Tag Archives: new media

As Ebook Dust Settles, Publishing’s Future Remains Bright

Not quite six years ago, in the waning moments of the inaugural Digital Book World conference and shadow of the iPad’s disruptive (for all of the wrong reasons) reveal, I offered some closing remarks that expressed my optimism for the future of publishing.

“If we’ve learned anything from the Internet and its growth from the early days of AOL and Compuserve to the right now of blogs, Wikipedia and Google… there is an insatiable thirst for ideas. People are reading more than ever, and that’s not a threat to publishers, it’s an opportunity.”

At the time, any stance that even remotely suggested traditional publishing wasn’t actually on its death bed, or that ebooks weren’t going to be as transformational as digital music or, god forbid, that maybe the iPad wasn’t the publishing savior every tech fetishist insisted it would be — any sense of optimism that the industry could survive, maybe even thrive, was met with scorn and snark. And not just from outsiders with no skin in the game but, way too many times, the call was coming from in the house, often full of self-loathing and desperate for attention.

And yet, in these final days of 2015, here we are, with a traditional publishing industry that’s evolved to include new players and business models, alongside an independent publishing industry that’s steadily growing and continually evolving, too. We’ve seen a variety of interesting and ill-conceived experiments on both sides come and go, lip service still being paid to independent booksellers and libraries who soldier on anyway, and pundits who randomly move the goal posts whenever’s convenient.

What we haven’t seen are the radical disruptions that so many predicted were right on the horizon… there? No, over here? Wait, there it— #cmonson

NOT DEAD YET!

The generation of young readers now entering their adult years had a richer diet of superb books published for them than any before. Raised on “Harry Potter,” “The Hunger Games” and “The Fault in Our Stars,” they’ve had books as a huge part of their lives, and have watched those books become excellent movies, expanding their imaginative hold. Having grown up online, they are all of necessity writers and readers. As this generation comes to the market over the next decades, their demand for great and exciting books will fuel a huge growth in writing and reading.

Michael Pietsch, CEO, Hachette

The Reading RoomI was amused and annoyed by the predictable snark on Twitter in reaction to Pietsch’s op-ed, but not really surprised. What did surprise me was his unexpected validation of one of the primary reasons I unexpectedly (to most, myself included) joined a publishing startup two months ago.

As of October, I’m the father of TWO teenagers, and the list of things that make me feel like the proverbial old man yelling at kids to get off his lawn seems to grow longer with each passing year. Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitch, memes, emoji… OMFG!!!

In the spirit of “Go with what is. Use what happens.” though, one of the main things that intrigued me about the new gig was the audience they’ve attracted: 76% of our registered members are younger than me!

In a member survey we conducted in October, right after I started, 66% of our US members reported reading more than 48 books per year; 38% spend more than $26/month on books; and 78% still read print. (On a delightful side note, 72% also borrow print, ebooks, and audiobooks from the library. LJ‘s Patron Profiles finding that borrowers are buyers still holds up, haters!)

WE’RE ALL DIGITAL IMMIGRANTS

I’ve never bought into the idea that so-called “digital natives” would turn away from print anytime soon, or that they’d be too distracted by Angry Birds and Candy Crush to bother reading anymore, partly because the term “digital natives” is stupid and reductive.

I was born in 1969 and grew up with an Atari 2600 and Commodore 64; I made short FILMS with my G.I. Joe figures and a Super 8 camera; I self-published a newsletter for my high school fantasy football league with desktop publishing software and a dot-matrix printer. Years later, I learned more about the internet from four old white guys than most 25-year-olds will ever know; everything else I taught myself.

Lately, I’ve been fascinated by my teenage son’s reading tastes evolving almost identically to how mine did at his age, and how he decides between reading something in print vs. ebook, or juggling between reading, playing games, and watching movies. After a few fits and starts, he’s now starting to make his own videos, too.

And yet, as of December 3, 2015, despite viral YouTube videos that imply otherwise, I haven’t seen any news reports that someone’s been born with a computer chip in their brain and USB port in their ass, so there are no digital natives, only digital immigrants.

