Over the past six PR Friendly Indexes: mostly declining

Now I’ve published a number of editions of the PR Friendly Index it strikes me that I have enough data to look at changes over this period.

So, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the metric that seems most accurately to determine position in the index – Technorati Authority – and see how the blogs in the index have fared recently.

I’ve looked at the blogs which have been in the index since its inception (and since I got the spreadsheets properly sorted), and which have remained at the same URL throughout, so that a fair picture can be drawn – quite literally.

The charts use the funky Google Chart API which I’ve used before but might use for future PR Friendly Indexes. They are independently scaled – so a blog with maximum authority of 100 can be drawn in the same space as one with 1000 – and show the absolute change. Blogs are ranked according to percentage change from the first score in November 2007 to the latest in August 2008, and this is what the figures in brackets show.

As with the PR Friendly Index, take a look at the data below first, then I’ll add more description below that (please note that sometimes the Google API flakes out and the charts don’t appear – I don’t think Google are a particularly happy set of bunnies right now):


1  Wired PR Works (654%)

2  my(PR)palette (271%)

3  All Things PR (271%)

4  Small Business PR and Marketing (250%)

5  Valley PR Blog (212%)

6  Getting Ink (166%)

7  wordymouth (88%)

8  Wadds’ tech pr blog (88%)

9  PR Squared (81%)

10  PR 2.0 Silicon Valley (77%)

11  Web Ink Now (52%)

12  PR Communications (47%)

13  Naked PR (38%)

14  Corporati (33%)

15  PR Girlz (22%)

16  IndiaPRBlog! (21%)

17  ToughSledding (3%)

18  Beyond PR (2%)

19  Teaching PR (2%)

20  PR Disasters (2%)

21  The Bad Pitch Blog (1%)

22  PR Voice (0%)

23  Piaras Kelly PR (-3%)

24  PR Conversations (-4%)

25  PR Studies (-7%)

26  media mindshare (-8%)

27  PR 2.0 (-10%)

28  The New PR (-10%)

29  PR Blogger (-11%)

30  Drew B’s take on tech PR (-13%)

31  Center for Media and Democracy (-15%)

32  Spinwatch (-16%)

33  Tech PR Gems (-17%)

34  bitemarks (-18%)

35  Young PR (-18%)

36  a shel of my former self (-19%)

37  A PR Guy’s Musings (-19%)

38  Strategic Public Relations (-19%)

39  Priscilla’s World (-20%)

40  KDPaine’s PR Measurement Blog (-25%)

41  Engage in PR (-25%)

42  Tech PR War Stories (-26%)

43  The Rosemont Loving (-27%)

44  Communication Overtones (-28%)

45  Pro PR (-29%)

46  PR Works (-29%)

47  Pop! PR Jots (-29%)

48  NevilleHobson.com (-30%)

49  Public Relations Rogue (-30%)

50  Common Sense PR (-34%)

51  Online Marketing Blog (-37%)

52  DummySpit (-40%)

53  The PR 2.0 Universe (-42%)

54  Alan Weinkrantz PR Web Log (-42%)

55  nerd-in-residence (-43%)

56  Todd Andrlik (-44%)

57  Fusion PR Forum (-44%)

58  note to editors… (-45%)

59  Micro Persuasion (-46%)

60  GREENblog (-46%)

61  Blogging Me, Blogging You (-52%)

62  Heather Yaxley – Greenbanana PR (-55%)

63  Paul Gillin – Social Media (-55%)

64  Cooler Insights (-66%)

65  Canuckflack (-66%)

66  PR Meets the WWW (-70%)

67  First Person PR (-71%)

68  Corporate PR (-84%)

69  Media Artifacts (-84%)

70  Strumpette (-85%)

71  The last man in Europe… (-93%)

 

So, the most improved blog is, I’m happy to say, Barbara Rozgonyi who has continued to climb throughout the entire period. Her latest authority score is 83 and, given that she started at 11, this means she’s approaching a 7x increase in authority over this period.

I know, I know, small changes to small figures give big percentages – just look at the annual report for any start-up to see such claims. In fact I’m bracing myself for claims and counter-claims as to the validity of this approach.

But there are some heavyweight blogs that have experienced substantial percentage decline. Again, there could be many reasons for this, not least quite simply the challenge of finding time to maintain a blog, perform professionally and have some sort of social life.

