Content Communities, Social Bookmarking and Tagging

Tagging is the core social element of many Web 2.0 services. The buzzword for this phenomenon is “folksonomy,” which translates to “user generated classification.” Participation is very easy and tagging data is used in new ways to find information.

Organizations can create special tags to keep track of conversations and give an opportunity to content creators to effectively pull the organization’s sleeve and bring attention to their content. Some previously mentioned services that use tagging are Technorati, where you can search blog posts or even entire blogs carrying specific tags, and, where you can tag artists, albums and tracks.

Beth Kanter created a special “wearemedia” tag for bloggers who write about the We Are Media project. When bloggers write an article about the project, they add the tag to their post, alerting search engines such as Technorati. This is an easy way for Beth to keep track of who is joining the conversation on her project, by simply searching by “wearemedia”; and it’s an easy way for the bloggers to call attention to their post and stimulate responses and conversation.

The Web site Chicagoist uses a special “chicagoist” tag in Flickr, an image hosting service, so that their readers can mark photos that might be interesting for Chicagoist’s blog posts. Photos tagged range from Lincoln’s deathbed to a photo of a bachelorette party on the streets of Chicago. Chicagoist editors frequently pick out a photo to feature on their Web site (with the appropriate credit to the photographer, of course) to go along an article or even be featured by itself., a social bookmarking site, is a service where users store, organize, search and manage bookmarks of Web pages. Each bookmark is accompanied by a tag or several tags, allowing other users to find links to similar articles or pages. The San Francisco Symphony hosted its first “Bloggers Night” in 2007. The orchestra invited area bloggers to cover a concert and bookmarked all the resulting blog posts on a special page with a special tag “sanfranciscosymphonybloggernight.”

A slightly different take on social bookmarking are services such as Digg and StumbleUpon. These Web sites work slightly differently, focusing on a social recommendation system rather than purely bookmarking. Users can submit links and those links are voted upon (“digging” or “burying,” e.g. up or down vote). The links and stories with the most up votes are featured on the home page of the service.

YouTube, perhaps the most famous content community, gives the following advice to non-profits: “Tag and Title Well. Tag and title your videos with relevant keywords—that’s how users will find your content as they navigate YouTube.”

But tagging is not the only Web 2.0 characteristic of these content communities. Flickr, for example, invites comments and discussions about its images and organizations and users can annotate their images. In addition, users can subscribe to an RSS feed so they can keep track of new images being added.

Digital Storytelling

What’s perhaps most intriguing about content communities is the opportunity to tell a digital story. Why not tell the story of your orchestra’s education outreach campaign, Schoenberg or any other composer festival, or touring adventures in Europe?

Many orchestras already keep a photo journal of their touring activities on their Web site. Let’s take this to the next level and post it on Flick; annotate the images, invite comments and tag locations, people and anything else you can imagine.

Again, YouTube offers good advice:

  • Reach Out. Post videos that get YouTube viewers talking, and then stay in the conversation with comments and video responses;
  • Partner Up. Find other organizations on YouTube who complement your mission, and work together to promote each other;
  • Keep It Fresh. Put up new videos regularly and keep them short—ideally under 5 minutes;
  • Spread Your Message. Share links and the embed code for your videos with supporters so they can help get the word out;
  • Be Genuine. We have a wide demographic, so high view counts come from content that’s compelling, rather than what’s “hip.”

And lastly, give others the opportunity to tell your organization’s story. Create those tags so that people can let you know when they talk about you. Add those “add to; add to dig; add to Facebook” buttons to your Web site’s content. But most of all, give people the media to tell it. As said before in this series: if you provide content, make utilization and attribution easy. Provide sound samples, interviews, videos and images under a Creative Commons license, which covers the spectrum between full copyright and the public domain.

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