One of the mistakes many companies make when trying to embrace social networking or social media is to think that they should just build their own version of MySpace, or clone of some other popular site. For various reasons, these attempts almost always end up as failures. Jane Galt, who writes for The Economist, points to a nice example of how her magazine is turning letters to the editor into a form of social media that makes sense for the publication. Basically, they've decided to publish, in the form of a blog, all of the letters they receive (excluding ones that are patently offensive). There's also a comments section for each one, so that the letters they receive don't just serve as static items, but as conversation starters. Already, within a few days of launching, plenty of people are commenting on each other's letters. It helps, of course, that The Economist has a rather intelligent readership, so there are plenty of good letters that they don't have space to publish in the print version. It's obviously not a radical step, but it's an interesting experiment that shows how publications should be thinking about social media.
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