Social Media

There is a very interesting article in The Vancouver Sun today that cites a survey done by 6S Marketing. According to the survey, 61% of companies using social media are tracking what is being said about them while 39% don’t pay attention.

Social media is hitting critical mass – and as I mentioned in previous posts, one of the underlying themes at the Ragan Social Media Conference in Vegas last week was that social media is now a part of everyday life for the majority of people. My question is to that 39% not paying attention – why aren’t you? There may be conversations happening online at this very moment about your brand – don’t you want to know what is being said?

Every negative comment provides a chance to learn what your clients/customers/stakeholders/communities are thinking and saying about your organization and it allows you to understand their expectations and needs in an authentic way. There is so much to learn from what is being discussed openly and honestly online. It surprises me when I hear that some organizations and people aren’t listening. Active listening has always been one of the key tools in a communicator’s belt – so why not use this super powered tool that we have been given?  

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There is a great post on how Imedia Connection on how mothers are becoming more and more engaged and involved in social networks. It would appear, according to a recently released industry study, that year over year growth of women ages 25 to 54 with children in the household has gone up nearly 50% on Facebook since 2007. This post is worth reading. It has some very interesting stats and facts, such as: according to a recent MySpace study, the average MySpace mom spends more than 12 hours a week on the site. — That’s a lot of time!

One of the important points to note about social media is that it’s not just for teenagers anymore. I am reading Don Tapscott’s book Grown Up Digital right now and he calls them “screenagers,” which is a great description. However, it’s not just kids that are online. There is a wide range of individuals that are online and you can’t generalize or group them by age anymore. When we deliver our workshops to the senior team or the board of directors of an organization, we are always pleasantly surprised when at least one of the group tells us that they are really active online. Perhaps they are a gamer or they are immersed in communicating on Twitter or that they upload several videos a week to YouTube – and it’s never who you think it is. Times have changed and our perception of who is embracing social media needs to expand.

The Canadian Internet Project released a study last year that showed us that an older demographic is using social media in a variety of ways. I am active on Twitter, the microblogging site. While the people I am following tend to be involved in communications, social media or other areas that I am interested in, the demographic there is much older than you would expect.

A new report was issued by Nielsen – Social Networking’s Global Footprint. One of the interesting points in this report (and there are many) is Facebook’s jump in numbers of people aged 35-49 years of age (+24.1 million). According to the report, from December 2007 through December 2008, Facebook added almost twice as many 50-64 year old visitors (+13.6 million) than it has added under 18 year old visitors (+7.3 million). Pretty interesting stuff!

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I was watching the late news on Friday night and saw a story on the challenges that CTVglobemedia is facing. The Vancouver Sun has a good article on what the media giant is dealing with. Being a media junkie and a communicator, I have been watching the shift in the media for quite some time – but on Friday, it really hit me that the news business is in trouble and not just in Canada. Denver’s Rocky Mountain News closed its doors on Friday. According to many reports, there are a lot of other print papers in economic trouble – including the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune.

The recession has certainly hurt all of these media outlets. The big advertisers aren’t buying what they were and everyone is being affected by cut backs in spending.

For some of these media conglomerates, like CTVglobemedia, there are other issues that are facing, including the cost of doing business in the face of growing cable networks. These are big issues and ones that these companies and the CRTC need to find a way to solve to everyone’s satisfaction and benefit.

There is another point that I think isn’t being covered as much and I believe it has had a huge impact on mainstream media – it’s the online world. The Internet has changed everything. People want to be communicated with differently now and this is a challenge for some of the big news organizations. When we had Kirk LaPointe of The Vancouver Sun in as a guest speaker to one of our Conversation Over Coffee sessions earlier this year, he spoke quite candidly on the topic. I think Kirk really “gets it” and is focused on finding a new paradigm for media. But they aren’t there yet, in part because the audience is still evolving and discovering what and how we want it – when it comes to receiving and sharing information online.

While it has taken more than a decade, the majority of us turn to the Internet for news, information and connection. There are more opportunities now for an organization to share information. Your story might not make it onto the television broadcast or in the newspaper, but it might be covered online. And of course, it isn’t just mainstream media that puts out news and information now – bloggers, people on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and YouTube are all sources that people turn to. There are great opportunities to reach out and tell a story through other channels, often channels that provide an opportunity for feedback, conversation and an authentic connection.

I read a lot of blogs and I love them. But I can usually tell if a blog writer has a journalism background without reading their bio. There is a recognizable approach to reporting and writing that trained journalists bring to their work.

Journalists are an important part of how we hear about what is going on in the world and they are crucial in our society. A great journalist can bring clarity to a complex situation. Well researched articles that are thought out and provide an unbiased context are invaluable.

I worked at Maclean’s for a long time and while I still look forward to receiving the hard copy magazine each week, I don’t wait. I am online checking it out, along with about a dozen other mainstream media, a whole lot of blogs, and other online publications. My Twitter feed (I use Twitterpod) sits on my desktop and I watch information roll as I work. I think it is going to take people like Kirk to help lead mainstream media into a sustainable business model – and I hope it happens sooner than later. Good journalism is an important component of an informed society. And as a communicator, I am a big fan of a community that has access to a range of information from a variety of sources.

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There are many resources online to help communicators that would like to learn more about social media. PR News has just launched PR Peeps, an online communicators’ network created to bring together communications professionals across all aspects of the industry including agencies, corporations and non-profits. Membership is free and while the site is pretty new (it only launched a week or so ago), it looks like it might be of value.

One of the best sites online is Ragan.com. While it is U.S.-based and tends to be a little U.S. centric, there is an abundance of great information available here – from case studies to articles to blogs to videos and other resources to help you do your job. There are two levels of membership – free and paid. While the free has some great content, we subscribe to this site and it’s well worth the cost.

There are of course many blogs that focus on communication, PR and social media as well. Some of those are listed on our blogroll and still others are out there waiting to be discovered.

If you know of a good online resource, please let us know!

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A Twestival took place yesterday in Vancouver. It is a strong example of the power of Twitter. More than 20,000 people from around the world came together to raise money for charity: water, a non-profit organization bringing clean drinking water to people in developing nations.

In one short month—with only volunteer effort—the global charity work is expected to raise $1 million for the 1.1 billion people in the world who cannot access clean drinking water. The event took place in more than 175 cities around the world.

This is a great example of using Twitter – the online world helped people to reach out and share the message on a global basis and then locally, people came together in person. In Vancouver, they met at the Opus Hotel. From all accounts, the event was well organized, fun and it raised money for a good cause.

It’s important to reiterate that the Twestival combined global and local, online and in person. One of the concerns that I hear quite often from clients is about losing the personal, face-to-face time that is so important. Great communication embraces many ways of outreach and, just like we tell clients, nothing can replace the in person component. Online communication is a piece of the communications puzzle, an important and growing piece, but it needs to blend into your overall communications strategy.

On another note, I am always looking for the inside scoop on how Twitter is going to make money. One of the challenges of recommending a free service to clients is that if it’s not making money, you have to wonder how long it can last. Not that I am saying I don’t think Twitter will last, I do think they need to find a way to make money so they can last a long time.  According to a TechCrunch article, Twitter is out raising additional money through the venture capital market. It looks like they have raised more funds, this time with a $250 million valuation.

Twitter is highly popular right now. With this valuation and with about six million people on Twitter, each customer is worth about $40.  In looking at monetizing Twitter, it brings up interesting questions for the six million users. Would you pay for this service? If yes, how much?

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