STILL AN OPTIMIST

I am thrilled that, six years after taking on the mantle of “Chief Executive Optimist” at Digital Book World and, later, seeing it outlast its more antagonistic competition, there’s still a sense of optimism about the industry’s future. I’ve certainly had that optimistic outlook challenged over the years, especially when it came to seeing firsthand how libraries are mistreated and devalued (again, the call is usually coming from in the house!), but I’m thankful for Pietsch’s optimism.

The ebook dust may be finally settling but the industry itself still has a lot more changes looming on the horizon and no one should pretend otherwise. What hasn’t changed, though, is our insatiable thirst for ideas, for stories told in a variety of media and formats, including books.

As Pietsch noted, the generations coming behind us are both actively engaged consumers AND inspired creators with their own stories to tell; the publishers (and publishing-adjacent partners) who are able to meet them halfway and engage authentically have nothing but blue sky ahead.

Margaret Drabble

Gaming’s Killer App: Twitch?

Twitch on Xbox One

While I try to stay on top of the new shiny in all media, I typically avoid being an early adopter of anything, especially when it comes to technology. Surprisingly, I snagged an Xbox One Day One Edition, partly because my non-gaming wife was intrigued by it, and three months in… I regret nothing!

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed several of the first wave of launch games, including Forza 5, Need for Speed Rivals, Killer Instinct, Peggle 2, Tomb Raider, and Rayman Legends; and I spent several hours last week enjoying the hell out of the Titanfall Beta. Beyond games, I consider Xbox Fitness a killer app that nicely demonstrates the huge improvements in Kinect while only hinting at its true potential.

In fact, it’s the non-gaming aspects of the Xbox One that I find most intriguing because I don’t believe “next gen” will ultimately be defined by graphics, and the first real example of that is Twitch.

What is Twitch?

Funny you should ask. But first, some context…

Gamers on YouTube: Evolving Video Consumption

First, as gamers moved from researching to purchasing and playing, we discovered that they viewed brand released and community-created videos, but relied on them at different times. Before a game came out, fans mostly watched content released by the brand, such as announce, gameplay demo, and launch videos. A previous study found that 92% of gamers research a title before buying, and that brand-released game video is the most influential piece of publisher content.

Post-release, those who purchase a game switch their attention to advancing through it and engaging with that game’s community. Our data showed this in action, as walkthrough, how-to, and game powered entertainment videos became the focus after launch. Looking at the lifecycle of a game from pre-launch to post-launch, community-created videos effectively doubled the amount of views the top selling games would have received through brand-released content alone.

tl;dr: “Gamers are an important driver of brand engagement, as they create, curate, and share content.”

And that’s where Twitch comes in and things get really interesting.

One million broadcasters strong, Twitch surpasses Facebook in peak traffic

Netflix, Google, Apple, Twitch. Which one of these companies doesn’t fit with the others? Twitch, the startup which lets players broadcast and watch live streams of video gaming action, is not yet a huge public company. Yet it ranks among these web titans as one of the largest sources of broadband traffic during prime-time hours, according to a new study from the cloud and network infrastructure firm DeepField.

Twitch announced today that is now has more than 1 million different users broadcasting on its platform each month. That helped it push more traffic across the web than big names in the streaming video and music business like Hulu, Amazon, and Pandora…

The rapid rise in broadcasters is due in part to a new platform for Twitch’s streaming service, a home-console system. Before the release of the newest Playstation and Xbox units, Twitch was for PC gaming only. “About 20 percent of our broadcasters are now coming from the Playstation 4,” says DiPietro. “That shows us there is a whole new audience with a hunger for the ability to stream their games.” Twitch also integrates with the Xbox One, though that feature has not officially rolled out yet.

How Twitch is crowd-sourcing an amazing Pokémon multiplayer game

Twitch Plays Pokémon was launched less than two days ago but has already amassed an impressive viewership. More than 175,000 people have watched and played Pokémon Red/Blue through the Twitch channel. And slowly but surely, and with thousands of luckily timed and errant commands, players are making progress. Earlier today, the game’s thousands of players managed to defeat the Pokémon trainer Misty.

