Monday, 20 October 2008

Social Media part 1

What is "Social Media"?

Put very simply, social media are a set of Internet-based technologies that allow people to connect without being under the control of some overall authority. For example, web "blogs" (online diaries) allow people to publish articles about anything they want using a medium (the web) that is accessible to anyone, anywhere, any time (so long as they have Internet access). Blogs can allow people to post comments to the articles the owner has put there. Another example is YouTube, where people can post videos they've made and other people can comment and vote on them. A third example is Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia, where anyone can add and edit the entries.

Why is Social media important?

There's no doubt that social media have created a new paradigm for working together, for developing skills and for exchanging knowledge and information. The challenge for organisations is how to engage with this medium successfully. One thing we cannot do is use the current "organisational paradigm" - that is command and control - because the whole way in which social media works is through lack of control and organisation. But if we can find the right "key" it can be very powerful. The Obama campaign in the USA illusrates this perfectly and his effective engagement in this area has no small impact on his metioric rise to ascendency.

Here's another example - Blendtec is a (US) food blender manufacturer. Its marketing director noticed one day that the product development lab had sawdust all over the floor. When he enquired about this he discovered that the staff were grinding up 2" squares of wood to test the robustness of their machines. So he filmed this and started putting "extreme blending" videos on the company website, and also on YouTube. Within a few months millions of people were watching the YouTube videos of the company's CEO grind up things like golf balls, an iPhone and even a crowbar! The cost to the company: $50 per video. The benefit: sales are up 20%. They now have their own "will it blend" video site.

In the articles that follow I'll be posting my own musings about why I think social media is so important and how we can use it. So if this interests you, please call back. If you want to comment, please contact me so I can consider granting you posting rights.

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