I also thought it might be interesting to look at the total authorities across all core blogs over this time:

Nov 07 Dec 07 Jan 08 Feb 08 Jun 08 Aug 08
total 16007 15521 16103 14485 13401 11658
change -486 +582 -1618 -1084 -1743
percent -3 +4 -10 -7 -13

 

Not looking too great really is it? Comparing August this year to November of last year, there has been a 27% decrease in Technorati Authority. The average change month-on-month has been a decline of 870 Authority points, which equates to an average month-on-month decline of 6 percentage points.

What does this tell us? On the face of it, that the PR blogosphere is shrinking. Or maybe our core bloggers are just finding it difficult to maintain attention when there are new blogs around (note how only about three-quarters of the index is included here because other bloggers have stopped, started or changed in this time, such as my own blog for example).

Or maybe the ‘blog equity’ is also experiencing something of a credit crunch as other services such as microblogging and aggregators such as Friendfeed come to the fore. Perhaps we’re all just producing more quality rather than quantity, in which case perhaps this is a good thing.

Oh, and since you ask, my chart looks like this – bearing in mind I ‘came out’ as Brendan Cooper instead of being Friendly Ghost and made my primary URL brendancooper.com around December last year:

What I find weird here is how I have many more subscribers now, but a declining authority. I even get fewer hits generally now than before. But that’s for another day…

The PR Friendly Index for August 2008

Once again it’s been a bit longer than a month since last I compiled this. But at least I managed it eventually.

Key below, index below that, explanation below that.

You might also find the FAQ useful.

KEY
Technorati Authority – unique incoming blog links over the past six months
Technorati Inlinks – total incoming blog links over the past six months
Yahoo Inlinks – incoming web links, not including links within that site
HowSociable Score – social media score calculated by HowSociable.com
Google Blog Hits – Google blog search hits
Google Blog Hits over the past Month – Google blog search hits over the past month
IceRocket – recent posts that link to a site according to IceRocket

