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Take a guess: How many virtual communities exist online, right now?
The answer is complex. If you count only those sites with 100 million members or more, the list is about a dozen names long. If you count those considered “major” and “active” at the same time, the list has about 400 members.
But if you try counting every community, right down to the tiny sites serving only a few devotees or the sites with barely any attention paid to them, expect to spend days, maybe even weeks just counting.
Now, apparently, major media companies are assigning someone to do exactly that. The latest trend in media administration incorporates a role called “platform ambassador,” or something similar. Simply put, these ambassadors determine which new or existing social platforms are worth bringing aboard as partners.
Their choices are crucial: Media outlets realize (or most do, anyway) that they need to go where potential audiences are, instead of expecting audiences to come find them – an expectation the oldest outlets embraced for 80 years. For example, Facebook and Twitter together garner 1.8 billion users among their active accounts, and of those users more than half get their news directly through the two platforms instead of through traditional media outlets.
Furthermore, each platform has a unique and evolving demographic, so the kinds of information social networkers seek is constantly in flux.
“We need to have a fairly regular view of partnerships and examine any new entrants on the scene and whether we need to make any moves onto those platforms,” said Julian March, senior vice president of digital at NBC News, in an interview with Digiday. “Our success as publishers will be governed as much by our success off platform as on platform.”
Putting someone in charge of platform management also reduces confusion over who should take the lead when a new platform in the marketplace shows promise.
Mind you, these are not people who tweet and hit the “Like” button all day; they are socially savvy individuals who can see past the posts to the underlying value of each platform.
The role “needs to be centralized because you need a point person who knows the status,” Edward Kim, CEO of SimpleReach, a New York-based content management company, told Digiday.
Makes excellent sense, right? More importantly, if you replace the phrase “media outlet” with the name of just about any other industry or company, the logic of having such a position still holds. Virtual communities are sources of actual customers across the digital horizon, and every forward-thinking business today needs to engage those remote, unseen customers to remain viable.
This is why another phrase, “digital transformation,” means so much to the marketplace and gains in importance daily. Companies that drop behind in the race toward digital relevancy and react slowly, or not at all, risk falling too far back to catch up. One of the hurdles in that race is knowing which virtual communities are worth pursuing, to what extent, and for how long.
Nowadays, a platform ambassador – or someone who fills that role – is an essential tool for knocking down those hurdles and clearing a path toward a successful transformation. On this, the media actually may be leading the race.