Can 80,000 people play this video game together?

The page has been viewed more than 10.6 million times, with the number of active users peaking at about 81,000.

“This is one more example of how video games have become a platform for entertainment and creativity that extends way beyond the original intent of the game creator,” said Matthew DiPietro, vice president of marketing for Twitch. “By merging a video game, live video and a participatory experience, the broadcaster has created an entertainment hybrid custom made for the Twitch community.”

Twitch game streaming coming to Xbox One on March 11

The feature will be patched in to Microsoft’s console for the North American release of Titanfall. Twitch adds the ability to live stream games, join games with broadcasters, use voice commands to create your own game broadcasts, archive game clips, and later watch those clips on any device…

“From the broadest perspective, live video is becoming the social connective tissue in the gaming community,” vice president of marketing for Twitch Matthew DiPietro told Polygon last year. “The way families use Facebook, gamers are using Twitch. Watching gameplay has been a part of the game experience since the very beginning, since I was 8 watching my brother play Space Invaders on Atari. This has always been part of the experience. We just have taken it and put it in 2013, in a world where we have broadband capability and 24 hour internet.”

I’ve messed around with Twitch a little bit, mainly to check out games I’m curious about (eg: Project Spark looks amazing, and could be yet another killer app for Xbox One), but my general experience with gaming videos is right in sync with Google’s findings:

Community-created videos effectively doubled the amount of views the top selling games would have received through brand-released content alone… Gamers are an important driver of brand engagement, as they create, curate, and share content.

User-generated content is as valuable (and sometimes even moreso) than branded content, and that applies to both pre-purchase research and post-purchase engagement.

Combined with its already solid PC and PS4 connections, Twitch’s even deeper integration with Xbox One has it poised to become gaming’s killer app. And with valuations of far fluffier companies like Instagram and WhatsApp going through the roof, how long before Google or Amazon (or, god forbid, Facebook) comes knocking at their door with an offer that will be hard to refuse?

UPDATE: Not long at all, apparently!

YouTube is indeed close to securing a $1 billion buyout of live-streaming service Twitch, and will have fended off multiple suitors including Microsoft if the deal goes through, according to people with close knowledge of the talks. The two companies have agreed on a price and are working out details such as how independent the Twitch company and brand will remain, said one person close to the deal who asked to remain anonymous. Twitch is said to have evaluated possible bids and decided on Google’s YouTube as the best fit to help the company scale in line with its massive growth over recent years.

Interestingly, Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion, too, but I suspect Google is going to see a far more immediate and viable return on their investment via Twitch, as long as they don’t push the integration with YouTube too hard.

Yahoo Bets Big on GIFs, Porn, and Fickle Teens…

I’m not sure why I dislike Tumblr so much (aka, LiveJournal for Dummies), but I really, really do. That they’ve officially been “valued” at $1.1 BILLION dollars thanks to Yahoo’s desperate flailing for relevance doesn’t change that opinion.

“Tumblr is redefining creative expression online,” Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said in the announcement. “On many levels, Tumblr and Yahoo couldn’t be more different, but, at the same time, they couldn’t be more complimentary [sic]. Yahoo is the internet’s original media network. Tumblr is the internet’s fastest-growing media frenzy.”

via Yahoo acquires Tumblr in $1.1 billion cash deal, ‘promises not to screw it up’ | The Verge

When Google acquired Blogger in 2003, it was a smart move that tied directly to their core ad business, with the visionary bonus of foreseeing the value of user-generated content when it was still scoffed at.

Yahoo + Tumblr, though…?

Tumblr actually became huge because it is the anti-blog. What is the No. 1 reason that people quit blogging? Because they can’t find and develop an audience. This has been true of every blogging platform ever made. Conversely, blogs that do find an audience tend to keep adding that type of content. This simple philosophy boils down to the equation: Mo’ pageviews = mo’ pages.

