We Are Content. We Are Curation. Open the Doors And See All the People

Does the headline sound familiar? It's a play on that funny nursery allegory they used to do with their hands when you were in day school. "Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the doors, see all the people." It amazes me that as a tow-headed latchkey kid, I thought that little rhetorical device was magical.

The tools of discovery really are multiple on the web, and in a real way, the tools are its people.

After spending hours tweeting, listening in on social media forums and connecting with some really intelligent media people, I spent a few minutes inside the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on Saturday evening and contemplated the full day's data stream.

Social media is kind of like a church. It's not the building. It's the people, it's the liturgy, and it's the metaphor that we embody as we participate in it. We are kind of like a congregation, but in media 2.0, we are disassembled, granular and oddly thinking the same things though we are very far apart.

The new wave in organizing this data is to organize it around people. A great example of what I'm talking about is Sulia

With Sulia you can find out what others think is important, and then find those who know most about it. And since the Twitter feeds are linked directly to the list of the experts, you are not that far away from asking them questions.

The key to new data organization is interest, and nothing reflects interest or appreciates interest as much as a person. People are the new data. And social media is a church of data.

I talked with Sely Colon at Univision: They are teaching their reporters to treat social media as if it was just another extension of the brand and their tool for extending their work as journalists. They have a blog in English. And one reporter recently asked a producer, "I see a Senator walking his dog, should I use this on Twitter?" The answer is, yes, find a way to do it. Find a story there. Humanize the work.

And Michele Washington, who I only communicated with on Twitter, but who has a wonderful site called Cross-Cultural Boundaries.

There was no shortage of companies offered, when I asked the community for ideas on how to track people engaging in this process live. I was introduced to:

Socmetrics

Traakr

Newsme

The curation model works on and builds up trust in content, in people and in trends. If you want to have a successful marketing platform, brand-as-publisher platform, or influence platform for your ideas, you have to have this trust, and you have to show that you can give it back. It's not about you. It's about bringing people together.

What happens when you engage in this process? You demonstrate, time and time again that people will rely on you for information, because you select worthy people who can offer it, and you appraise it and pass it along to you readers.

Readers will consistently help you, should you need it. They want to contribute to the aggregation.

Apparently, Sree Srinavasan came up with the idea of doing a full-scale social media weekend without having much of a plan at first. He worked with a few colleagues and put out the idea out on the fourth of May and within a day they had many volunteers, all unpaid, putting it together. On Saturday, they were a trending topic for NYC on Twitter.

What did the experience create? Drift through the hashtag list and see for yourself: multitudes of new ideas about social engagement, tracking, and influencing that I am only today on late Sunday beginning to process.

But a bigger takeaway: Aggregation consolidates different voices, but it also gives a platform that allows for time and content strategies that differentiate signal from noise. Media owners and operators of media platforms will have to solve this problem for themselves using their own systems for judging value. Having this value creates the trade—your ability to tell people you have something worthwhile that they should pay for the privilege of consuming as content, or that they should pay for the privilege of displaying their ideas on as a type of advertising or publicity platform.

The value of a "content" provider in this case is threefold, in my way of thinking:

  1. You bring trusted information into a trusted site, by trusted people. This is your brand. This is what you will eventually provide to others as the carrot, when it comes to strategies to seek payment for what you do, and to sell to advertisers.
  2. You create opportunities for visitors to the site, who can choose which trusted people to enter into relationships with, in order to supply more information or to provide leads and interesting angles. This helps them build brand value for themselves and for those they help and "feed."
  3. You broaden the hyperlocal focus of media sites be they news or any other kind of niche media matter, beyond a single event or a single point of view, something that many people are worried is happening as we self-select our own networks and media outlets / streams.

In this model, our interest is our content. Our content provides interest. Interest providers visitors with opportunities to learn. And the more we learn, the more we engage in the system.

If school ran this way, how would that change things? More on that in a future post.

Note: Thank you to Sree Srinavasan for putting on Social Media Weekend at Columbia University, and for coming up with a great list for social media use and work.

You can follow Douglas Crets on Twitter, where he writes about being a Digital Anthropologist and connects to others.

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