How Outposts Improve Your Ecosystem

outpost visualized

I saw this great pic from Oscar Berg, and it showed his primary social media flow. I thought it was interesting, but then, it got me thinking about how I see my social media world (for me, not for clients, but it relates).

In September 2008, I wrote about using outposts in your social media strategy, and I defined the “home base,” “outposts,” and “passports” idea. If you see me speak, there’s a 40% chance, I define it quickly during such presentations. Outposts are those touchpoints away from your main online presence where you connect with others in some way.

In the above drawing, I point out that I see sources for input, and then I have places where I connect with others as an outpost.

You could do the same thing quickly with a piece of paper and a few minutes. The thing is this: I do see my site as the primary point of value. I put all my best work into [chrisbrogan.com], and push attention here, not to my outposts.

I see many using Posterous and other outpost apps as a kind of replacement to their home base, or as a temporary “second base,” I guess. I’m not sure how that tactic is working out for them. To me, spreading the value too thin is a recipe to have no value captured.

Thinking of your primary online presence as your home base (and it doesn’t have to be a blog, but Twitter isn’t necessarily the right medium, I don’t think), and then thinking of the places where you make social connections as your outposts (realized I forgot LinkedIn, but I’m there too, obviously), then you see how you might prioritize your time and/or how you might try keeping the value chain alive.

You might weigh your outpost efforts differently. You might determine where else you spend time (various forums, Flickr, etc) that contribute to your success, but without keeping your home base central and your outposts as a secondary part of the value, I think leads to a bit of frustration.

One last thought: sometimes, “success” in an outpost, like lots of great conversations on Twitter, pushes us to conclude that those areas are of more value to us. Ask yourself whether you see it that way in the larger ecosystem of your online presence.

What’s your take?

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  • http://chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan

    Glad your right brain catches it up. : )

    And yes, lots of people fail to see the network for the primary value. Kinda like Avatar.

  • http://vsellis.com Scott Ellis

    Chris, I'll be revising this and making another attempt thanks to the feedback from one of your readers. Hopefully it'll be easier to follow.

    Sidebar, see you in Dallas in a couple weeks. Look forward to meeting you then.

  • http://jeffkorhan.com Jeff Korhan

    Chris – I gotcha. And the truth is you never really know how the touch points will reorganize in the future so you have to respect that it all is inextricably linked.

  • dancingbaglady

    Wow you just turn on the lights for me. High beams right in the face. Ding! I got some thinking to do.

  • Tallulah

    I know this initial question was directed to Chris, but I just ran into this same dilemma using Posterous myself. I once had my Posterous blog autopost pics and liners to my main wordpress blog, but then I disconnected the automation because I found my Posterous site was fast becoming a Photo journal (where I went, what food i liked, etc.) mainly bec. I used my iphone to post while mobile. My wordpress blog posts are usually more lengthy and about PR/Social Media/Music etc. So I just thought they were clashing thematically and aesthetically. Thoughts on this approach? Is this spreading myself thin?

    My Posterous site is also less optimized than my main wordpress blog – my home base – because the Posterous blog, being more casual and random, doesn't have to be that optimized. It exists to record my experiences, but also to provide a fuller picture of me, a better picture of the human behind the medium. In a way it's like a visual twitter – filling in the gaps – but really more for me than anyone else.

    Posterous is great for private group blogs btw, especially if some group members aren't even on Facebook yet. Everyone by now is likely to at least have email. Good entry tool for first time bloggers.

    Hope this helped Paul : ) Thanks for the comment

  • http://www.beastoftraal.com/ Karthik

    Yes, agree with that. Some times, I feel one of my best thoughts is appended as a comment, on some one else's blog post. In that case, I'm tempted to take that thought out and post it as a blog post on my own, referring the original post too. It sure helps accentuate that thought and get broader feedback…so yes, that home base vs outpost part works.

  • http://www.ivanwalsh.com Ivan Walsh

    Got it!

  • http://www.landscapeforms.com/ Janis

    This is a very helpful diagram. As a manufacturer of design-based products, our extensive product website is the place we have the most control over and where our clients (designers) can access the tools they need to do their work (when learning about/selecting our products as well as trends in the industry). We are just preparing to add a blog. So does the blog become 'home base' for SN activity or does the product website become home base or am I mixing metaphors?

  • http://www.justhardwork.blogspot.com Paul Marshall

    I agree that it is a good entry tool for bloggers but for me I am struggling to write down what would constitute Posterous content. To Chris's point:
    1. I want to keep my blog as the central point “home base”
    2. Twitter is a daily who I am, what I am thinking, seeing, etc (as well as a channel that I push blog content through)
    3. Facebook for me is a personal (non-business) tool
    4. LinkedIn is a tool I use as a channel to non-Twitter business associates but not really as a place I hold dialogue
    5. Flickr is mostly personal for me.

