Today social media has become part of the fabric of our culture. We share, like, and comment on all sorts of information and media. This creates a web through which information and ideas flow. For many individuals – like myself – this social web of information has become a major source of news. In addition, I am an active participant in this web, sharing and commenting frequently.
The social web has brought many new aspects to our daily lives. One of these – for better or worse – is viral videos and content. One person reads information or views media online and shares it, then more and more do the same. News spreads and a viral phenomenon is born.
As this social aspect of the web has become more prevalent many websites have made it easier for readers or users to participate by installing widgets, apps, plug-ins, gadgets, or links for social networks. For example, the New York Times has widgets that allow readers to share articles via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, Mixx, Yahoo Buzz!, and MySpace or to send the article via email or SMS. They also provide the permalink to the article or piece of content for individuals who want to incorporate the link into a blog or website. In other words, the New York Times enables and encourages their readers participate in the social web. I have come to expect this type of functionality on all websites I visit.
This afternoon I clicked on a link on Facebook to watch a video on Lonely Planet blog. For many years I have been a big fan of the travel books, guides, and information provided by this company. More recently, I have become hooked on their 76 Second Travel Show which is posted on the Lonely Planet blog and on YouTube by Lonely Planet author Robert Reid. It's short and fun – and I think it's a great use of social media. After watching the video I instantly looked for the share widget or link and was surprised to find the page did not have one. It seemed odd since Lonely Planet is an active participate in social media. At the bottom of the each of the company's webpages there are links to follow Lonely Planet on Twitter, subscribe to their newsletter, read their blog, download their iPhone and iPad apps, and subscribe to their print (paper) magazine. There is a space to leave a comment, but no links to enable participation in the social web.
This made me start thinking about the importance of well rounded social media campaigns. Social media is about sharing and participation. Companies, brands, and individuals need to not only participate in social media – but also enable and encourage others to participate and share.
Back to the issue of Lonely Planet. How are they participating in social media? Their main website allows users to register and link their Lonely Planet account with their Facebook account. That is good. As I mentioned previously at the bottom of all their webpages there are widgets encouraging readers to follow them on Twitter, read their blogs, and sign up for their newsletter, mobile content, and magazine. Their website has active forums (Thorn Tree) and groups, as well as functionality to allow users to rate and comment on destinations, save favorite places, and plan trips. The company actively participates in Facebook and Twitter. And I think that their 76 Second Travel Show is a great viral video campaign. The some of the 76 Second Travel Show videos have upwards of 1000 views on YouTube. The company promotes videos and blog posts on Facebook and Twitter. The only thing is missing to complete the circle is to incorporate functionality into their websites and blogs that enables and encourages users to share the content via social networks and participate in the social web.
But, overall I do think Lonely Planet is doing a very good job participating in the social web. What I think they could improve upon is to enable and encourage their users to do the participate and share. Then their social media campaign would be truly dynamic. And it would also increase the likelihood that their information, blog posts, and videos will be shared and discovered virally.