1   0  Micro Persuasion 1,858  
3,667  
487,660  
60  
224  
223  
1,814  

2   0  Online Marketing Blog 1,964  
3,890  
150,016  
33  
218  
215  
1,358  

3   0  PR 2.0 Silicon Valley 954  
1,768  
82,493  
41  
243  
243  
1,054  

4   0  PR Watch 590  
2,059  
318,346  
25  
126  
122  
526  

5   0  PR Squared 598  
513  
68,499  
22  
153  
147  
639  

6   0  a shel of my former self 410  
724  
97,052  
22  
87  
87  
506  

7   0  NevilleHobson.com 331  
661  
95,297  
19  
149  
143  
384  

8   +1  The Buzz Bin 387  
815  
44,714  
19  
40  
40  
627  

9   +1  Communication Overtones 282  
578  
41,795  
15  
58  
58  
358  

10   -3  Web Ink Now 588  
1,008  
63,283  
4  
137  
136  
630  

11   0  Pop! PR Jots 198  
286  
49,967  
16  
52  
52  
185  

12   +4  PR Blogger 167  
293  
38,671  
12  
34  
34  
126  

13   +1  The Bad Pitch Blog 201  
317  
42,347  
5  
53  
53  
167  

14   +12  Fleet Street PR 165  
349  
5,088  
42  
42  
42  
197  

15   0  Media Orchard 93  
309  
43,920  
10  
57  
57  
103  

16   -4  Canuckflack 238  
280  
10,870  
29  
18  
18  
264  

17   +4  Strategic Public Relations 156  
219  
32,867  
12  
26  
26  
105  

18   +2  Spinwatch 107  
235  
96,147  
4  
37  
36  
95  

19   +6  A PR Guy’s Musings 96  
213  
30,614  
11  
18  
18  
113  

20   -1  Pro PR 138  
341  
27,076  
19  
7  
6  
199  

21   +3  PR Communications 121  
221  
12,392  
14  
15  
15  
110  

22   -1  Young PR 140  
191  
19,764  
9  
12  
12  
133  

23   +7  CustomScoop’s PR Blog Jots 133  
200  
3,090  
14  
17  
15  
176  

24   +10  PR Newser 134  
289  
4,217  
21  
13  
13  
111  

25   +16  Murphy’s Law 69  
101  
23,388  
18  
18  
18  
51  

26   +17  Peter Shankman 219  
347  
1,578  
6  
16  
16  
189  

27   -9  PR Works 84  
139  
17,273  
2  
23  
23  
103  

28   +16  Brendan Cooper 95  
162  
7,748  
11  
16  
15  
75  

29   -6  Strumpette 90  
122  
10,713  
16  
14  
13  
78  

30   -17  Flack Life 236  
342  
19,096  
3  
13  
0  
266  

31   +19  Wadds’ tech pr blog 81  
135  
13,458  
1  
34  
34  
69  

32   -15  Todd Andrlik 354  
659  
12,174  
11  
1  
1  
450  

33   +3  ToughSledding 65  
114  
18,260  
3  
17  
17  
67  

34   -5  Paul Gillin – Social Media 103  
140  
32,872  
5  
6  
6  
91  

35   -4  The Flack 83  
127  
67,710  
2  
31  
0  
67  

36   +12  KDPaine’s PR Measurement 70  
110  
8,047  
18  
11  
11  
65  

37   -9  Common Sense PR 138  
692  
4,973  
8  
4  
4  
159  

38   +8  Wired PR Works 83  
148  
2,674  
1  
25  
23  
82  

39   -6  Occam’s RazR 78  
160  
9,354  
9  
7  
7  
91  

42   +15  Heather Yaxley 57  
100  
16,784  
1  
32  
32  
45  

42   -5  Naked PR 79  
115  
15,283  
8  
8  
8  
70  

42   +16  Drew B’s take on tech PR 63  
82  
21,354  
6  
16  
16  
29  

43   +8  Getting Ink 96  
182  
2,421  
0  
22  
22  
88  

44   -5  PR Conversations 59  
116  
17,673  
1  
14  
14  
54  

45   +14  Beyond PR 39  
107  
15,186  
2  
20  
18  
35  

46   -9  Cooler Insights 41  
98  
17,521  
2  
14  
14  
59  

47   +7  PR Studies 54  
111  
21,689  
2  
11  
11  
39  

49   New  Socialized PR 84  
119  
1,320  
11  
7  
7  
60  

49   -22  Tech PR Gems 78  
187  
7,181  
8  
3  
0  
147  

50   -5  Piaras Kelly PR 45  
66  
23,396  
2  
12  
12  
46  

51   +4  Simonsays 62  
87  
17,312  
0  
12  
12  
50  

52   -5  Valley PR Blog 50  
106  
7,939  
6  
7  
7  
47  

53   -21  PR Meets the WWW 53  
69  
35,646  
7  
5  
5  
30  

54   +13  bitemarks 39  
56  
10,701  
3  
14  
14  
24  

55   -13  IndiaPRBlog! 39  
89  
9,303  
4  
7  
6  
60  

56   -21  Blogging Me, Blogging You 52  
73  
17,825  
0  
11  
10  
46  

57   +14  In Front of Your Nose 36  
69  
4,220  
2  
15  
14  
32  

58   -18  Corporate PR 49  
81  
24,163  
5  
3  
3  
24  

59   +1  Engage in PR 36  
62  
7,227  
11  
5  
5  
49  

61   -12  PR Meets Marketing 65  
101  
1,700  
0  
7  
7  
99  

61   +2  The New PR 36  
49  
8,055  
5  
9  
9  
30  

62   New  From PR to Eternity 32  
71  
380  
1  
28  
28  
27  

63   New  Observations of PR 44  
53  
10,467  
1  
5  
5  
31  

64   -12  PR Disasters 48  
88  
7,934  
0  
2  
2  
49  

65   0  The Rosemont Loving 19  
28  
11,405  
1  
12  
12  
7  

66   +13  All Things PR 26  
48  
3,782  
1  
9  
8  
24  

67   -5  The New Marketing 53  
53  
743  
2  
6  
6  
30  

69   -3  my(PR)palette 26  
57  
961  
0  
13  
13  
28  

69   -13  Teaching PR 46  
77  
6,413  
0  
2  
2  
49  

70   -6  The PR 2.0 Universe 30  
89  
7,145  
8  
0  
0  
