Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Managing notifications is proving a difficult challenge for media companies weak on social media skills

If a media company were a "friend" of yours they would be like the guy who posts 20 updates on your Facebook wall, leading you inevitably to "unfriend" the offender.
Thus I "unfriended" USA Today... today.

It doesn't surprise me that the Gannett newspaper would not understand the basics of social media – don't annoy – this is an area that so many old school companies appear to be poor at managing. (I receive at least one email a day from Williams-Sonoma which are now totally ignored, completely defeating the purpose of the promotions).

I turn notifications on for very few apps now simply because are such an abused feature. Many publishers have started to explain what they intend to use them for – generally to inform readers that a new issue is available.

For publishers new to the app game, and hence to notifications, here are a few simple rules to remember:

  • Notifications are not tweets – the reader/user is not expecting a steady stream of notifications from your media property.
  • Determine what stories reach the level of importance that a notification is warranted – many social media savvy media firms tweet many, or most of their news stories. That's fine. But a notification means that the news is both important and time sensitive. The notification from USA Today that the Giants had won the Super Bowl, sent out hours after the game... no, not worth a notification.
  • Do I need to know this now? – Since most readers/users get their notifications on their mobile phones, the issue of timeliness arises. This is a tough call. It would be nice if newspapers, in particular, could have separate notifications by category. For instance, I really don't need to know that the Fed is holding rates where they are at, but someone else might.
One reason media firms make a mess of notifications is that they assign a person to create these and, frankly, to them everything is worth sending a notification. Eventually we'll all get this down to a science, but if we don't, readers will be routinely turning off notifications, depriving media firms of a powerful communications tool.