Journalist & Social Media Strategist currently at Forbes in Audience Development. A recent graduate of Studio 20 NYU.
The boys I knew in college had perfected the art of dating. They would put on their Sunday best, take you out to your favorite restaurant, introduce you to their most successful friends, talk to you with a kind of easy confidence and respect that you don’t find much of nowadays in frat houses or football games. They lay the groundwork. Let you into their lives. Inquire about yours. Make a few jokes about school, the weather, life after college. Offer you their jacket if you’re cold. Make eye contact. Give you a glimpse of what life with him could possibly be if you gave it enough time. You begin to size up his strength, respectability, power and control.
Conversation ends. You head to a bar nearby, your body buzzing with excitement — and all of a sudden, as the both of you are coyly dancing in the middle of a crowded floor or sitting chatting at the bar while you’re fiercely pondering to yourself whether you can, in fact, see yourself with this person, your favorite song comes gliding out of the speakers, he casually mentions your favorite poet from freshman year, a mutual friend (unbeknownst to you until then) stops by signaling her approval — and all of a sudden, a distant memory is triggered in your head, a faint feeling only known to you in dreams or books or movies, becomes real. And, at that point, your knees start to buckle, your resolve begins to weaken. He registers the change in your emotions, notices you begin to waver, and goes in for the kill.
Don’t think I’m not aware of what’s going on — all these coincidences, all these fortuities quietly aligning. And don’t think that I’m not aware that all this may be planned. That he may have put much thought and much research into this beforehand on my habits, my thoughts, my friends. That he hasn’t summed me up in his head of what kind of girl I am and how I liked to be talked to.
I know that he probably has — and quite frankly, at that moment in time, I do not care. Because I feel as though what’s happening, what has now consumed my mind and my heart, possessed my body and soul, is greater than anything I could ever achieve at this point on my own.
Milan Kundera in his book, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, writes:
“Chance and chance alone has a message for us. Everything that occurs out of necessity, everything expected, repeated day in and day out, is mute. Only chance can speak to us. We read its message much as gypsies read the images made by coffee grounds at the bottom of a cup.”
At that exact moment as I am sitting in that bar with that boy and that song and that mention of my favorite poet and that unexpected visit from a mutual friend, I know that chance has spoken to me. And I begin to read into it more than there probably is.
This is the way social media strategy needs to be. It needs to capitalize on that chance, that excitement, that romance. It needs to master the art of purposeful coincidence.
But, in order to do that, in order to manufacture that madness, that love, that fervor, journalists first need to figure out what their subject, what their audience, what the object of their affections likes, does and is. They need to know them intimately. Figure them out, and then give them what they want when they want it.
That’s something that I’m trying to figure out in my work at Forbes. How can we better figure out what our audience wants and then deliver that to them?
So far, we’ve been trying our best to identify popular trends on Forbes.com and online in general by keeping a close eye on chart beat, page views, unique visitors and a few other tidbits of information that change monthly, daily and hourly. The general consensus on the team is that if these numbers are going up and users are reading these articles and clicking on these things, they like what we are doing. If users are not, we need to change.
I agree with all of this and believe that it has been very successful, but I think there is more. I want to know what you’re sharing on Facebook and Twitter, what you’re telling your friends, what restaurants and bars that you eat at. I don’t just want to know what you’re doing, I want to know who you are and what you’re thinking and where you’ll be going next. Like your first love (or second or third), I’m after your heart.
Maybe that requires more serious qualitative analytics or maybe that requires more cunning and more strategic ways of using the resources that we already have, I don’t know — but I’m trying to figure that out. I keep thinking there’s a better way to surface all of our users’ Facebook and Twitter activity — wall posts, likes and friends — into a more comprehensive view of the kinds of content they would read — so that, instead of our users coming to us and using our site, and then us analyzing what they’re doing, we go directly to them (and then bring that information back to us.)
Sites like Forbes.com need to figure out not just which of their own content users are reading and sharing and circulating, but which of the other content by other publications and outlets users are reading and sharing and circulating. Once that is done and we have a better understanding of who our users are, not just as Forbes readers but as people with a wide variety of interests and successes and failures and faults, will we better be able to target, attract and woo our audiences.
We need to approach our social media strategy with the same patience, ferocity and diligence we would have approached that beautiful girl or boy in class on a first date. After all, everyone likes to be courted every once in a while.