But Tumblr does not conform to this calculus, and the reason is that a large percentage of Tumblr users actually don’t WANT an audience. They do not want to be found, except by a few close friends who they explicitly share one of their tumblogs with. Therefore Tumblr’s notoriously weak search functionality is A-OK with most of its user base…

Most Tumblr content falls into three categories:

  1. Photos of young people’s daily lives: studying, buying things, hanging out with friends. Many of these photos are from Instagram or the Tumblr mobile app, which is now quite good.
  2. Entertaining memes and gifs they find on Tumblr and re-share with their friends. A teenage friend of mine told me recently that he tries to post something to his Tumblog on an hourly basis — which requires endless scouring of other Tumblogs for re-bloggable content. Fortunately, the Tumblr Dashboard is designed specifically with this goal in mind: consume lots of things and “reblog” easily. This is where the topic-based photobloggers add value to the ecosystem; it’s why we see Tumblr encouraging the seeding of “rebloggable” content — such as live-Tumbling The Grammys.
  3. Porn and near-porn collections for personal use, usually under a different pseudonym.  (Protip: searches on many keywords at 11 p.m. yield VERY different results than the same searches at 11 a.m. And there’s a NSFW setting if you truly don’t want to see any of it.)

via Tumblr Is Not What You Think | TechCrunch

Yahoo acquiring Tumblr 10 years later (after badly fumbling GeoCities, del.icio.us, and Flickr, among others) is like the drunk uncle showing up late to a baby shower with a stripper and a trained monkey. Even the “announcement” via GIF feels forced and desperate for attention.

Yahoo Tumblr GIF

I know plenty of people who use and love Tumblr (I even occasionally use it, but do not love it), and I don’t see this acquisition really affecting anyone’s opinion either way, in the short term, at least.

But, it’s highly unlikely that Yahoo will ever see an acceptable ROI on this acquisition, which will almost surely lead to the kind of tampering that avid users will notice and ultimately not like, and as every social media platform that has come and gone has learned, a free service is only as valuable as its users deem it to be, and the fabled “wisdom” of the crowds is only exceeded by its fickleness.

On the other hand, if it truly is just a “credibility” play as some have argued [NOTE: porn = credible nowadays? Um…ok.], then the tech world has way too much time and money on its hands and I’m in the wrong damn business!

(Yes, I know. This is just ANOTHER data point! Sigh…)

UPDATE: More on Yahoo’s porn problem with their new acquisition:

11.4% of Tumblr’s 200,000 most visited domains are adult; 16.6 percent of Tumblr traffic happens on adult blogs; and 22.37% of referral traffic from external sites comes from adult websites, according to a study by the SimilarGroup…

The greater rights issue at play here isn’t limited to porn, of course: Virtually all sites that are driven by user uploaded content have had to contend with users uploading content they don’t have the rights to, to which anyone caught up in YouTube’s frequent purges of copyright-violating content can attest. But because adult content exists in a rarified legal state, one very different from any other form of content, the copyright issue adds an additional wrinkle that creates a potentially ugly legal situation that Yahoo will likely want to avoid.

The plot thickens…

via How Adult Tumblrs Could Land Yahoo in a Legal Pinch | Fast Company

 

Big Change for GOOD: When Publishing Content Isn’t Enough

336/365 By DorteF

336/365 By DorteF, via Flickr

GOOD was founded to do as much good in the world as possible and doesn’t feel like simply publishing content is going to accomplish that goal as much as it would like. We need to mobilize and organize a larger community of people than we employ and we felt like asking people to get involved without giving them a way to get involved (via a one-way, publishing-only platform) was very hypocritical. We feel the need to go beyond just telling people what to do or bringing things to their attention; we want to start finding ways to not only inform people but also to give them ways to make a difference.

Douglas Sellers, CTO of GOOD

I’m still pondering last week’s surprising news that GOOD laid off most of its editorial staff and was making a controversial pivot on an intriguing business model I’ve previously argued could never exist in the world of corporate publishing:

Equally important, they treat their advertisers like partners not just a revenue stream, exhorting them to “authentically engage” their audience, not just pitch products at them. In their media kit they state that they are “working to create partnerships that help businesses make money and do good while engaging our audience in a powerful way.” There is no rate card.