20  

71   -18  Strive Notes 35  
67  
3,909  
2  
2  
2  
36  

72   +2  Priscilla’s World 16  
31  
4,571  
18  
3  
3  
14  

73   New  PR Media Blog 34  
50  
1,654  
2  
6  
6  
19  

74   +6  Don’t eat the shrimp 18  
36  
1,772  
3  
7  
7  
17  

75   +2  Glass House 12  
18  
9,777  
1  
7  
7  
12  

76   New  Beyond the Hype 3  
59  
846  
2  
11  
11  
14  

77   -2  Alan Weinkrantz PR 17  
41  
2,815  
3  
6  
6  
9  

78   -6  media mindshare 25  
37  
6,695  
1  
2  
2  
15  

80   New  Flacks Revenge 23  
44  
1,250  
0  
3  
3  
37  

80   +5  Point oh 18  
30  
281  
21  
0  
0  
16  

81   -13  Media Guerrilla 10  
16  
7,437  
9  
0  
0  
14  

82   +1  Fusion PR Forum 13  
29  
774  
0  
8  
8  
18  

83   -13  PR Girlz 22  
24  
5,078  
0  
4  
0  
21  

84   +5  PR-otagonism 22  
41  
1,361  
0  
3  
3  
16  

85   -16  Tech PR War Stories 26  
53  
1,424  
0  
0  
0  
24  

86   +6  PR Voice 34  
68  
1,346  
0  
0  
0  
9  

87   +7  Corporati 12  
24  
5,594  
1  
1  
1  
6  

89   -4  nerd-in-residence 11  
20  
472  
11  
0  
0  
9  

89   +9  Change and internal communications 8  
12  
3,536  
6  
1  
1  
4  

90   -17  PR 2.0 20  
32  
6,861  
0  
0  
0  
8  

91   -10  wordymouth 17  
6  
541  
5  
0  
0  
11  

92   -2  Public Relations Rogue 12  
22  
1,706  
1  
0  
0  
8  

94   -1  Small Business PR/Marketing 21  
28  
176  
0  
1  
1  
7  

94   -16  The PR Place 7  
12  
3,057  
1  
0  
0  
6  

95   -11  GREENblog 6  
12  
3,632  
0  
1  
1  
6  

96   -1  DummySpit 9  
16  
2,127  
0  
1  
1  
4  

97   -16  First Person PR 11  
17  
1,205  
0  
0  
0  
7  

98   -10  Media Artifacts 4  
10  
311  
1  
0  
0  
8  

99   -12  note to editors… 5  
12  
1,513  
0  
0  
0  
6  

100   -9  The last man in Europe… 2  
6  
681  
1  
0  
0  
3  

Once again I’ve left it quite a while since the last index, so there are some new entries: Socialized PR, Flacks Revenge, PR Media Blog, From PR to Eternity, Beyond the Hype and Observations of PR.

This means I’ve had to drop some other blogs, which have either sunk, been untouched for ages, or don’t quite fit here any more. They are PR In A Jar, Point Being, Indian and Global PR, Tech for PR, Wagner Comms, and Onalytica. The last one I feel a bit sad about because I’m a big fan of what Onalytica do, but I haven’t seen much PR discussion on the blog for a while. I may revisit this decision.

The other main change is that I’ve dropped Google. This is purely because Google has done something to its search results layout which means I can’t use Google Docs’s own ImportHTML function to bring that data in!

Fortunately this gave me the opportunity to use my Easybee software on a newcomer to the social media measurement world: HowSociable.com.

HowSociable is an intriguing prospect. It grabs metrics from 22 social sources such as Flickr, Twitter, Technorati and so on, then calculates a ‘score’ based on a brand’s performance across all these sources.

There are drawbacks (naturally – aren’t there always?). Firstly, given that it doesn’t class a ‘brand’ as a URL, and doesn’t allow forward-slashes, I’ve had to take educated guesses on blogs that are subdomains, so for example with a URL like http://blogs.hillandknowlton.com/blogs/davidferrabee/default.aspx I’ve had to take the ‘davidferrabee’ as the HowSociable search term. So I’ve tried to compare like for like, but I cannot be absolutely certain I’m being fair across the board.

Also, we don’t know how it calculates its score. I suppose this doesn’t matter if it’s consistent, but with such a new site I do wonder how much it will change over the coming months. It already experienced some downtime recently, and I have a feeling it compiles its figures through scraping. So all it takes is for the target sites to get wise, change their formats slightly, and HowSociable is comprised. So let’s hope the people behind HowSociable are clever enough to develop the site to the point it becomes a useful and trusted source of measurement for people like me.

Because it’s been an interesting inclusion. While it doesn’t seem to have hugely affected the rankings, there are some very noticeable spikes lower down the table. For example Dave Fleet has a very high HowSociable score (I just checked – davefleet.com is now at 46 so it’s even higher), and I assume this is down to his Twitter omnipresence. I would say this is the case for the other lower-ranking bloggers too – that is, they may wield more influence as social media-ites rather than purely as bloggers.

