Want to comment on TechCrunch? You better have a Facebook account. Want to be a trusted commenter on The New York Times’s website? Not only do you need to leave great comments — which is a good idea — but you also need to tie your Facebook account to your nytimes.com account.
Some commenters have expressed that being highly regarded by fellow nytimes.com commenters should be enough to become a trusted commenter. Is using your real name a requirement for being trusted? What if you work in a sensitive industry?
I’m not sure yet what to make of the Facebook requirement for nytimes.com. The Times already has good comments and this may encourage even better comments. But it does leave out some people who can’t comment under their real names.
I’m firmly against TechCrunch and other sites requiring Facebook for comments. That goes too far in my book. What if someone doesn’t even have a Facebook account?
Should Facebook, a private social network with serial privacy concerns, be the driver’s license of the Internet?
To be clear, there are merits of having people use their Facebook accounts to comment. Most people use their real names with their Facebook accounts, and by requiring a real name, a website should get higher quality comments than your average site without active community management.
Many of the sites with the best user communities, however, do not require Facebook to comment. Slashdot famously has one of the best user communities on the Internet, and uses a user voting system to encourage good comments. The new tech site The Verge doesn’t require Facebook either and is quickly building a good user community by allowing users to recommend and flag comments. Great comments are highlighted by stars.
We do allow people on the Interchange Project to comment using their Twitter and Facebook accounts because it’s an easy way for people to login in, comment and establish a pan-Web commenting profile. However, we also allow people to comment anonymously. There are some people who simply cannot comment with their real names.
Why can’t they? They may work in sensitive industries. They may be afraid of reprisals from their work. You certainly won’t get whistle blowers by requiring someone to use their real names.
And thus, we won’t require people to use their real names and link to their social media accounts. We think it’s great if you do, but we also see the value in anonymity and pseudo-anonymity.
Requiring Facebook for commenting is a lazy way to weed out (some) trolls and nastiness. And it works, to an extent. But the ultimate goal is not just to weed out trolls, racists and other bad commenters, but to encourage and inspire great comments.
Bloggers such as Eric Berger didn’t get great user communities by requiring Facebook commenting. They did it be being active in comments and encouraging good comments. It’s called community management.
Allowing people to comment with Facebook, Twitter and other services is convenient and should be encouraged. Requiring that users use Facebook or Twitter to comment goes too far in my book.
Here is some advice on how to build a strong user community without demanding a Facebook driver’s license:
That said, however, I think the rationale behind the creation of a new level of reader engagement is a good one. For years, leading web communities such as Slashdot have shown that one of the ways to encourage interaction and improve the quality of reader behavior is by giving users incentives to behave intelligently (and also penalties for doing otherwise). Karma points, which Slashdot uses, reward commenters for being smart, and also reward them for flagging other comments that are offensive or stupid — something I hope the New York Times is considering as well as it adds features to the system.
I’ve been very impressed with how Peter Jackson and his team have been using social media sites and a blog to show fans their progress while making The Hobbit.
And when I look at what they’ve been able to do with social media, I have to wonder how much traditional entertainment media outlets matter anymore? Director Peter Jackson and the The Hobbit team are able to connect directly with fans and show them what they are working on. It used to be that they would have to work with entertainment magazines and TV shows to get this information out there.
Now film makers can directly connect with fans and show what they’re working on, and they can do so in a way that keeps fans much more interested. A magazine is not going to profile the same movie every month, but a Facebook page can be constantly updated with new photos, videos, Q&As, links to stories about the movie and more. Having a well-stocked Facebook fan page is probably worth a lot more to The Hobbit and other movies than getting coverage in traditional media outlets.
Yes, The Hobbit is getting coverage in some traditional media outlets, but the best information by far about The Hobbit is on The Hobbit’s Facebook page. If you’re looking for ways to keep fans engaged for an upcoming project, you really should check out what they’re doing. They started using social media to wet fans appetites almost two years before the first Hobbit movie will be released. They started with a few teaser shots on Facebook and expanded to videos and other content to really delve into the making of the movies.
The heart of The Hobbit’s social media strategy have been a series of behind-the-scenes video pieces that detail the making of the movies from a variety of different angles. These are the kinds of videos that would have been traditionally included in the DVD/Blu ray version as a bonus feature for fans. Instead, The Hobbit team is using them before the movie comes out to generate buzz and interest in the movie, and I think this is a much more effective way to use these behind-the-scenes materials.
These production diaries, or video blogs as Peter Jackson calls them, are 10-13 minute vignettes that show distinct areas of production for the movies. They are clearly shot and edited so that they’ll work well on social media and be shared across the Internet, and all of them are available in HD on Facebook to view and share with friends. Fans have uploaded these videos to YouTube and it doesn’t appear that Peter Jackson or Warner Bros are trying to take them down.