    I was thinking that Posterous would be an in-between site where daily thoughts that were bigger than 140 characters and less than a full blog post could go. I may still go that way but I need some quiet time to really sit down and think this through considering the pull extent of Chris's broader message here. Once I figure it out I think I will do a blog post informing my readers exactly what my diagram and what they can expect from me in what locations.

  • http://samdavidson.net/blog Sam Davidson

    This is a very handy guide/reminder for those of us who not only use SM/blogging for personal use, but for those of us who also do it on behalf of a company or organization. It can keep everything organized and flowing. Thanks for this tool. This can also be used to prevent unnecessary duplication and over promotion of posts that can get annoying to some of your audience.

  • http://www.melaniekissell.com melaniekissell

    Chris, since about 90% of adults are visual learners (including me), this picture is exceptionally simple by design and easy to take a great lesson from.

    Thanks for “value on a continuum” that you add to your readers' lives.

  • http://www.medxcentral.com medxcentral (Jim)

    Even if businesses “see” the value.. they are overwhelmed with the idea of managing it all within the scope of their current resources and workflow.

  • http://www.medxcentral.com medxcentral (Jim)

    Even if businesses “see” the value.. they are overwhelmed with the idea of managing it all within the scope of their current resources and workflow.

    [sorry to repost this reply. But, I wanted it to be in reply to @alex. When I logged in via Disqus, the system seemed to forget what I wanted to reply to.]

  • http://digitalbodylanguage.blogspot.com Steve Woods

    Chris,
    thanks – interesting perspective. I wonder if your experience is easily mapped to most B2B marketers. Two main differences come to mind:

    - your (Chris Brogan's) ideal audience is heavily engaged in the medium you are talking about (ie, you're speaking about social media IN social media) vs speaking about something like silicon chip design; so your outposts are ideal for your audience
    - you have developed a bigger audience/awareness than anyone just starting in social media could hope to in anything less than a few years

    Is your advice for regular B2B marketers to de-prioritize search in a similar way? Or is search just a unique type of outpost?

  • http://itsallaboutthebike.com/ Thomas

    Chris, like Hugh says below, Posterous can be a great tool to use not as a replacement for the blog or the “main” Home Base, but as light way to build more content. For folks who do some content “curating”, the Share on Posterous browser bookmark tool is great. Also, the posterous API for integrating with a WordPress blog used to be a little buggy when it first came out, but has been working much better lately. Also a great tool for getting groups to contribute.

  • dannyjacks

    Love the diagram. People are going to participate where they are comfortable. Your “Home Base” HAS to be portable, so to speak, to reach the various touch points.

    I like your line about puttting all your best work into your home base, pushing the attention there, and not to the outposts. While that seems like a no brainer I feel like brands, and people, lose focus on what's most important, Home Base.

  • http://www.tallulahdavid.com/blog tallulah

    On the one hand, I see how Posterous can help automate posting to your home base blog, as well as allow for lengthier posts than Twitter would allow, but I do wonder about the problem of having to repost your home base blog post onto the posterous site, which further confuses the main function of Posterous in your Social Media activity.

    These were the questions that eventually led me to keep my Posterous more casual: If I use both the Posterous blog and my main blog for more professional/business posts – will I be diverting attention away from either site? Will I have to go through the trouble of reposting my WP blog posts onto my Posterous site just so that both stay consistent? Yes. and Yes. And I guess this is what it means to spread myself too thin. So I kept the content and theme separate to be clear. In case any blog readers want to know what I randomly eat/visit/do when I happen to have my iPhone, they have my Posterous. Hope these questions help somehow.

    Thanks again for the chat.

    T

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  • http://www.synapticlight.com/ SynapticLight

    outposts, especially comments on other blogs bring in the most visits to my blog. A little from twitter and not so much facebook. So I make an effort to add meaningful comments all about. It spreads me thin sometimes. But the hard work is rewarding. I am a frontier ranger seeing where I can add value.

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  • http://www.gennextmedia.com/chris-marentis Chris Marentis

    I wonder what the effect of Facebook, Twitter and You Tube becoming search engines themselves have on the value of the outpost as a primary communication tool? Chris, your insight about Google is really interesting. Do outposts factor into your thinking on how you plan content as they increasingly get used for search?

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  • bradblackman

    I've got a friend who describes his outposts (if you can call it that for him) this way:
    - Small Doses (Twitter)
    - Visual Doses (Flickr)
    - Moderate Doses (Tumblr)
    - Larger Doses (blog)

    His small and moderate doses are pretty funny, but his larger doses are much more serious.

  • Thomas

    Love it. Your friend should â„¢ this description!

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    Chris, like Hugh says below, Posterous can be a great tool to use not as a replacement for the blog or the “main” Home Base, but as light way to build more content. For folks who do some content “curating”, the Share on Posterous browser bookmark tool is great. Also, the posterous API for integrating with a WordPress blog used to be a little buggy when it first came out, but has been working much better lately. Also a great tool for getting groups to contribute.

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