One quite alarming observation this month is that the Google Blog figures are screwy. The figures over the past month are virtually identical to the figures from any period. This implies to me that either Google’s having a bad time, or they’ve deliberately wiped some data and their records are counting again. I’ve seen only one mention of the Google Blog data issue so either it’s not an issue, or I’m wrong, or maybe Google are just hoping no one notices. I do wonder whether this is related to the recent problems with GMail and Feedburner.

In fact, these results were so plain daft that I was considering not even compiling the index. But I figured that, if Google really have reset the figures, then I could be waiting for quite some time before they started becoming meaningful again. I could remove them altogether in future.

Technorati was also a bit flakey this month. I just couldn’t obtain inlinks figures for some sites so I averaged out the inlinks-to-reactions ratio for the other sites – it comes to about 2.14 – and calculated substitute scores for them.

So, there you have it. All comments/questions/suggestions welcome.

Blink: it’s The Tipping Point for the Long Tail

In a nutshell

In a nutshell

It’s annoying, and worrying, when theories go pop.

Yesterday I mentioned two theories that were influential – or, at least, among people interested in social media – but which have since been debunked. Today, I read about another one, and I recall yet another one that had serious doubt cast over it a while ago.

So which one is next?

Two down…

The two I mentioned yesterday were the theory of the Tipping Point, and the Long Tail.

The Tipping Point is a book by Malcolm Gladwell. In it he claims that certain factors need to be in place for mass behaviour suddenly to switch from one state to another, namely a core group of influential people, a strong message, and an environment ready for change anyway.

It all makes great sense. It’s logical, well written, cogent in argument and persuasive in narrative.

Such a pity, then, that it turns out it’s all partially wrong.

Duncan Watts, a Columbia sociologist, has created mathematical models that, well, show the Tipping Point theory to be unsound.

I’m a big fan of maths, not least because I can’t really do it and I’m terribly jealous of those mysterious individuals who can.

I do understand that maths isn’t perfect. Any analysis can fall foul of  garbage in/garbage out – that is, if you put incorrect data in then no amount of mathematrickery will get correct data out – and I appreciate that even very clever people can add instead of subtracting somewhere along the line and just get it wrong (I believe that’s the dark terror for most mathematicians – that their beautiful mathematical tree might have a broken twig in it somewhere).

But I like the rigour of maths. I like that aliens, anywhere, will have maths and that we’d be able to understand it. So, given Gladwell’s largely anecdotal analysis and Watts’s mathematical model, I’ll go with Watts.

So much for the Tipping Point. Next up is the Long Tail.

The pet of Wired editor Chris Anderson, the Long Tail briefly states that removing the barriers of cost and geography, you can make a profit from scarce products.

So, while it makes no sense to stock pink-and-yellow spotted dresses in a shop in Cardiff, for example, because you have to pay for the shelf space and no one in Cardiff actually wants to wear a pink-and-yellow spotted dress, it’s entirely possible that people in, say, Pigsknuckle, Arkansas, might.

If you have a website that sells these dresses, then it’s about as easy for anyone in the world to access it online, so you can still stock them with a fair degree of confidence that someone, somewhere can and will buy them.

Similarly, given that it costs next to nothing to store an MP3 file on a server and deliver that to people, you really can make money on a single sale of David Essex‘s greatest hits each year, because you don’t have to include cost of storage or shipment.

Simply put, you can make money out of niches. Again, it sounds great. Entire businesses exploit this model, such as Amazon or Ebay.

But wait. Here come the professors again. Anita Elberse is Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard, and she’s taken the time to look at the data.

And guess what? The Long Tail theory doesn’t quite seem to hold water. Blockbuster hits – that is, the opposite of niches, the ‘head’ of the long tail – are in fact growing in dominance, and the niches seem just to be small diversions.

So a purely long tail business model is unlikely to make money.

Sure, long tails exist – you can see them everywhere, in blog metrics and keyword analyses – but can you make money out of them? Well, can you? Suddenly we’re not so sure anymore.

… one to go

The particular theory supernova I read about today was that of Blink, a book I have on my shelf right in front of me now but haven’t actually read yet.

Blink is another of Malcolm Gladwells’ travails, in which he states that you can make equally good (or bad) decisions on the hoof, as when you really sit down and think about them. It’s a bit like comparing, thematically, Dali’s ‘Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening‘ with Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’ or, technically, Michelangelo’s ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with Tracey Emin’s ‘Bed’.

