In the media business we call it "feeding the beast." The newspaper comes out every morning, and needs to have enough stories to fill all that space between the ads and the top of the pages. The website is contantly hungry for fresh posts, 24 hours a day.
Same goes for the poor bit-stained wretches who work in social media, and whose job is to provide a constant stream of smart, witty, pithy, useful tweets that can build brand awareness. At first glance you might think those people have the easiest job in the world. Wait, you mean you just sit in a room and think up tweets all day? Well, it turns out it's not that easy to find great material.
But fear not! Marketing legend and world-renowned best-selling author Guy Kawasaki is riding to your rescue. He and his social media partner, Peg Fitzpatrick, have created a service called HASO, which stands for "Help a Socialist Out," and by socialist they mean someone who works in social media, not an actual socialist. It's a pun. Geddit?
The gist is, you sign up for HASO, and it sends you a stream of stories culled from the interwebs that you can use as fodder in your social streams. Kawasaki says it reduces the "haso" (hey now!) of content creation, and helps you find great "shiitake" for your social streams.
I just signed up and can vouch for HASO's ease of use. Just find a headline you like, click on the Share button, choose Facebook or Twitter, and bam -- off goes your post. Now you have 59 minutes and 30 seconds to sit around reading BuzzFeed or IMing with your friends until the beast needs to be fed again.
Chat with Guy
I also had a quick chat via email with Guy Kawasaki to ask about the origins of HASO.
Tell me how you created HASO. How much work was involved?
The idea came to me because I spend a lot of time each day looking for great content, and I know that most people cannot afford to do this. I find a lot of stuff to post late at night when I can't sleep. I just needed a way to create a tickler file of stories to post when I'm more cogent and near a full keyboard.
At first, Peg Fitzpatrick and I created a private community on Google+ just to manage what we found for posting later. The next permutation of HASO was to make this community public. However, this required people to bookmark it and visit it -- which takes too much effort. The way to go is an email list so that great content is served up to people. My thinking was, "Why not share everything we find with others so they can have great posts too?"
The mechanics behind the scene is that we use Chrome to share a link to Tumblr with one click. Tumblr creates an RSS feed that goes to MailChimp. MailChimp then sends out the email Sunday through Thursday (since a lot fewer people post on Saturday and Sunday. We use MailChimp because it has all the subscription and administration functionality built in.
What was your motivation?
My motivation is mostly to help people find great stuff to post. If HASO really takes off, maybe I can monetize it like HARO. [HARO is service called "Help A Reporter Out," that connects journalists with expert sources.] The value proposition of advertising in HARO is to get your product in front of the press and bloggers. The value proposition of HASO could be to get your product in front of the cream of social media. We're a long way from monetization, though.
Where do you get the material that goes into HASO?
Peg Fitzpatrick and I are constantly searching for great stories, pictures, and video. We spend hours every day "feeding the beast" called social media. These are my two best sources:
In addition, I subscribe to newsletters from Harvard, Trove, SmartBrief, etc., and I follow a small number of people on Google+ who post great stuff.
Devil's advocate: Won't this make the problem of content overload even worse? Now we'll have all these people tweeting the same stuff and flooding the internet. Shouldn't we be making it harder, not easier, for people to just blast stuff out all day long?
First, we don't have that many HASO subscribers, so we're not "flooding the Internet" yet. :-) If HASO gets to the point where placement in it means that "all these people" are posting the same story and making things boring for the entire internet, I promise you that we can monetize it.
There are many companies who have collectively raised tens of millions of dollars that purport to find "the best stuff to read." You could make the case that if they succeed, everyone will be reading the same stuff. At least we have a much higher editorial standard because we find stuff that you can bet your reputation on by sharing to followers, not just waste your own time reading.
The goal shouldn't be to make things harder to blast out stuff -- I promise you that there will never be a cat GIF in HASO. The goal is to make it easier for people to blast out stuff that positions them as knowledgable curators of great content, because this is our goal for ourselves too. Since we're doing so much curation, why not piggyback on our efforts?
Why "socialist"? Aren't you fighting a lot of connotative meaning?
I want to change the connotation of "socialist" from political to social media. And, being inspired by HARO, I had to stick with four letters. "Socialite" is not at all what I want to say. "Social media user" would mean it's HASMUO. Perhaps "socialista," but that's a little too cute.
While You're At It
In fact our team at HubSpot has been trying to crack the same problem -- "How do I come up with stuff?" -- with some new tools, most notably our HubSpot Blog Content Generator, and a new brainstorming tool.
Both come highly recommended. Sign up for Guy's service and the new HubSpot tools, and let the semi-automated fun begin, people.