Outsourcing Warren Buffet's First Job to Social Media

The distribution of content has been a key part of human commerce since Gutenberg's printing press. It was how Warren Buffet began his working career, delivering papers for the Washington Post. In the age of social media, improving the distribution of content with orders of magnitude better efficiency is a key issue for publishers to keep top of mind.

Imagine, then, if a publisher, from an individual blogger to the largest media conglomerate, could have thousands of "Warren Buffet at age thirteen" helpers delivering their content for them at a fraction of the cost. In the age of social media, they can.

At the first level, there are the employees of the publisher, who are largely an untapped resource. Widening the circle further, there are regular subscribers and casual readers, each connected into their own networks. The number of digital equivalents of "paper deliverers" and "driveways" that can be reached becomes enormous.

Artwork credit: Julia Low

If you are a publisher (and in a way any organization with a website is) and looking to setup a program to recruit employees or external advocates to help distribute your content, here are 5 key elements to think about:

1. Authenticity and control - allowing for automatic or manual approval of posts by advocates depending on their individual comfort levels, as well as visibility and control for the marketing group across many campaigns and users;

2. Intelligent targeting - analytics, content curation, workflow and other tools for getting the right content to the right destination at the right time;

3. Ease of use - there should be minimal effort to sign advocates up for the program and approve ongoing suggested posts;

4. Appropriate rewards - employees can be rewarded with gift certificates and recognition programs, external subscribers can receive quid pro quo discounts based on their participation. Appropriate and fun reward mechanisms are the fuel to the fire of participation.

5. Flexibility - the program should be adaptable to multiple use cases, from an unexpected piece of good news that you want to quickly get out across thousands of users, to more of a steady "drum beat" thought leadership campaign spread across different individuals over a period of time.

In developing a content distribution program, it's important to think through the different target destinations - to paraphrase a U2 song, a specialized group in LinkedIn can be as different from a Facebook timeline as a fish from a bicycle. Content should also be "pushed" to the individual employees or subscribers; a model that expects busy people to actually go and fetch content from a shared "pool" for posting on a consistent basis over the long term is wishful thinking.

This transformation in the distribution of content is still at a relatively early stage, as the tools for corporations are only now coming into place. But from everything described above, it's obvious this wave will be massive and rapid. At NewzSocial, we have been working with a group of pilot customers ranging from large publishers in three continents, to government agencies, to business process consulting organizations, to build out a system that will meet the subtle complexities of empowering hundreds to thousands of advocates to participate consistently in such programs.

Has your organization tried enlisting employees and external fans for content distribution with social media? What have you learned? Please share your comments; I look forward to learning from your insights.