iHerald – a comment from the editor

I’m trying to whean myself of too much weekend posting – work life balance and all that. But I thought it was worth giving a bit more visibility to a comment on my recent post about The Plymouth Heralds new social networking site.

The Herald’s web editor Neil Shaw responded to a number of the points in my post. Picking up on the disparity of the number of users he makes the very valid point about marketing which he says “has been very restricted (non-existent) so far.” I think that’s a good point but I still wonder about ‘transferring users’ from Facebook. That would be my concern for any social network endeavor (including Johnston Press’ recent efforts).

That doesn’t take away from the Heralds success on Facebook, in number of followers at least, something that I take my hat off to. It would be great to hear a little more about the kind of things they have done to make Facebook work.

Anyway, back to the rest of the comment. I think Neil does a great job of explaining their position and the thinking behind it. I hope they get the support to do it.

The motivation behind our use of Facebook, iHerald, MySpace, Bebo, Twitter and YouTube has always been to interact with our users, rather than dump print content online and hope that appeals to the audience. We now get thousands of page views every day on thisisplymouth directly from these sites, and users on these sites discuss us and our news every day.

Hitting the 5,000 limit on Facebook was the trigger, but the real drive is to create a platform where our users can interact with us and each other AND share their content with us. Gathering User Generated Content is a key part of our goal here.

As for the Facebook group, its limitations have always disuaded us from putting in too much effort. The only advantage it has over the profile, so far as I can see, is that we can contact the group members in bulk – rather than only sending emails 20 at a time.

Facebook has allowed us to take our content direct to a new audience who are genuinely interested in us and Plymouth news, and it has allowed those users to contact us with information (just today we were tipped off about a large number of job cuts in the city, while yesterday we were sent tributes to a young mum who died in the city over Facebook). But while it has raised the profile and altered the image of our brand among a key audience (damn, must have been spending too much time with the marketing team) it can’t really provided the interaction we want, or the UGC.

Facebook has been great for us, we enjoy it and we will continue to use it, but iHerald is different.

As to duplication of effort, using Twitter apps we take an RSS straight from our site, through Twitter, on to Facebook so effort is minimal and iHerald is mostly about monitoring – but as the number of users increases we are building a team of editors to moderate the content.

Thanks for the comment Neil

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