February 11th, 2014
Reddit has earned a high-profile reputation for viral content; even President Obama answered questions on the Ask Me Anything subreddit the day before his State of the Union Address last year. At first look reddit can be off-putting to the uninitiated. It does not have the slick, user-friendly layout of Twitter or Facebook, and it’s reminiscent of the old pre-social media message boards.
reddit and Twitter
When Louis CK self-released his Live at the Beacon Theater comedy album and posted it on Twitter, two hundred thousand of his over three million followers downloaded it for five dollars each and made him a million dollars immediately, proving the value of Twitter. On the other hand rock journalist Chuck Klosterman told the Trip City podcast that Twitter does not work, because when he tweeted about his new book, I Wear the Black Hat, his sales actually went down. He said he feels the ever-vigilant young techies on Twitter saw through his tweet as a “commercial.” About figuring out what works in general creatively and what doesn’t, Klosterman says he has learned that “there is no metric and trying [to figure it out] makes it worse.” Perhaps with Twitter Louis CK was just better at appearing like he was not trying.
Twitter tends to be an excellent resource for a personality or institution that already has a place in popular culture. It’s also a tool for reaching fans immediately with information about events. Trying too hard, as Klosterman puts it in his example, seems to leave followers a bit weary. The reason may be that there is a blurring of the lines between friendship and business on social networks, and despite what telemarketers may be taught, most people do not want their friends acting like salesmen, or vice versa.
So how does one gain popularity on Twitter without already being popular? Vetted content. Those who do not market on Twitter are obsessed by finding something undiscovered and evaluating it. They are young, tech savvy, but not yet financially successful. They go to reddit for raw content. reddit worked for me when promoting posts on different platforms, to which I still get clicks, and in the case of a music gear post I did, I still get referrals seven months after posting it from people interested in equipment. Warning: Even on a relatively successful post like the one I just mentioned, not all comments will be pretty.
One answer to the question “Why does reddit work?” may be that it works because it is not a social network. redditors go there to vet content, not to make friends.
How to be successful on reddit:
December 11th, 2013
The problem: The phone keeps ringing, projects pile up, we try to multitask, but all we keep thinking about is the project we’re not doing, so we sacrifice quality and blame it all on limited time and resources.
The cause: “We’re saddled with a Stone Age mind in a digital world,” Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn told Google employees as he introduced them to meditation in 2007. A pioneer of blending Western medicine with mindfulness meditation, Kabat-Zinn is a molecular biologist, a trained Zen teacher, and founder of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. In that talk at the “Googleplex” in Mountain View, Calif., Kabat-Zinn defined the Stone Age mind as the tendency to fall into obsession with doing (as in the next thing to survive) and ignore the doer (as in the one active right now).
In her book The One Who is Not Busy—Connecting with Work in a Deeply Satisfying Way, Zen teacher Darlene Cohen writes that we fail at multitasking when we stay in the perception of the whole (our schedule), and don’t settle on anything because we keep shifting focus. When we’ve taken the time to settle on the doer, who only exists whenwe’re actually doing something, our schedule is a balanced interconnectedness of tasks, and when we haven’t done that our scheduleappears chaotic.
The solution: According to Cohen we can find relief by “matching focused awareness to whatever motions our hands and bodies are actually doing at the moment.” It is much more satisfying than paying attention to something we’re not doing. I’ve found it useful to include sensations in the body as part of the activities to be aware of. Once our feet are firmly planted in our current activity, we can look at the rest of our schedule for perspective and then go back to the task at hand. She calls this type of focus “simultaneous inclusion.” Dr. Zinn presents his version of this point in this short, guided meditation taken from his 2007 Google talk.
Here is an exercise from Cohen’s book that is strikingly useful in the workplace, called “Talking Meditation”:
November 15th, 2013
Andrew Chen defines a viral loop as simply “the steps a user goes through between entering the site and inviting the next set of users.” Former entrepreneur-in-residence at Mohr-Davidow Ventures, now freelance adviser of startups and expert on the vanguard of marketing, Chen dedicates the rest of his collection of essays, “The Viral Startup: A Guide to Designing Viral Loops,” to demonstrating how every product can be seen as a site with a viral loop built in. A viral loop is most definitely not “a mythical vortex that propels products with a magic bang into public consciousness and millions of YouTube hits,” which is what I thought it was before reading his book.
A viral loop is what brought us the viral video phenomenon “The Fox” this fall.
This is a common viral loop scenario: people react to a link they find online and share it on a social network like over and over again, and next thing you know American teens are in love with a South Korean rapper and something called “Gangnam Style.” A viral loop is a business model that emphasizes an exponentially growing feedback-and-recommendation chain of users.
Here is an example of a company that seemed to be doing just fine without a viral loop business model: Years ago I worked for a New York double-decker bus company that the tourism industry anticipated would be a refreshing, disruptive newcomer. As a family business with a history of ventures, however, they opted for the “tried and true” approach of beginning with a Minimum Viability Product—they figured out the minimum product necessary to qualify for the market, just to feel things out.
They bought old buses and fitted them with only a top deck – there was no interior for passengers who preferred to ride from inside. Because of the constant influx of tourists in New York, profits were high despite the fact that the business was in a preliminary stage, and customer dissatisfaction was frequent, especially concerning customer service. The company had not made social media a priority either. All the elements of a viral loop were missing, yet the company prospered. We’ll catch up with their journey a little later.
Chen explains that the key mistake marketing departments make is that they attempt to “bolt” a viral loop onto a product, not realizing that in order for a viral loop to work, it has to be built into the product itself. It is not about an ad going viral, it is about letting the consumer feel like they are playing a very real role in the culture of this Happy Meal, or cell phone, or song. The implication here is that only experiences go viral.
One of Chen’s essays in the book is about the role Steve Jobs played in the marketing of Apple products by making sure each of them was constructed as a viral loop from the start.
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