Sunday, February 14, 2010

No Ode for Ode

Ode magazine features positive news about people and organizations across the world who are working to make a difference. It bills itself as a magazine “for intelligent optimists,” a theme repeated in the banner of its website: “The online community for intelligent optimists.”

I like the moniker; I like believing that Ode readers and subscribers are informed, invested and involved in changing our world through their combined efforts. I think of Ode as a young, progressive organization and I expected this attitude to be reflected in its use of social media. After a quick review, however, I am disappointed with the scope of its engagement thus far.

Ode’s website mirrors the look and feel of the original print publication, with a bold, colorful design. The home page features teasers to recent magazine articles, blog posts and tweets and the navigation bar includes familiar icons for linking to Ode profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, as well as subscribing to RSS feeds and Ode’s online newsletter.

On the surface, the magazine seems to be in all the right places. But upon further review, Ode’s level of engagement with its readers appears limited; it seems to be failing at establishing two-way conversation—a crucial ingredient in successful social media campaigns.

Blog Woes

Ode hosts three separate blogs: Blog, written exclusively by founder Jurriaan Kamp; People, Passion, Possibilities, written by a staff of 25 bloggers; and Exchange, written by readers. Gauging by the scarcity of comments, none of the blogs have been very successful at engaging readers—either with the publication or with each other. Could having three separate blogs be an issue?

Facebook Fanned

Ode’s Facebook presence tells a similar story. Ode has only 9,124 fans—a relatively small number for a 12-year-old magazine that claims a worldwide readership of over 100,000. The page is not very busy, with only four or five posts per day. The good news, however, is that Ode replies to several readers and creates a warm and friendly persona.

Twittering About

Just over 9,000 people follow Ode on Twitter. (Could these be the same 9,000 Facebook fans?) The positive sign here is that Ode follows almost as many people (8,750). On the downside, however, the tweets don’t seem to offer anything more than links to Ode articles; only one or two were in response to a reader. Establishing a two-way conversation with its readers seems to be taking a back seat to Ode’s self-promotion--a definite no-no in the world of social media.

Back to Basics

My final assessment would be that Ode magazine is cognizant of the potential for social networking and wants to build an online community. Right now though, it seems unable to really engage its audience or to create a unique presence using social media. It looks as though Ode hasn’t answered some strategic questions, such as

  • Why are we building an online community?
  • What will people do there?
  • Who will be the caretaker and how can we spark conversation?
  • How are we going to be involved; what is our role in this new community?

Ode must understand that its current social media strategy is falling short. I’m afraid if it doesn’t answer these basic questions and step up its involvement, the window of opportunity to engage its readers may close.


  1. Montyne, I went to the Ode site and spent a good bit of time looking around, and you're right. They're just not getting it done. The site layout was not memorable. The graphics were a bit ho-hum, and they needed a lot more images to jazz the place up.

    As for the blog, I bet Jurriaan Kamp is a very nice man, but he needs to hire a writer (I'm available if you know him well). That was some of the most boring stuff I have ever read, and for twenty-five years, I read mostly industrial maintenance manuals pertaining to large, dangerous machines.

    Ironically, the Facebook page was actually a step up from the website. At least there were some pictures and graphics in there to break up the page. Ode needs to decide what they want to be when they grow up. Then they need to hire some consultants and see what they can do about that.

  2. I'd never heard of Ode Magazine before I read this post, so I decided to check out their website. I actually didn't mind the graphics and layout of the main site; I think it's appropriate for the subject matter - understated and not too flashy.

    I agree with your assessment that their social media strategy is falling short. I especially think that three separate blogs probably isn't a good idea. It would greatly benefit them to pick a blog and stick to it so they aren't cannibalizing their audience.

    I think you should share your assessment with the powers-that-be at Ode and give them some suggestions to improve upon their social media campaigns. Who knows, maybe they'll offer you a job as a social media consultant!