In the world of corporate publishing, where faceless investors with little to no experience in publishing make short-sighted decisions to squeeze every potential drop of life profit out of their “portfolio”, a magazine like GOOD could never exist. That it does anyway offers hope for anyone willing to think a little differently.

Continue reading

Random Thoughts on a Summer Friday (In Which I’ve Buried the Lede)

Tracks go under the railroad bridge, by By DDOTDC

Tracks go under the railroad bridge, by By DDOTDC, via Flickr

Over many years (10 as of next February!) and many iterations, this blog has typically been reflective of my most passionate interests of the moment, and after an emotionally exhausting year of following the Presidential election back in 2008, I shifted gears to focus on publishing and marketing and have been on that track ever since. It’s been a particularly rewarding track that arguably led to my last two jobs (“platforms” are for more than selling books, you know), the latest of which has often found me too swamped to blog with the depth and frequency I tend to prefer.

Here, at least.

While Google+ hasn’t been the personal Facebook or Twitter killer I’d hoped it would be (yet), it has become my primary blogging platform of late, where I don’t feel as limited on topics nor as compelled to deliver in-depth posts. Unfortunately, Google still hasn’t seen fit to offer a native RSS feed, so it feels a little isolated, but I recently found a way to hack one together, and you can subscribe to it here if you’re so inclined.

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Why DRM is a Toothless Boogeyman, Ebooks are like Video Games, and Amazon is the Winner

Kindle 3 by kodomut

Kindle 3 by kodomut, via Flickr

“Problem is, this is too little, too late and will have almost no effect on Amazon and Apple. These companies are far too popular (and, by the majority of customers, well loved) for the removal of DRM to make a difference. Did Apple’s removal of DRM from songs on iTunes have much of an impact on either Apple or the competition? No. Did the fact that Amazon came into the MP3 market with DRM-free music right from the start torpedo iTunes? No.”

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, ZDNet

Repeat after me: DRM will not save publishers; neither using it, nor dropping it.

Based on the steady increase in ebook sales over the past few years, it’s reasonable to conclude that the average reader doesn’t really care too much about DRM. They’re apparently bigger fans of the platforms Amazon, B&N, and to a lesser degree, Apple, have built to purchase and read ebooks, and the ebooks themselves don’t have the same emotional connection as those they buy in print to keep on bookshelves. As such, legitimately or not, from the consumers’ perspective, “lock-in” isn’t the factor many think it is, or desire it to be.

More importantly, though, beyond the shiny gadgets and apps, readers are fans of authors and genres (and, sometimes, even publishers), and while selection varies amongst the major e-tailers (especially Apple), there’s an interesting comparison to video games that I’ve been mulling over for a while now. It’s an imperfect but workable analogy, where the big hits are almost always cross-platform (including PC and, increasingly, mobile), while the exclusives tend to align with each platform’s respective strengths and core audiences (especially mobile).

In console gaming, exclusive first-party titles are often among the perennial best-sellers (especially on Nintendo’s platforms),  while third-party games fight it out for gamers’ limited time, attention, and disposable income. The biggest sellers often spawn successful franchises and spin-offs, but even more frequently, a ton of copycat, rip-off shovelware, similar to the mobile space where, pre-KDP, Apple successfully leveled the playing field for independent game developers and the app store has been flooded with me-too apps.

In PC gaming there’s a bit of a twist, where Valve’s Steam platform is effectively the Kindle, DRM included, though, as I understand it, lacking Amazon’s strongarm tactics, perhaps because Valve was first a successful “traditional” game publisher, including some extremely popular franchises like Half-Life and Portal.