Given that I haven’t even found time to read it yet, I was dismayed to find that this isn’t true either. A new study to be published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology reckons that really, you do make better decisions when you think about them properly first.

Actually I suppose I should be relieved that the theory’s been found to be false. I’m not a particularly impetuous person so I’m glad that I’m doing the right thing when I think about it because it means that, if my life is in tatters, at least it’s in tatters with good reason.

Next up

And this brings us to a theory which was questioned some time ago.

The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki is another book that I also haven’t read yet although it is also on my shelf. However, I’m familiar with its argument: that mass, interlinked intelligence can prove more effective than individual instances.

So, if you ask a large number of people to guess, say, the number of coins in a jar, they’re more likely to be more accurate than if you just ask a single individual. Alternatively, get many people to manage a football team and it might just perform better.

Problem is, apparently this works in some cases but not in others. If only a small number of people have enough information to make a good decision it goes badly wrong. That’s why, despite everyone being convinced there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, there weren’t. Not enough people had enough information to make even semi-accurate judgements (and those who did have the intelligence were less than semi-intelligent).

So this theory sort of works, sort of doesn’t. It seems to fall foul of two others I’ve already covered – garbage in/garbage out, and the Long Tail. That is, any decision will only randomly be correct when you have bad, or little information; and within any population there will only be a few ‘fit’ individuals, with a long tail of people who are not.

What now?

Where does this leave us? I have a image in my mind of a small series of nuclear explosions – possibly from having just mentioned WMD – in which each theory is going up in smoke.

So which trendy, as-yet-untested, geek-influential theory is next? Which among the other books on my shelf will I have to bin soon?

Here are my predictions:

  • Small World. Mark Buchanan theorises that stunningly small numbers of connections in any network can wire up stunningly large numbers of things – people in social groups, nodes in brains, electrical power grids, Kevin Bacon to other Hollywood actors*. Academic study shows that, in fact, it’s all totally random, and that most networks can be approximated by dropping spaghetti from a large height. The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster takes a keen interest.
  • Wikinomics. Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams posit that if we can all just be open and honest and work together in perfect harmony the world will be a better place. A prominent pyschologist puts this to the test and discovers that, while some of us can be open and honest all the time, and all of us can be open and honest some of the time, most of us are basically untrustworthy, dishonest and unhealthily introspective. A global market recession closely follows.
  • Freakonomics. Steven Levitt applies alternative economic thinking to important scenarios. For example, what would happen if teachers cheated, rather than students? He is later found to have lied.
  • Linked. Albert-László Barabási – the man with the world’s most typographically-augmented name – makes us tremble with fear, not only at the difficulty of typing all those weird characters, but at the weakness of networks in which the ‘fittest’ nodes are also the biggest and therefore most vulnerable. Could the web collapse? Sophisticated mathematical models, rigorously tested using grid computing and refined through subatomic collision analysis at Cern’s LHC show that no, actually, it’s worse than that, the entire cosmos is dependent on a small species of lizard found only in the Congo. Unfortunately the models fail to indicate exactly which one, or what colour it is.

* The Oracle of Kevin Bacon currently seems to be broken but I can reveal that, having bought my flat in London off Cliff Parisi before he became famous as ‘Minty’ in Eastenders, I have a Bacon Number of 3 owing to Kevin Bacon having worked with Val Kilmer in Top Gun, who was Simon Templar in The Saint, which featured Cliff Parisi as a pub waiter. This means that, by implication, you, reader, have a Bacon Number of 4.

So, you want to get into social media?

I’ve been asked more than once recently “How did you get into social media – because I want to.”

A wallaby

A wallaby

If you’re a wannabe (see right), my topline answer would just be “Do it”. I mean, it’s all out there, most of it’s free, accessible and ubiquitous by definition. But that would be rude.

So, off the top of my head, my recent answers have included – in the order that I did them myself…

Write about social media: set up a blog about it

You don’t have to do this – and plenty of social media peeps don’t – but I’ve found it incredibly useful, not just to find out about this stuff but also as a repository of my previous thoughts/opinions/work. I often jump into the blog and fish something out to throw at people.

The blog gives you a place to think about stuff, crystallise your own opinions, get noticed, become part of the community.