Part of what has made this strategy so successful is that the production diary videos are high quality and interesting. Combining the high quality of these videos with social media has allowed them to be seen all over the Internet.
CNET ran a story about the production diary that focuses on the 3D cameras that are being used for this movie. The Verge and other sites also ran stories about it too. And of course fans sites dedicated to The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien or just movies are showing and talking about this content too.
Facebook is clearly the star of this social media strategy. That was a good decision. Facebook has about 800 million active users, and the site is very easy to use and it has a culture of sharing that can greatly expand the audience of your materials.
Think of it this way: A hardcore fan of The Hobbit can watch these videos and then share them on his wall with all of his friends. Many of them may not have known about the movie and may now be interested. Some may even decided to share the video on their walls as well.
There is a Twitter account for The Hobbit, but it’s not nearly as good as the Facebook fan page. Facebook simply makes more sense for a project like this. On Twitter, all you can really do is link to content, whereas on Facebook you can show it. Twitter is a much better platform for content happening right now, whereas Facebook is a much better place to park evergreen content.
A few keys that make these production diaries work:
They are well shot and edited and each has a distinct theme. These aren’t just a random 10-13 minutes about the movies or rambling interviews. Each video has a theme and the video tells a story. One shows the pre-production and the beginning of filming. Another shows the technical aspects of making a film in at 5K in 3D at 48 frames per second with the new RED Epic-M digital cameras. The other two have distinct themes as well.
All of them are shot in HD (not with movie studio cameras but with good HD handhelds that news outlets and non-profits could afford), edited professionally and with a tight narrative arc. They are interesting, visually appealing and sound good (complete with theme music from The Lord of the Rings). Because their quality is high and its HD, I was able to watch these videos on my HDTV in my family room (using the YouTube app on my Apple TV).
You can view them in a variety of places. The Hobbit’s Facebook page is showing them, as is Peter Jackson’s. The official blog for The Hobbit movie also shows these videos. You can share the videos with your friends and subscribers on Facebook. The videos are unofficially all over YouTube.
These videos could be done by a lot of people and organizations. Look at these videos and say to yourself, “I could make these.” They aren’t using really expensive cameras to shoot them and they aren’t doing crazy editing or post production tricks on them. In fact, most of the time they aren’t even using external microphones.
The main thing is that they decided that these videos should be high quality in terms of planning and execution. Any news organization or non-profit could produce similarly interesting and high quality videos. The videos each tell a story, are tightly edited and make good use of b-roll and voice overs.
Hard news is not very popular. Opinion pieces are. The one major exception was the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Yahoo! is struggling but Yahoo! News is a major destination for news and its stories — largely not hard hitting stories — are popular on social media sites.
The top five most shared stories — except the top one about the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan — are all largely fluff pieces. Gems such as “Parents, don’t dress your girls like tramps.” CNN in particular is really good at these link-bait stories.
The Wall Street Journal has only one story in the top 40. This is no doubt largely due to the paywall that the Journal has set up. The NYT’s 20 story meter on the other hand clearly encourages more sharing. Any pay wall that doesn’t even allow people to taste your journalism is probably doomed in this social era. How will people even discover if they want to pay for the Journal? The NYT at least encourages people to try before they buy and its meter is built to work well with social media.
The Washington Post is low on the list. Will the new social reader app change this? I’d really like to see next year’s data.
Steve Jobs, his life and his death were popular on social media sites.
Tip of the Day for Journalists: Posts published through automated feeds (RSS, other platforms, etc.) get 2-3x less engagement than posts published manually with an authentic voice (as a teaser for the link).
People know when you’re not listening. They’re going to be less likely to contribute their thoughts on something when they think they’re talking to a wall.
Obama for America, the official campaign organization, recently rolled out AttackWatch.com. The website allows visitors to file reports when someone criticizes the president or his policies and purports to provide “the facts” to counter such “smears.” The site’s Twitter feed is attracting plenty of reports, but not necessarily the kind that campaign staff was expecting.
A user identified as Jon G. announced: “There’s a new Twitter account making President Obama look like a creepy, authoritarian nutjob: @AttackWatch.” Another user identifying himself as Matt Cover tweeted, “Someone told me the stimulus didn’t keep unemployment below 8%. That’s not true, is it?”
Another concerned citizen reported, “I saw 6 ATM’s in an alley, killing a job. It looked like a hate crime!” The site’s Twitter page recently featured so many zingers aimed at the president that it was hard to find actual Obama supporters whining about his critics. One tweeter noted that “the GOP won seats in NY and NV . . . I suspect interference by sane people . . . check that out please.” Another said, “Hey kids, are mommy and daddy talking bad about Obama? Be sure to report them at #attackwatch.”
I’m not surprised that this is falling apart. Social media would be much better used for positive, affirmational messages. It would also be better used if it were about connecting the president and his staff to actual people.
As a social media manager, I cannot recommend this strategy.