Lee Odden

PRSA Digital Impact: Tracking Social Media Trends

Lee Odden Steve Rubel

Last week at the PRSA Digital Impact conference I met Steve Rubel, SVP Director of Insights from Edelman Digital and famous (sometimes infamous) PR blogger at Micropersuasion. He presented “2008 Digital Trends: Open Files” which talks about the framework Edelman uses (Faint Signals, Watch List and Hallucinations for tracking digital/social media trends.

Read my live blogging notes below or you can view the entire presentation over at Slideshare or Rubel’s post about tracking digital trends here.

Mass vs Micro. It’s less about reach and more about impact. Mass reach is dying. Micro is blogging, Twitter, Friendfeed etc. Even if people are not producing content and media, they’re impacted by it.

Google is not just a search engine, it’s a reputation management engine and is a place for PR. People trust each other more than authority figures. PR is more about “Public Relationships”, not “Public Relations”.

“Open Files” references the way Edelman tracks digital trends. Signals, Watch list, Hallucinations (you think you see something or not)

Faint Signals:

1. The cut and paste web – the web has evolved into a place where you can take content from one location to another easily. Traffic to your web site is less relevant as traffic can be driven elsewhere. Content follows you wherever you want to put it.

You want content not only to live on a web site, but so that it can spread elsewhere. Make it easy for that content to travel and track where it goes.

Gives example of the NBA using widgets. Can place widget in Facebook, MySpace, iGoogle.

2. Attention Crash – People are inundated with electronic communications. The numer of inputs we have as individusals has exceeded what we are capable of managing. Need to chunck it down. Keep it simple and use storytelling. If they can’t understand it in 3 seconds, they’re gone.

Gives example of Blendtec (willitblend.com). Great example of simplicity.

3. Digital Curation. There’s so much content everywhere it’s difficult to distinguish the “art” from the junk. At museums there are curators to make those distinctions. Online there are curators as well: humans and also algorithms.

Every popular niche will offer opportunities for brands to become the digital curator for that niche. The challenge is to do it before others do first.

Gives example of POPURLS and how they partnered with Intel to create an Intel version of POPURLS.

4. Super Crunching. The digital space is the most addressable media and marketing platform ever. However, many marketers are not “quants” and data is largely under utilized.

Google is the operating system for marketing. Data mining and visulaizations reduce risk, make marketing more efficient .

Example: Google Trends. You can track over time if the work you’re doing has impacted news search. Helps you see if you are creating demand with your PR work for keyword concepts.

5. Collaboration – The web is a platform for action. People are working together for shared outcomes.

Rubel shows a matrix of open and controlled communication. Communicate and collaboration. Different tactics fall in different quadrants. Advertising is controlled communication. PR is lessed controlled. Viral video is far more open but less likely to result in a specific outcome. Blogs, community engagement and ideastorms are open and collaborative.

The web is not just a platform for communication but for collaboration.

Example: mystarbucksidea.com. Anyone can submit ideas and the community can vote on them. Starbucks evaluates the best ideas. Open and collaborative.

Watch List – areas of experimentation

1. Living Room 2.0. The internet is coming to the living room in a big way. Shares that he has an apple TV and Xbox 360 connected to his LCD and also to the internet. Streams itunes and friends Flickr images.

We’re entering a new Golden age of TV via the internet. It’s still very early days though. Buy an apple TV and experiment with it so when the trend grows, you’ll be familiar with the experience.

2. Geek Marketers. There are people at companies tasked with staying on top of things. If you’re in PR find out who those people are at companies. If you’re at a company, hire one of these people to stay on top.


1. Digital Nomads. Increasing numbers of people who are virtual workers or indpendent consultants. Small number but an interesting trends. They are using web based collaboration tools and lot.Ex

Examples/resources: anywired.com and Tim Ferriss’s 4 hour work week

It’s concievable that companies will become more virtual and distributed.

2. Data Leaking. Information is seeping out of institutions. Technology outside the enterprise innovates far faster than what companies are able to do inside. Gen Y workers expect the same tools in the office that they easily have at home. Work and corporate information is migrating to social networks and other online platforms. Be aware of this trend and be involved.

Traffic is something that can happen elsewhere, not just on your site. It’s important to enable content to travel. Digitial curation is a big opportunity. Find high demand niches and “become the curator”.

The PRSA Digital Impact conference was seriously information rich and I heard sentiments from many of the attendees as such. Hopefully PRSA can make them a regular event and in different cities.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Think this is relevant to this discussion…

    Driven by the use of video on the web, Cisco today released a study that estimates that “IP traffic will increase at a combined annual growth rate (CAGR) of 46 percent from 2007 to 2012, nearly doubling every two years. This will result in an annual bandwidth demand on the world’s IP networks of approximately 522 exabytes, or more than half a zettabyte.”

  2. The conference was indeed information rich and extremely well run. Many thanks go to Lee Odden and all the presenters for their outstanding presentations, and also many thanks go to Eric Schwartzman for putting together a rich and informative conference for the PRSA.

    (Oh, by the way, Lee, that’s me in the background in the picture you posted on the blog!)

  3. Really great post here Lee. I can especially relate to the topic of having too many inputs. Between a dozen email address each with a specific purpose, 2 desk tops, a laptop, and of course my blackberry I don’t think there’s a second of the day that I’m not online. If you want to get my attention and those like me you have to be able to do it in as few words as possible.

  4. Nice post Lee especially the examples you provided.
    I may be wrong but to the best of my understanding there was nothing new in the whole discussion except the fact that there were new jargons.

  5. Nice post – I definitely consider myself in the category of ‘geek marketer’ =)

  6. The first faint signal comes at an appropriate time with the AP content hubbub…it’s a copy a paste web, AP, figure it out.