I think that you either embrace the new approaches or you go away. I mean Sega and Atari and lots of other, you know, Vectrex, Commodore, you either figure out how to move forward or you get left behind and I don’t think it’s any different. As soon as Valve stops doing interesting, innovative work we’re gonna be left behind and we’ve all been around long enough in the game industry to know that and you have to be pretty myopic not to realize that just because something used to work a certain way there’s absolutely no reason for them to expect that that’s going to be the tickets to being successful in subsequent iterations.

Gabe Newell, co-founder and managing director, Valve

ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: AMAZON WINS?

In publishing, Amazon’s Kindle is the only “platform” currently in a position to challenge its “third party developers” (aka, traditional publishers) for content in any significant way, adding their own imprints to the flood of “independent” self-publishers who arguably helped drive the Kindle platform to its current dominant position. B&N doesn’t have the resources to compete on that front, and Apple clearly lacks the interest.

It’s not a huge stretch to posit Amazon as the reverse-Valve of the ebook world, constantly pushing the envelope in unexpected ways, aggressively experimenting with pricing, developing a core of popular franchises, while staying focused on delivering and optimizing the best consumer experience.

[NOTE: All of those links go to examples of what Valve is doing, and each one has an Amazon equivalent, to varying degrees, as well as offering lessons to traditional publishers on how to compete. I’ll leave the “What Publishers Can Learn From Valve…” post to someone else.]

Amazon has a potent mix in its diversified arsenal that presents an unenviable challenge to traditional publishers who don’t have their own platform to compete with them (a la Steam), and who have yet to figure out how to balance the digital needs of their brick-and-mortar partners (independent booksellers and libraries) with the powerful demands Amazon feels entitled to put forward.

At least three major publishers seem to be banking on the still-delayed launch of Bookish, but if it doesn’t include a robust inventory of content, competitively priced, with a user-friendly, cross-platform distribution strategy AT LAUNCH, it’s likely as DOA as I predicted last summer.

Now, the $100,000 question is: If Amazon has truly won this round (and I think they have), does that automatically mean traditional publishers have lost the fight? I don’t think so, but how they choose to get off the mat this time can’t be related to DRM, pricing schemes, or rope-a-doping the “traditional” business model.

Bookish might ultimately be a wild roundhouse that misses and leaves them open for a body blow, but I believe the underlying desire to connect directly with readers and provide them with a valuable service is the right strategy. Finding the combination that works, though, is going to be the tricky part, and the recent charges of collusion, legitimate or not, are only going to make the need to move towards aggressive co-opetition even harder to pull off.

Rethinking Engagement: Facebook and Permission Marketing

I attended an interesting seminar on Facebook advertising earlier this week, presented by Jordan Franklin, Director, Social Solutions at Clickable, as part of the Social Media Society‘s Social Media Smarts Breakfast series. Franklin’s approach was refreshingly pragmatic, and included an insightful overview of the history of Facebook’s monetization schemes:

  • Their ill-conceived Beacon (which violated users’ trust);
  • Their ill-fated Conversion Tracking (which inadvertently proved they couldn’t compete with Google);
  • Their current, loosely defined “social metrics” (which shift the analytics goal posts from conversion to reach and engagement, attempting to align Facebook as more of a competitor to broadcast media than search.)

The latter is likely no surprise to anyone who doesn’t buy into the search vs. social debate and understands that the two are, and always will be, complementary. Look no further than how Google is using G+ and the +1 button to enhance search results, not replace them, and presumably by extension, improving the relevance of the ads they serve.

The bulk of the presentation focused on how to best leverage Facebook ads, including some practical tactical advice as solid takeaways:

  • Facebook ads focus on awareness & branding, engagement & fan creation. Less emphasis on performance, conversion, and direct response.
  • Split-testing ads: separate campaign/audience simplifies reporting, removes Facebook’s algorithm bias from test.
  • Facebook is prioritizing content ads (sponsored stories) over headline/image/text unit.

During the Q&A session, I asked about a valid testing scenario for a Facebook campaign and a Google AdWords campaign, and Franklin advised it was an apples-to-oranges issue, in line with his perspective on Facebook’s shift away from conversion metrics. That led me to thinking about how best to use Facebook Pages now that Timeline is the default and tabs are even less useful than ever.

