Today continues the series “It’s a Conversation, Stupid!” If you missed part 1, check it out here.
This week, a lot of talk has been given to “Web 3.0.” Before discussing how to approach a social media campaign, it’s important to step back and look at some of the key points that got us to where we are today; look at two defining moments in media history; and figure out where we are going.
A Condensed History of the Internet
When the internet was invented, society was blessed with a way to access tons of information (content), regardless of distance. News sites posted their news, scientists their findings, etc. It was very one-sided.
Next, the internet was discovered as a means to communicate. People could email photos to family or forward funny jokes to friends. After email came chat rooms and instant messaging. Now we could communicate in real-time with others.
With the search engine, people were finally able to quickly and easily sort through all the stuff out there and find a great price on a camera or news about any company or person. Suddenly, we were able to get the information we wanted, when we wanted it.
One day, someone realized that the publishing capabilities and the communication aspects of the internet could be combined. Technology was developed that enabled users to effortlessly generate content. They became the creators and the distributors. They could respond to the news or to each other. Web 2.0 was born, and with it a conversation began.
OMG, there’s a lot of S**T out there!
Now that everyone is producing and publishing, there’s a lot of s**t out there. With search, you can find things, but how do we keep up with it all? How do we know what’s relevant?
News feeds (RSS and ATOM) made content easy to follow by providing a steady stream of updates to favorite blogs and news sites. Then, people started tagging (or adding keywords) to their content. This made it easier to find posts or discussions on a particular topic.
Currently, these tools are used by Social bookmarking sites like digg and del.icio.us so people can bookmark what’s important, easily organize with tags and then share with their friends. Technorati uses tagging and news feeds to help users organize blogs effectively. Tags on facebook help members find pictures others have taken of them. Also, when you log into facebook, a news feed aggregates your friends’ changes and let’s you know what’s going on.
These innovations, in addition to services like Twitter, have changed the way content is delivered, consumed, and distributed. These changes create interesting challenges for news publishers and PR professionals, while simultaneously creating new ways to reach audiences.
Television and Social Media: Two Defining Moments
I think most PR and Marketing pros can accept that, whether we like it or not, people now have the ability to exchange and share ideas quickly and in real-time. They want information as it develops. No more traditional news cycle, much less 2 month lead times. Cool. I can dig that. But why social media? Isn’t it just a fad?
Two very tragic events have been pivotal points in the history of media. TV news media had its defining moment with JFK’s assassination. During that chaotic time, the whole nation was gathered around TVs, watching events unfold in real-time. At that moment, TV became the primary source by which people got news, proving the technology’s power to effectively disseminate information to a large mass of people outside the traditional news cycle.
With Virginia Tech, the events and tragedy unfolded through SMS, IM, personal blogs and facebook. Sadly, people looked online to communicate with love ones by posting messages, emailing, etc. When the traditional news media covered the online developments, it became proof-positive to me that social media was, in fact, the fastest, most effective way to communicate.
I don’t want to be another person who heralds the downfall of print. Instead, I would rather encourage people to embrace the new technologies. By becoming proficient in the social media tools, we can supplement our traditional PR and marketing campaigns to not just reach audiences, but actively engage with them. Go ahead and let them choose the content they want in the form they want, mash it up, and share it with their friends. It’s the future of the internet. Just let go.
The next posts in the series cover the current tools available, how to approach a social media campaign and a few tips on what not to do during execution.