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November 25, 2013 / Gina D.

Warning: Dissecting social media virality may require protective headgear

Unintentionally at the core of a conversation about how the whole freaking planet came to know about #SFBatKid is Fast Company’s mention of a PR agency’s mobilization of “6,000-plus network of paid influencers.” I barely noticed, but I wanted to make sure others didn’t get hung up on it… IRONY!!!

So, I have to be honest here. I found this Fast Company folo on #SFBatKid while fishing around for something interesting to post via Buffer, a social media client I’m experimenting with — currently my biggest motivation for posting anything to my social media accounts in the last couple of weeks. In an attempt to run Buffer through its paces, I have been slowly escalating my “Buffer-ing” — and social media posting volume — while trying to figure out whether I want to try it out on our news group’s 27 core social media apps. (Answer: YES. But I’ll blog about that at another time. …Should I say “Buffer” again? It gets me nothing.)

I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately about what helps social media posts get attention, and while I think it’s been a long-standing good practice to use questions, this Nieman Lab article on social media sharing practices reaffirmed that asking questions was still a good practice — that keeping it simple was key, and that anything “emotionally charged” will also help.

So that’s what I did. I found an interesting article with a recognizable hook (#SFBatKid) that I thought had value, and I threw in the emotionally charged “paid influencers” bit not just to get attention, but because I wanted to get my audience (my followers are largely journalists) past the hump of what they can’t use and into the parts they can.

I was! I was legitimately heartened to read that they directly embedded only two staffers with the Batkid and that the coverage effort rippled out from there. I mean… SMALLISH NEWSROOMS CAN TOTALLY DO THAT. Which means… smallish newsrooms have the potential to do large-scale “adventures.” #SFBatKid-scale adventures? OK, maybe not (but… maybe?), but the epiphany I had when reading the story made me remember that the successes of those with exponentially more resources are rooted in the things we know how to do: tell good stories, plan, execute and adapt. It’s like the moment you had when you realized that (insert person you idolize here) is just that: a person. Like me. Like you.

But I digress.

My attribution of the #SFBatKid success to paid influencers was deemed by one of the founders of the PR agency behind it to be incorrect.

OK. I can roll with that. Clarifying the facts would be good for all involved. Like any good journalist, I immediately checked my source. Did I really totally botch that tweet?

From the post-#SFBatKid story by Fast Company:

“But the agency still used it’s 6,000-plus network of paid influencers–people with large online followings who act as social media foot soldiers in Clever Girls campaigns–to spread in the word.”

Seemed pretty straight-forward to me. Paid influencers were attributed at least in some part to the virality of #SFBatKid. But hey, there’s two sides to every disspute, right? Maybe Fast Company misspoke.

But before I could get that tweet out… BAM.

BAM.

Whoa.

OK. Now I was totally neck-deep in… I didn’t really know what, at the time. Maybe (hopefully) nothing, really. Regardless, I wanted to untangle the error, if indeed there was one, so I went back to it.

…cc? Wait — who? (BTW, I don’t think I’ve ever had a tweet to me cc’d to anyone else before, much less someone with connection to more than one well-known national — and webby! — publications.)

The plot thickened.

Ah. So maybe it was less about my tweet, and more about his…?

OK. I can see how that’s pointed. But given his own back and forth with Clever Girls co-founder Stefania Pomponi, I think he was, in his own way, attempting to employ the same strategy as myself.

You be the judge…

Meanwhile, that *NOT TRUE* post was favorited by a few more folks/agencies while we were still at the beginning stages of sorting this out, adding to my growing concern about, well, #gettingitright. While scoping those out, I was tagged by @jesskry, who had been discussing the topic amongst her own followers a few days back.

Even though this conversation happened well before I got pulled into a debate about my own tweet on the topic, I wanted to be clear — and keep clear of any more doo-doo that might yet be flung in my direction.

No crap.

In fact, Jess Krywosa’s Twitter thread on this #SFBatKid influence conversation was full of some interesting angles on the matter. Here’s a snapshot:

But getting back to my own thread…

So I came to the realization that maybe I was caught in the crossfire.

Yep. But I still wanted to know what the right information was, so I asked again for a clarification of the facts.

Ouch.

And — hey! I still don’t know have a clear answer to my question. Let’s try that again…

First, though, I get a link to their version of the story, posted on CNBC.

It’s a decent read, and again made me optimistic that the efforts can be replicated at a smaller level, like in any of my newsrooms. Hooray!! OPTIMISM! I MUST TWEET IT, TOOOOOOOO!!!

But not before I try to make amends with Clever Girls, who — come on — have to be pretty clever, indeed, to get #SFBatKid off the ground like that.

But… sigh…

OK. I give up.

Or maybe I don’t give up. I did write this post after all. Heh.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see what comes of this. Will our masterminds get the correction? Tune in next time to find out… Eh, I don’t even know anymore.

RON BURGANDY MEME WELL THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY

Regardless of where this topic might wander, don’t forget THIS is where it really all started:

Miles’ wish to be Batkid (via sf.makeawish.org)

BATKID

How to donate to Make-A-Wish

How to help Make-A-Wish

UPDATE: Creative Girls Collective is pursuing some kind of clarification or correction on the Fast Company story, according to Pomponi, who also defended me as NOT a #SFBatKid-hater. (Thanks, btw.)

FWIW: This entire exchange kinda reminded me of a debate I observed at ONA12 regarding social media professionals and journalism. While that’s not a directly related topic, per se, I think it’s interesting when these two worlds collide, intentionally or not.

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