Our Washington Post Smartphone Showdown – Lessons in Online Identity

written by: Mike Granetz

February 23, 2010

In case you missed it, yesterday’s Washington Post and MSNBC Online featured an article examining tortured souls who can’t control their addiction to smartphones. PeakTwo founding partners Mike Granetz and Jay Ferrari were two of the tortured souls featured.

The article kicked up plenty of online chatter. Feedback forums for WaPo and MSNBC, which uses Newsvine, had in excess of 100 comments. Stepping back from the controversy and critique, we found it to be a fascinating example of how content impact can evolve (maybe mutate is a better word) depending on audience.

Comparing three online outlets — the Post reader forum, the MSNBC Newsvine forum, and Facebook — it was interesting to observe trends in feedback tenor.

Readers at the Washington Post, which trend toward an older demographic, were tough. Jay was accused of negligent parenting. Mike was a detached husband. Many people were, to be blunt, just nuts. They worked in personal agendas and launched personal attacks. The animosity would have been unsettling to those who don’t realize those folks tend to be a bit ahem marginal upstairs.

MSNBC readers were on a bit more even keel. While the forum’s debate had a bit of personal vitriol, it swung between the dangers of this alleged addiction and the overall advantages of technology. Those readers trend a bit younger, a bit more savvy with online media. Not surprising that more participants would defend innovation and dismiss the stodgy hysteria that dominated WaPo.

Facebook was all congrats and smiles. Of course, we’re referring to our personal and company accounts — the classic captive audience. That’s important to note, however. We’ve built rosters of friends and followers who know us and can see past a one-dimensional depiction.

For this crowd, the placement was a big win for company awareness. Instead of being seen as negligent or absent, we were praised as being well-connected consultants and “hip” parents/husbands who went to great lengths to balance entrepreneurial and familial responsibility.

What does this demonstrate? You can count on a single message to change based on audience perception and agenda. What follows is a need to be present on as many platforms as possible, to lead the response when you can, and participate in the resulting dialog.

At times, you’ll be handing over your identity to fate. Make the front page of a major daily and you can’t be quite sure what will happen. The impressions, positive or negative, are invaluable. We’re sure happy about the SEO impact, for example, and will talk more about that in the next post.

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