Life, or Something Like It: Leveraging Advances in Social Aggregation

In June 2009, social media connoisseur (and Edelman VP of Digital Insights) Steve Rubel made an announcement via his blog, micropersuasion: He would be abandoning the highly trafficked platform in favor of The Steve Rubel Lifestream, a new online hub through which all of his content and activities could be published.

His move from blogging to “lifestreaming”—the practice of consolidating one’s disjointed online presence into a central location—marked yet another pivotal moment in social media’s lifespan. The significance wasn’t based on the newness of the concept, as lifestreaming itself is done through social aggregators like FriendFeed and Profilactic, which have been around for a few years.

Rather, the significance lies in the fact that, as these social aggregators evolve to support a growing list of services (and, simultaneously, as companies and executives participate in more and more platforms), lifestreaming simplifies the management of personal and business communications. It also raises the question: Could lifestreams be the corporate blogs of the future? And, more important, should they be?

It’s still too early to tell if corporate blogging will fall by the wayside as lifestreaming increasingly enables execs to manage all their online communications channels in a central location. However, one thing is certain: For everyone who has too little time to cut through all the online clutter (and who doesn’t?), lifestreaming may be the solution.

So, how can communications executives leverage social aggregators to more effectively manage their companies’/clients’ diverse needs?

â–¶ Cut down on your own brand’s online clutter. As Rubel puts it, “ Facebook, Twitter and RSS all have a big problem: too much noise, not enough signal.”

In the context of business, of course, this is a result of too many companies flooding every possible online platform with useless information. To be more effective at communicating your organization’s news, and at engaging key stakeholders online, begin by assessing the brand’s own contributions to the social media universe. Do you automatically tweet every single new story/press release? Do your company’s blog posts resemble your marketing material? Clean out the proverbial cyber-closet by cutting back on redundant updates. Don’t tweet every new blog post/news release; instead, limit your updates to those that would be most valuable to your audience.

At the same time, cut back on the number of people you read/follow. Do you automatically follow every single Twitter user who follows you? Do you subscribe to multiple blogs/news outlets that are redundant? Unfollow/unsubscribe to any and all unnecessary users; otherwise, your social aggregator will be just as cluttered as your current situation.

â–¶ Take stock of each social aggregator’s unique capabilities. Social aggregation services have two distinct components, or information types: inbound and outbound. On one hand, they pull in all the updates, news and posts from various online feeds you subscribe to, including RSS, Facebook and Twitter. So, instead of going to each platform/site to check for updates, the updates are delivered right to your account, be it FriendFeed, Profilactic, Plaxo Pulse, etc. (For more information on the different social aggregators, see sidebar.)

On the other hand, a growing number of social aggregators offer advanced features that allow you to publish your own updates to all supported platforms from a single location. In other words, instead of updating your status on Facebook, and then logging into Twitter to tweet, and then posting new content to your blog, you can perform all of these activities in one place—hence, the “lifestreaming.”

Rubel describes the evolution of lifestreaming on … well, The Steve Rubel Lifestream, in the following terms:

“Lifestreaming started out initially as a model that revolved around importation and aggregation: a place to roll up all your streams. But that’s changing. Now that Facebook acquired FriendFeed and the noise on Twitter is at near cacophonous levels, I am seeing a new model emerge for lifestreaming. This one centers on using a site as your hub, having it syndicate out to all your spokes (where you engage around it) and then bringing some of the conversation back to your site. It also seems to help people focus their content in more useful ways.”

Rubel’s social aggregator of choice is Posterous, which, among other things, allows users to post to all their online platforms through e-mail, thus proving to be the ultimate content management system for execs who are constantly on the go (again, who isn’t?).

â–¶ Don’t stop at lifestreaming—aim for brandstreaming. In the same vein as lifestreaming, brandstreaming can be describes as “a consistent flow of content created by a brand,” says Jonny Rosemont of Weber Shandwick. “Brandstreaming is creating new ways to engage social connections and information sharing between companies and their consumers.”

To begin the process of brandstreaming, then, Rosemont recommends that communications execs take the following steps:

1. Identify your audience and existing suitable content.

2. Create account profiles/pages/channels on appropriate platforms.

3. Upload content to accounts.

4. Make sure content is accurately described and tagged.

5. Create a lifestream (through FriendFeed, etc.) for the brand.

6. Promote brandstreaming elements via existing Web properties and marketing materials.

7. Keep brandstreaming elements up to date.

8. Engage with audiences without “selling” to them.

9. Moderate discussions.

10. Calculate ROI via traffic, viewership data, etc. PRN


Steve Rubel, [email protected]; Jonny Rosemont, [email protected]