But have a good old think about what you really want to write about though. It’s best to be associated with something specific, for example KD Paine is a measurement guru, Neville Hobson likes his tech, Steve Rubel annoys the heck out of everyone by being smart, etc

Personally, I recommend WordPress.com because it’s easy to use and secure, while Blogger seems quite spammy (and possibly dangerous), and I’ve found Typepad a bit fiddly.

And it’s free.

Read about social media: become an RSS ninja

Subscribe to the RSS feed for any and all PR/social media related blogs you can find. If you don’t know what RSS is, then find out.

If I may be so bold, you could start with my own PR Friendly Index for PR sites, and I might put something together for social media at some point.

I use Google Reader for handling RSS subscriptions, it’s just so great not only for managing subscriptions but archival and analysis too.

And it’s free.

Listen about social media: subscribe to podcasts

Does that heading make sense?

Wwwhadevur, what I’m trying to say is, there are some great podcasts out there which you can subscribe to, using Google Reader or iTunes for example, and spend at least half an hour in the company of someone who knows tons about this stuff and who would normally charge you large amounts of money for their time.

The behemoth of social media/PR podcasts is For Immediate Release, the most recent (and worthy) addition is the Tiger Two Tiger podcast, but there are others. Hey, I just remembered, I have a Podcast feed – check it out.

And they’re free.

Read more about social media: buy books

They are ridiculously old-fashioned but are great for getting the quality, well-researched, strategic thinking about where we are and where we’re going to.

My personal library contains tomes such as Wikinomics, Small World, Naked Conversations, The Wisdom of Crowds, Tipping Point – that sort of thing. If you look them up on Amazon I’m sure you’ll get other great recommendations.

Books, alas, aren’t free (yet) but they’re worth it. Think of them as an investment. You can impress people with phrases such as ‘democratisation of the internet’ and ‘disintermediation of the web’ until each of the theories is blown out of the water (one – Tipping Point – by one – Long Tail) then you can buy a whole new load of books again.

Join the buzz about social media: start using Twitter

Follow people in the PR/social media world to see what they’re talking about.

Best way to do this is to follow someone in this field (not necessarily me, although I am on Twitter), then you’ll get to see who they follow and you can start following them too.

Don’t use Twitter’s site though, use a client instead. I like twhirl because it has a nice enough interface and handles other platforms such as Friendfeed and identi.ca.

Twitter’s free. It doesn’t work very well though, so keep one eye on alternatives such as Jaiku or identi.ca

Share in social media: start using Friendfeed

Again through twhirl. In this way you’ll get to see what loads of people are talking in all sorts of other social media too because Friendfeed grabs feeds from other places such as Facebook etc.

In the same way as Twitter, subscribe to someone you think may be a good starting point, then see who they subscribe to, and subscribe to those people too.

It is also free.

Play with social media: immerse yourself

Find out about social networks such as Facebook, social video sites such as YouTube, social photo sites such as Flickr, social bookmarking sites such as del.icio.us.

There’s no harm in setting up accounts for everything and having a play around with them. Not only will you broaden your knowledge, you might actually have some fun along the way.

And most of them are free, too.

Is that it?

Pretty much.

In this way you get to contribute your joined-up, thought leadership ideas on your blog, read other people’s joined-up, thought leadership ideas through RSS, participate in mid-size conversations on Friendfeed, put out your sudden thoughts on Twitter, and likewise follow other people’s mid-size conversations and sudden thoughts.

After a while you’ll start to notice that people will comment on your blog (it’s very exciting when it happens), follow you on Twitter and Friendfeed and slowly, slowly, you’ll start to ‘know’ these people, even if virtually. More importantly, they’ll get to know you, and you start to gain credibility in the social mediasphere.

Meantime, you just learn a lot of fascinating stuff about communications of all kinds whether online or offline. For example, did you know that everyone is currently saying PR is crap, and/or that it’s not needed any more? No? Then get involved in the social mediasphere and find out. It’s been said before, it’ll be said again.

So it’s not something you can just jump into overnight. You need to take the time to cultivate relationships, get to know people in the industry or the particular part of it you want to be in, share, contribute, become involved.

All I would add is: always try and think about how this can all help you be a better PR practitioner. Put yourself in the position of the people you’re listening to and conversing with. Ask yourself: what do they need? What are their concerns? What are they trying to achieve and how can I help? If you start to think in this way, PR as a whole will be, well, less crap.

Basically you just need to do your own PR. Good luck Mr. Gorsky.