News Corp. recently launched a social network for weather junkies. But is there any merit to it, and what can we learn from how Fox is leveraging the social sphere? Let me dissect why this is a bad idea -- or maybe not a bad idea -- and provide four simple checkpoints for your social media programs. Then, I'll tell you why I might be completely wrong.
The bad idea
Has our industry gone so far off the deep end of the social networking hype that THIS is what someone comes up with? Are there really that many weather junkies obsessed with the daily machinations of planet Earth that we need a social networking site for 40-year-old losers who still live in their parents basement? This is one of those sublime examples of just because you CAN do it, doesn't mean you SHOULD.
I can just see it now, some luddite at Fox talking about social media and the great way they can drive stickiness to the Fox site. Another luddite probably pitched that idea three years ago as a weather site where users could comment on the weather... and it was laughed at. But attach the "social networking" moniker to it, and all of a sudden it is shiny, new and pretty. It was a crappy idea then, and now. It's a crappy idea that leverages social networking. So it's a shiny piece of nothing. The market is simply not there.
Maybe not so bad of an idea
But is it really a bad idea for Fox? You talk about the weather when you have nothing else to talk about. It's the safe topic of conversation instead of politics, religion or sex. It affects everybody. But is it really that important to users or advertisers? Ahh... now I'm starting to get a little bit of the logic. In a country where the average IQ barely registers above the average spring day in San Francisco, it's the perfect topic, requiring the intellectual capacity of belly button lint. Even those who watch Fox News or pro wrestling can carry on a conversation about the weather. But how many people are actually passionate about it? And where is the need for yet another weather site?
I thought Weather.com, AccuWeather and WeatherBug pretty much had a lock on the digital weather business. All of them have great products, and seriously, if you're a weather junkie to that extent, you're there.
So what is Fox doing, and why is this rant against them off the mark?
Four simple rules for social media efforts
If you are a brand and thinking about diving down the social media well, be careful, you need to change the way you think about conversations with your consumers. Advertising is a one-way dictatorship. You decide what you want to communicate and dictate it downward. Kim Jong-il is the most successful advertiser on the planet. Well, him and any major religion. Advertising works great in a closed system, and for a while here we had the benefit of that closed system. You could convince people that cigarettes were healthy, your weight loss drug works and will make you look like a model, and that nothing we do affects climate change. Oh, wait, there are still some hold-outs on that one.
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