How major publishers are using social media to drive traffic - Part 1

 by Martin Belam, 24 June 2009

This series of posts is based on the presentation given by Martin Belam on May 14th at WebCertain's "International Social Media Summit" hosted at the British Library in London. The views expressed are my own, and do not represent the views of Guardian News & Media.

British Library gateway detail

Photo courtesy of stevecadman

A new frontier...

For many major publishers and brands, the social media sphere has presented a new frontier, full of strange people who might as well be from alien worlds. Many approached it as if they had to 'boldly go where no brand has gone before'.

Star Trek original USS Enterprise

That often meant developing their own tools in isolation, rather than adopting what was already on the market, and failing to learn from the mistakes of other brands.

What is "social media"?

"Social media" has been a buzzword on the Internet scene for a while now, and promoting sites via "social media" and trying to measure "social media" ROI are established areas of web marketing

But what is it?

Well, for a start it, is a good excuse to put together complex diagrams about the social media 'ecosphere'. This is one by Brian Solis which I found on Mike Kujawski's blog.

Brian Solis Diagram

It has lots of colours, logos and labels, and I thought it would make for a terribly impressive slide when giving this presentation, even though I wasn't entirely sure what it was telling me.

So, rather than the sexy diagrams, for the purpose of this series of posts, I'll be looking specifically at social bookmarking, the micro-blogging conversations on Twitter, and blogging.

Let's not get over-excited here

And a note of caution - it is typical to over-hype new technologies in the short term, but under-estimate their long term impact. Guardian writer Bobbie Johnson gets particularly aggravated with the term "social media":

"Nobody talks about people down the pub laughing about [Christian] Bale's expletive-laden bullying as a 'social drinking sensation'. They don't call people giggling about it on the phone as a 'social telecommunications sensation'. They call it joking, or they call it gossip, because that's what people do. Whether they do it online or offline, down the pub or on Facebook doesn't matter."
A 'social drinking phenomena'


Tomorrow I'll be continuing this series with a second part, looking a social bookmarking. In the meantime, if you want to get a sneak peek ahead, you can already see the whole set of slides and notes on SlideShare.


I know that it's unfashionable for a 22 year old to hate social media, but I do! I personally think it's a waste of time, and although I know millions use various sites (and therefore it may be useful for these companies to use them) I just can't stand them.

I thought the same thing for a long time Amy, I've recently just started experimenting with twitter, after about 3 weeks of recruiting followers i received my first job through it ( I'm a graphic designer ) so I'm not sure any more.

9000 followers and 200 tweets to get 1 job, but it shows its not worthless.

I just finished my internship with a large company in the US. I worked in the marketing department and you should see how much they focus on social media now. They really care for it and have a team that solely focuses on Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter. They even hold contests on these sites and see it as a huge part of their future business.

Ugh. I am not a fan of twitter. I also work in a marketing department and EVERYONE thinks Twitter is the new sliced bread.

Hi Martin, I really love your site. I must confess something from the get go. I came across it via the guy that's telling people to spam you, or moreover comment intelligently without you deleting the comment.

I am one of the biggest fans of social media out there, in some instances dangerously evangelical. The results you can achieve and unlikely people you can meet are astounding. Social media was the primary strategy for an Internet company I worked as a blogger in Malaysia for; MindValley is now and unbelievable success. My old boss is sharing the stage with Richard Branson very shortly.

On a much much smaller scale, in relation to my cricket site through blogging, facebook and twitter I've managed to source a team of writers from a few different corners of the world.

I'll stop being evangelical now. Just wanted to share that with you. Oh and the Guardian is my favourite site on the web . . .

Keep up to date on my new blog