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Microblogging: The Future of Communications?

I had a meeting the other day with a woman who was interested in getting a Web site up and running. We were discussing Web marketing strategies, and the conversation turned to social media.

She wasn’t interested in getting involved with Facebook or Twitter; she had children on them and felt the conversations she saw there—“Need to get some Starbucks. LOL,” and “Heading to the gym,”—showed that the tools weren’t meant for business.

I countered that I had similar pointless conversations as a teenager on the phone, but certainly the telephone was a legitimate business tool, right? In other words, it’s not the medium, it’s the message. You can have an intelligent conversation over a tin can with the right person.

Recently I’ve been spending time with microblogging apps such as Twitter and Plurk as I continue to explore social media. As I invite friends, colleagues and clients to join me using these tools, I often have to defend the time I’m spending—some would argue wasting—microblogging.

Here’s why I do it: tools like Twitter, Plurk, BrightKite and others represent the future of communications.

I’m not arguing that anyone will be using or even talking about Twitter or Plurk a few years from now. But they represent a new manner of communication that will become more relevant, more important as people join in and feed this emerging network of social media communications.

There are a number of reasons why this is happening.

Short Attention Spans. One catalyst is that we live in a culture where ADD is now considered a coping mechanism for dealing with the constant barrage of information we face.

This is characterized by political sound bites, lead news stories that clock in at ninety seconds, and commercials optimized for TiVo fast-forwarding. Social media communications are likewise short and chaotic; threads/messages are started and dropped with little warning, and are often limited to 140 characters or less. That means the previous sentence is 22 characters too long for most microblogging sites.

A New Definition of Privacy. Right or wrong, in a post 9/11 world we’ve sacrificed many personal rights for the hope of increased security. Cameras at intersections, Real ID cards, and even Fast Lane transponders that allow us to avoid stopping at toll booths all chip away at our ability to stay under the radar. We’re used to being watched. Social media communications are by definition social, and regularly public.

A Desire for Fame and Stature. As Napoleon Bonaparte said, “I have made the most wonderful discovery, I have discovered men will risk their lives, even die, for ribbons!” Fame and stature can be quickly—and less dangerously—achieved in our YouTube/Reality TV/MySpace world.

All successful social networks have a built-in reward system that reflects your standing in the community. For Twitter, it’s your number of followers; LinkedIn counts your connections; