events and programs. For IBM the initial use of social media aggregators has been around our large conferences around our 5 major software brands (Lotus, Information Management, Rational, Tivoli, WebSphere). We look to leverage the existing crowd at the conferences. Our attendee’s come together and have a great deal of stimulating content and face to face interactions that will prompt them to share and post their thoughts and ideas around our products and solutions. Perfectly sound logic. Yet, I do not believe that the tools I have seen thus far have done enough. Content aggregators need to evolve and develop beyond pulling content into a single view.

Media has always been a way to organize and rally people together. Radio, TV and the web have all been a way for a message to reach a broad audience. Aggregators are missing this very important process. What I want to see from an aggregator is the ability to help a reader find people relevant to what they are looking for. When I say “finding” you may think I mean search, but I think its more than just search. An aggregator must help a reader “discover” new people that are relevant to them. Relevant people can be subject matter experts, customer support, analysts or advocates. There is a person behind all of those status updates and posts.

Social media aggregators do a respectable job aggregating from the main social venues (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube). However, for a company like IBM, most of our customers are posting and engaging in forums specific to their industry or domain of expertise. Such forums can be found on our own developerWorks sites, but many of them are run and managed independently. These are great sites for our customers. People can easily connect with others like them and find the support and guidance that they need. I believe that the current generation of social media aggregators are limited because they do not capture these sites. More importantly, they require that marketers be aware of the sites and must manually aggregate content from these sites. As sated before, I don’t just want to be able to search and find content on these sites, as a reader, I want to quickly find the content and people that are experts. I want to know more about them and understand the contributions they make to the discussions.

Basically, aggregators do what they say they do….big deal! We need more. We need them to be effective, meaningful and to help the reading see the big picture.

I think I can go on about how aggregators need to do more. So I will stop here. However, I think the right thing to do is explain more about my approach. My next post will be on the 3 P’s of social media. This will help give some more context.


Reflections During Transition

Indian Pundit

So its official, I am moving out of my Social Media Strategy role with the Information Management brand at IBM, and into a corporate position.  This must have been the worst kept secret amongst the IBM Social Leads.  None the less, everyone that needs to know, now knows.

I will be a part of a team that will help to define and build our SocialCRM strategy.  I know it sounds really cool, and it definitely is a great moment for me professionally.  I feel a renewed sense of passion and enthusiasm for my work.  However with the new position comes the challenge with solving a real problem: How do you make social media a part of the business while delivering strong business value?

So, my next set of ramblings will be a series of Posts called People, Places and Posts.  The following is a transitional commentary from moving out of the strategic day to day management of social and into really building something for the business.

At IBM we have strong group of social media strategists and we have often been called the social media guru by others in our various segmented brands.  The amount of social media talent that is at IBM is amazing.  Recently Mashable listed IBM as one of the top Social Media Employers of 2010 (  I would agree with that assertion.  It’s not just good press.  As a firm, IBM has not only embraced social but is looking to lead the way.  There are some really smart people in this organization that definitely respect and admire.  Many of us are often referred at social media “guru’s” or “mavens” and I have always struggled with this label and believe its too soon for such a label.  I even believe that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg should not be given such label.

Let’s forget all the cultural references that make me cringe every time I am referred to as a “guru” of any sort (still has a great deal of spiritual and cultural meaning for me).  Specifically, I struggle with such labels because social media is a new sociological phenomena (vs a technological one) that has many nuances and dependencies.  To use them requires both art and skill.  The most important reason I think the label fits is because people have not figured out how to make money using social media (I mean make good money…).  This is not just simple transactions rather social needs to account for a significant portion of revenue.  When you have that figured out, then you can call yourself a social media guru.

Guru also means that you have gained wisdom in a practice that you have mastered.  Don’t confuse knowledge with wisdom.  They are very different.  The people that really benefit from social are not those people that are social media experts, rather they are experts in a particular subject area and use social media as a tool.  For example, our DB2 leaders Conor O’Mahony and Irshad Raihan both embrace social media.  They also show up as strong influencer’s in many of our social media analytic’s/reports.  Conor and Irshad have really masted the database space and have gained wisdom technically and from a business perspective.  The content of there engagement with their constituents does not change.  Social just enables a wider audience.

The social explosion has matured, but it is changing so quickly that I don’t think anyone can truly understand let alone predict what is going to happen.