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Understanding the Social Media Landscape

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My first session of BlogWorld was Chris Heuer and Marshall Kirkpatrick presenting "Understanding the Social Media Landscape."

Social media Web sites are places where people, businesses and organizations can connect with each other. Chris described some of the tenets of social media:

  • not limited by space or the physical world (people can connect from all over the world and unlimited photos, videos and other files can be uploaded)
  • produced with inexpensive technologies
  • widely distributed for almost no cost through RSS
  • typically Web based.

The question was raised whether corporations can be authentic. Chris feels that they’re a legal construct–a figment–and it’s people who are or aren’t authentic. I’m not sure I agree; a corporation can embody a mission or vision that people can rally around. Can’t a mission or vision be authentic? Maybe it’s just semantics.

Chris also laid out the "Four C’s of Social Media":

  • Context
  • Contact
  • Communications
  • Collaboration

A popular phrase I’m seeing thrown around lately is "the social graph." It’s defined–at least in this seminar–as an invisible layer of connection with others. Social media Web sites like Facebook and MySpace expose these connections, sites like Plaxo helps organize and manage them.

The importance of social media is that it’s helping tear down walls and make connections.

What are the advantages and opportunities?

  • Social media is evergreen, persistent
  • More opportunities to be found
  • It puts a human face on your business
  • Builds trust with the marketplace
  • You can co-create with your customers

What’s interesting and compelling about social media is that it’s being co-created with all of us.

Marshall Kirkpatrick took the podium at this point and talked about how lots of people–probably many who were at the show–had blogged their way into their current jobs. He viewed it as a live, public job interview where you’re continually proving yourself. He sees social media as a way of getting around the gate keepers, such as editors and journalists.

At this point I raised my hand and asked how companies could get started with social media, or even determine if they want to. Marshall responded that companies should start with RSS feeds, del.icio.us feeds, etc. RSS is the center of the universe of social media. That will give them a feel for the social media landscape.

Blogs are another great way for companies to jump in, but aren’t right for all companies. He suggested:

  • Look
  • Listen
  • Join
  • Start.

He also suggested that the best way to get attention in this realm is to give it away. This seemed to be a theme of the week, which has been a constant in human relations.

He also posited–I love that word–that the more tags you use on content, the more available it is to other people. Multi-language tags could be next, jumping the language barrier and taking your message even further.

He’s a big proponent of OpenID, a username/password tool that is becoming more popular on the Web. In fact, I noticed he’s written a post on OpenID recently.

The Takeaway

This session was a good jumping off point to learn about the underlying ideas of social media, although it didn’t specifically talk about too many of the sites, except in passing. With hundreds of social media sites and growing, I guess that was to be understood.

Small businesses and entrepreneurs who haven’t jumped in to this next phase of the Web can’t afford to wait much longer. If you haven’t, you should start subscribing to RSS feeds sooner rather than later. I plan on writing a post about getting started on this shortly, although there’s plenty of resources out there if you Google them.

Once you’ve mastered RSS feeds and perhaps started your own blog, it’s time to investigate LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media sites, perhaps setting up your own profile pages in these mini-universes.

Des Walsh had shared earlier shared with me a function of LinkedIn that I hadn’t realized, that fit right in with a lot of the content at this session. There’s an Answer section at LinkedIn where any LinkedIn member can pose a question or post an answer to someone else. This is a great way of connecting with others in and out of your network and establish your expertise.

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