The Forgotten Art of Research

Photo cred: Troy Holden

Research.

It’s an art.  One that we practice for many years, but forcefully forget.

It’s something that was drilled into us since the first day of school.  If we wanted to learn something, we had to read about it in a boring, overpriced textbook.  We would then have to take a test, write a paper, or do something to prove that we actually did the research.

It sucked.

It sucked so much that the second that diploma is handed to you, you feel a huge sigh of relief knowing that you’ll never be forced to study again.  You can now spend the rest of your days reading what you want, and learn by doing.

Research is still valuable long after you graduate but you avoid it because it feels like homework.

The professionals and entrepreneurs that really go far are the ones taking in as much information as possible related to their topic.  If you want to be great at your job, you have to research the crap out of it.  Read books, blog posts, case studies…do anything you can to make yourself more savvy and get an edge.

BUT…relying on blogs or twitter to learn everything won’t cut it.

Bloggers don’t dig deep enough…and twitter lacks any depth whatsoever.  Google the term “research”.  The number 1 result is Wikipedia.  Wikipedia is the cliff notes for the cliff notes.  They can all be great research tools but will only teach you so much.

Don’t forget about research.  It takes time and commitment.  It’s not easy to find the right information.  In the end though, it will pay off.

When was the last time you really researched something?  Has the art of research been forgotten?

If you have any good research tools or practices, share them in the comments.

A Lens Cap, a Pegshot, and a Shitty Envelope

Last week I was at social media week New York.

I went to the Obliterati party on Thursday night.

Whilst mingling and pretending I know how to take pictures, my lens fell off my camera…never to be seen again.  Needless to say, I was mildly distraught.

See? “=(“ = sad and “=\” = mildly sad.

But wait…

Phil DiGiulio (@holaphil) found it!  Just when I thought all was lost…

Yea…he even added a picture using his awesome website, pegshot.  He also used his service earlier in the week to provide the public immediate coverage of an elevator he got stuck in with Ann Curry, Jeff Pulver, and others…

Within moments, Patrick Johnson spotted the tweet, put tweet and tweet together, and excitedly tweeted that shit in my direction… tweet.

We then connected, and Phil offered to mail it over to me.  He’s the man.

Finally, my lens cap and I would be reuinited!!!

Until the envelop ripped on both sides and the lens cap fell out in the mail…

So the moral of this story is uhhhh…

The Social Web is Driven by Fame

Warning: Bold statements ahead…

Photo cred: JM Abania

It seems, and I’m basing this off literally no factual information, that people who participate on the internet are entirely driven by fame.

Everyone looks up to our great leaders, hollywood actors and rock stars. They dream about what it would be like to live in their shoes.  Now, with the social web and everyone building their own audiences, fame has become attainable by all, and therefore an even stronger force.

Feel free to comment if you’ve seen this in other spaces. In the social media space it’s pretty evident…

Check all that apply:

  • You spend a lot of time and effort on getting the people who are considered to be “famous” to recognize to you.
  • You tie your level of success directly to the level of recognition for your brand.
  • If you can get someone of considerable web fame to respond to you regularly, you in turn become more famous.
  • More fame brings you more confidence.
  • You believe “internet fame” and “authority” are synonymous.
  • The more famous you get, the more opportunities come your way.
  • Sometimes, you feel like you’re not good enough to talk to someone who is more famous than you are.
  • Sometimes, there are actually pricks who think they’re too good to talk to you because you’re not famous enough.
  • If no one responds to you, you get a little depressed.
  • If everyone responds to you, you feel like a king.

All of these may not apply to you, but I bet at least a couple do…

Fame is why badge systems are becoming so popular on websites.  It’s why forums give participants different ranks.  It’s why “power users” exist. Anything that allows users to gain some level of notoriety, even in niche communities, will grow because the social web is driven by fame.

How much are you focusing on fame?

Too Much Networking Makes Bad Marketers

Photo cred: Andy Beal

A marketer’s ability to do their job relies on how well they understand their audience…

Same goes for you PR professionals. You too advertising pros!

…so unless your audience (the one you were hired to understand) consists of mostly marketers, focusing so much time and effort on them will not make you much better at your job.

One could argue that lately, many professionals are equally (or more) concerned with building their personal network as they are with being good at their job.

This is especially an issue for young communications professionals and students.

We’re just starting out, and the first thing we now learn isn’t to start studying people and marketing, it’s to use social media to network and build a personal brand.

When you focus on interacting with other communications professionals all the time, you lose touch with the people that you’re supposed to understand…the ones you’re getting paid to understand.

Learning how to reach out and engage with communications professionals will usually be very different from engaging with other people.  If you’re focusing too much on the former, you’ll quickly find yourself failing at the latter.

A communications professionals has to understand what people want, what triggers them, what turns them off, how to reach them, how to build trust with them, etc… and strictly communicating with other marketing professionals will only take you so far.

Is the value of a professional’s network starting to outweigh the value of their ability as a professional?

What happens when we focus more on meeting communications professionals than on becoming a better communications professionals?

CNN Relies on Social Media in Haiti Earthquake Coverage

Firstly, my thoughts are with all the people suffering in Haiti after this horrible tragedy.  The Red Cross tweeted that you can help by texting “HAITI” to 90999 to donate $10 to relief efforts.  If you know of any other ways to help, let me know and I will add it here.

This just went up on Mashable… 9 Ways to help Haiti

As I was just watching the news on CNN, there was a clear presence of social media in their reports on Haiti.  In fact, it was ALL social media.

They were pulling pictures from twitter and facebook, they used google earth to show you where the earthquake took place.  The only piece of investigative journalism they did was interview the people posting up twitpics!  I also saw other media sources commenting on pictures, asking the person where they took the picture? (the extent of their background check)?

They provided literally NO original content.  The CNN employee sitting at a computer monitoring social networks was doing the same thing as any other web savvy user seeking out news.  They were as investigative as anyone using twitter search as they filled in time by scrolling through the same 10 pictures they found on twitter, and teaching us about earthquakes…

It’s great that they’re implementing social content into their coverage, but now it just seems like they’re relying on it…

When social networks become an investigative journalist’s best resource, do they still have a purpose?  Are they no better than automatic filters, choosing which information we get to see?

Note: I realize that this may be an exceptional case.  Among other variables, as I was watching the news, it was still very unsafe for reporters travel into Haiti.  Still, I believe it’s a possible trend worth discussing.

EDIT: I just want to point out that this post was meant to discuss a possible trend.  It was not a statement of the current situation.  The day after writing this, once CNN was able to get to Haiti, Anderson Cooper showed us that good journalism still exists and how important it still is.