Content is, as it’s always been, the current and future King.

Is Facebook the New Inbox?

Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them… Permission doesn’t have to be a one-way broadcast medium. The internet means you can treat different people differently, and it demands that you figure out how to let your permission base choose what they hear and in what format.

Seth Godin

Inbox Zero badge, by David Lima Cohen

Inbox Zero badge, by David Lima Cohen, via Flickr

I’m a firm advocate for the power of permission marketing, and I’ve never boarded the silly “email is dead” bandwagon, but there’s no question that competition for attention in the inbox is fiercer than ever. Facebook has made several missteps over the years, abusing the trust its users (often ignorantly) place in the platform, and while I expressed concern about their Open Graph initiative’s possibly heralding the “death of permission marketing,” based on their continued growth and ability to drop $1B on one of the most inane tech acquisitions ever, they are arguably winning the battle to make social sharing as frictionless and pervasive as possible.

Of course, what’s troubling for me personally as a digital skeptic, has to be explored professionally as a potential opportunity, and Franklin’s presentation inspired some thoughts about how to effectively leverage Facebook without being evil.

Franklin posited that a ‘Like’ isn’t a statement, “it’s the start of a transactional relationship with a brand,” which I immediately translated to “permission marketing.” Unlike clicking ‘like’ on a post somewhere out on the wild wild web, when someone likes a brand’s Page on Facebook itself, while they may in fact be making a statement, much more importantly, they’re giving that brand permission to appear in their news feed along with updates from their friends and family.

Permission is a privilege to be taken very seriously, no matter the channel that permission grants access to. Whether it’s the inbox, the news feed, or the living room, the best way to ensure that your permission doesn’t get revoked is to consistently deliver value.

Of course, while email marketing has evolved into an art with clear metrics to define its value and direct its evolution, social media still struggles to prove that it’s worth the investment of time and resources to do it right.

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/glecharles/status/189707012005834752″]

Leveraging Social Metrics to Give Good Content

While Facebook Insights offers solid post-level analytics, they aren’t quite as actionable as standard email metrics, but are more like web analytics with a twist. eg: You can’t communicate directly with everyone who liked or commented on a specific post, but you can retarget email subscribers who took a particular action and send them a relevant follow-up message. Like your website, though, you can get a similarly granular view of how your content is performing, and use those signals to refine your content strategy.

Similar to an email newsletter, the potential lifespan of a Facebook post isn’t limited to the moment it’s posted, and more like a website, content on Facebook can be staggered throughout the day and the week. As with a website, individual Facebook posts are also far easier to share and/or engage with directly, whereas most newsletters are typically designed to drive traffic to a website where sharing and engagement (or commerce) can happen.

My general approach to Facebook follows three basic rules of thumb, none of which include spending time or money on pimping out your Timeline or creating custom tabs:

Be Strategic

  • 3-5 posts/day, spread out from morning to evening
  • Use Insights to identify the topics that get people talking; refine timing for optimal reach and engagement
  • Experiment with Facebook Sponsored Stories (particularly “Page Post Like Story” and “Domain Story”) to extend your content’s reach and attract new fans

Be Engaging

  • Don’t just post links, always offer commentary or context; ask a question, solicit feedback, or play devil’s advocate
  • Beyond links, solicit and share user-generated content, including photos, reviews or commentary on issues of the day

Be Present

  • It’s called SOCIAL media; engagement is a two-way street. Don’t just post; participate!
  • “Whomever posts it, monitors it.” Let no conversation go unrecognized. (Exception: Not every conversation is worth having.)

If you think of a “Like” as an opt-in, you’re as close to the value proposition of an email list as it gets outside of actually acquiring that email, and you should treat the content you post to your Facebook Page with as much care and attention as you do your email newsletters. Even better, think of your Facebook Page as a key component of your brand’s overall audience development strategy, complementing your website and email program, and as your audience there grows, leverage Facebook Insights as aggressively as your web analytics to inform and evolve your content strategy.