Monday, August 4, 2008
Don't Say New: Digital Delivers On What We are Calling 'Social Media'
By Kendall Allen
It's common sentiment among the digiterati: social media is not new. The core truth of course is that "new media," tossed around since easily the '90s, has always been a misnomer itself. And today it is outright outdated. Social Media, with a capital S and a capital M, however does represent one of the most dynamic and true opportunities to really begin tapping the power of digital. This dawns on us as we see digital marketing, community, content and trans-media storytelling, technology, and an array of mature platforms, start to conspire like never before.
So while we digital gray hairs knowingly chuckle that social media is "oh, just not so new" -- I find a few areas of activity, advancement and remarkable playfulness worth calling out as signs of more digital goodness to come.
Before we hired a remote staff, I used to monitor chat rooms in my PJs and issue TOS warnings at ungodly hours, moderate virtual auditoriums and all kinds of other strange but pioneering things in "community online." I remember talking one of my print magazine elder stateswoman friends - a well-known food writer and editor - into coming to our offices and conducting a live chat called, "Turkey Talk," about Thanksgiving. Of course I had to ply her with quite a bit of wine. But, this type of session was an interactive hit and represented one form of our growing consumer dialogue. We would steer programming based on what went on in those chat rooms night after night -- or what we gleaned from the message boards. There were numerous companies up to similar things, as the years went on, paving the way for some of the most lasting foundational trends in play today.
Of course it would not be long before online community bred "social media sites" and things like IM and chat opened the door to new forms of photo, file and content sharing. Also not long before rich media became entry-level stuff - and in fact took on new life, as new creative formats, video utility and sharing entered the scene full-force.
1. Harnessing of digital identity for brand notoriety. As brands and individuals realized the power - it could be truly leveraged. While it is true that we have seen lame use of social media by brands, or maverick misuse by celebrity individuals, there have been some exciting success stories. For example: the wrapping of various social utilities around podcast programming and downloadable media to truly extend an entertainment brand; the use of Facebook to propagate a new community and then parlay it to other forums once outsized; the dexterous use of Twitter and the tapping of the blogosphere to perpetuate the cult of personality. Check out the press release detailing the retirement of Jason Calacanis from blogging: http://www.calacanis.com/2008/07/11/official-announcement-regarding-my-retirement-from-blogging/. It illuminates the power, for better or for worse. Satire maybe, or not.
As we embrace digital and all that it can do to deliver for our brands and drive the progress of community and social media, we will continue to fail and succeed along the way. But, just as this thing called social media is not new -- digital's ability to quickly course-correct is not new, either. Digital is nothing if not quick on its feet.
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Kendall Allen is currently advising clients and partners on digital marketing and convergence media. Previously she was managing director of Incognito Digital, LLC, a boutique digital media agency and creative studio. She also held top posts at iCrossing and Fathom Online.
Online Spin for Monday, August 4, 2008: