We’re living in an age of a perfect storm of technology and societal change. Increasingly, people are turning to social expression and interaction on-line versus more traditional venues for idea sharing and chatter. Cue the emergence of the social-media space as it exists today. A platform for participation, openness, conversation, community, and connectedness in real time and in a way that is authentic and noncommercial.
Social media by definition is on-line applications, platforms, and media that allow users to interact, connect, and contribute; it enables a two-way dialogue and orientates the Internet around users. So what gives as the people rise up on-line and embrace this new form of communication? Better yet, should you wish to join them, where should you start?
Over the past couple years, four major social-media trends have emerged: microblogging, blogs, video, and social networks.
Microblogging is the largest trend to emerge in the past year, with Twitter leading the charge. Twitter gives users 140 characters to broadcast whatever message they want to get across to their “followers” or those interested in what they have to say. With Twitter reaching over 3 million users, it is on the precipice of reaching mainstream adoption. If it’s short snippets of information that you are looking for and the chance to interact minute-by-minute, Twitter will be just your thing. Visit twitter.com/ to register your name and create a profile. Then find your friends and start to tweet!
According to a Universal McCann survey, 73 percent of Internet users read blogs on a daily basis. Clearly, blogs are no longer an experimental channel—they are now mainstream. Blogs allow anyone to set up their own space on the Internet that can hold information and opinion of their choice. Most blogs allow for followers to comment on postings. Blogs exist on personal, themed, and even business levels as a casual forum for output of information. They are a unique way to express yourself in the on-line space and the possibilities for their content are limitless.
With the proliferation of free video distribution services like YouTube, Vimeo, and Viddler, the cost of on-line video hosting and distribution to the general public has been reduced to basically zero. YouTube has now become the Internet’s second-largest search engine, signaling the popularity of video amongst Internet users. When your fingers tire of typing, try making and posting a video on-line. You will be amazed at the audience you can capture.
Want to make a difficult meal for dinner tonight, but don’t think the recipe explains things well enough? Visit YouTube, search for the meal and witness the power of video as a social-media medium. You will most likely be able to find a video demonstration that someone, somewhere in the world has posted, on the preparation of the very meal you are trying to make. Handy!
4. Social networks
Social networking has exploded over the past few years with tens of millions of people worldwide belonging to at least one social network. In Canada, Facebook is still the 800-pound gorilla in the room with over 8.5 million Canadians having a Facebook profile. There has also been a recent move towards niche social-network sites that attract a specific target demographic, like DeviantArt and LinkedIn, or “life streaming” social-networking sites like FriendFeed that aggregate your on-line life into one place.
Social networks allow you to tap into your database of friends and let them know what is going on in your life. You can post photos, thoughts, event invitations, videos, and much more. Web sites such as Facebook serve as full-fledged forums for friendship-based interaction.
Social media is an ongoing conversation that needs to be nurtured and maintained in order to for it to be effective. Your participation in social media needs to be relevant and more importantly add value to the community. Key takeaways to remember when engaging in social media are: the message is still more important than the medium (provide useful and informative content that will enrich your followers and friends), join the conversation wherever it is taking place, embrace new mediums, and be genuine and sincere.