Monday, August 24, 2009

Why Isn't Social Media Taken Seriously?

As someone who uses social media both professionally and personally, I am often challenged by colleagues and friends who do not on the validity of social media. Regularly I hear "Oh I'm not of the digital generation." or "You must have so much time on your hands, if you've got time to waste on that stuff." People send me links to articles like this one from the BBC News with the suggestion that the technologies and services that I am a champion for are rubbish, or "babble". (Statistics are an interesting thing - if 40% is babble, that implies the other 60% is NOT babble.) Whether it's to either goad me or because they're genuinely curious as to whether it's true, I wonder sometimes whether most people know the magnitude of social media in our world, and how quickly that is growing.

Take a look at this video from Socialnomics:

After watching this, how do you feel about social media? Are you starting to take it seriously yet?

It's hard because the mainstream media are fighting very hard to minimalise social media. Social media is free, and it's users drive it. That is very, very scary to mainstream media like newspapers, magazines and television. People who used to buy a newspaper every day, now receive their news through Twitter, or news blogs and feeds like BoingBoing, Crikey or the Huffington Post. Instead of being told what news is interesting, users are collating their own sources of information, fed directly to them through their computer or mobile phone.

Communications are changing rapidly. When you watch television tonight, take a look at the ads. How many of them mention a website or email address? Think about 5 years ago. How many of them mentioned a website or email address then? Pick up the newspaper and see how many adverts have a website, email address or Twitter account. If you have Facebook, search a few brands or companies and see how many of them have an active presence.

What about when you want a recommendation for a product or service? Where are you most likely to source this information? Are you going to look in the Yellow Pages, a newspaper or magazine, do you Google it or do you ask the people around you? Your colleagues, family and friends.

I believe we're at the cusp of a time of change. Not just in technology, but in our culture. Technology is bringing things to us more immediately, on demand at any time and any place. But the real change is in the social nature that technology is taking. We're asking our peers, family, colleagues to recommend products and services to us more than ever. Some of that is because money is tight these days, and we're also time-poor, and it's quicker and more efficient to ask people we know. Some of it is because we're looking to our communities again after 20 years of moving away from that. In the 80's and 90's we stopped joining communities like church, sporting groups, school interestes etc and moved into smaller social communities. There is a real push these days to broaden those horizons and expand our communities again.

Change can be frightening and intimidating, but I feel that this is an exciting time of opening up our world to a new level of positivity and connection with other people.