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.