11 June 2007

sounding smart isn't all it's cracked up to be

So I'm trying to soak up knowledge about social media and online communications by looking at some of the "leading" publications in the field and i'm just stunned by how many new words we've invented. Seriously, this field has spawned its own lexicon in what seems like a matter of months. (This morning, for breakfast, I'm having toast 2.0 that's fully integrated with crunchy peanut butter. I'll be drinking coffee and orange juice in real time. Seriously. )

I've also observed a rather brash insistence that social media technologies are changing everything, utterly and forever, and traditional media will pretty much cease to exist.

I'll apologize in advance to Richard Stacy, who I don't know but who has made some rather bold predictions in a column he wrote for Social Computing Magazine. Stuff like the price of media will be cut in half in five years, and the world's leading media organizations won't actually produce any content within ten years. He ended his commentary, to his credit, with "who knows if these things will actually come to pass," calling his predictions "semi-serious."

I wanted to know more about Stacy so I checked out his blog. He talks about Facebook and Twitter. He found a new search engine he likes. Not bad.

Then I notice he links to an article and summarizes it:

How Do You Influence the Influencers? An important subject. This article, temming from recent Yahoo research, explores the territory where conventional advocacy meets social media. The conclusion appears to be that the answer is very complicated.

I'm a little confused. How did we get all these experts (Stacy is by no means alone) who are confident the world has changed utterly and forever (again, I credit Stacy for hedging) but can't seem to explain how we use social media to influence opinion leaders in communities? I know I'm being blatantly unfair to Stacy. He didn't write the article he cited. I haven't read everything he's written. I'm just trying to make a point.

Social media and advocacy is NOT all that complicated. You identify these "influencers" (it's not that hard, they actually want to be found) and you build relationships with them. You do that by being transparent, sincere, and honest. You take the time to read their blogs. You contact them when it's appropriate and when what you have to share is relevant. You understand what they want and you work hard to give it to them.

I know this isn't complicated because I did this successfully before I ever knew what a widget was. Willie Sutton robbed banks because that was where the money was. I go to facebook groups and blogs because that's where the opinion leaders are.

Of course new technology has brought about changes. We have to move more quickly now. We have to be more organized. But speed and organization were not invented in 1997.

I'm wary of those who would say "everything has changed" and invent new terminology to essentially re-state the obvious. Let's not get too carried away here, people.

(and of course now Brad will send me some new techno-tool that will convince me everything has changed, utterly and forever.)

1 comment:

Richard said...

As the quoted Stacy -I would say you are half right. There is definitely a lot of puffery and punditry around and much overblown talk of change. However, as you say, the facts are that the basic rules of communication and interaction haven't changed. Influencers will always be influencers even if the channels to reach them (and the channels they then use to reach others) change.

But the really big thing that has changed is that it now costs virtually nothing to distribute content whereas previously it cost a huge amount of money. The old media model therefore had to be a mass model. Now you don't need to be mass to be media - and this has turned the whole economics of the media on its head. There still will be a demand for mass content - but there is now a huge new competing media space which is based around the needs of, and produced by, the individual. This is a fundamental, game changing shift.

If you think this through and recognise what was built on the old media model (marketing, mass communications, the practice of democratic politics) you will start to understand the revolutionary nature of what is occuring. But don't just take my word for it - Rupert Murdoch is in the same place, so is the Economist, so is the Director General of the BBC. Check out what they have to say.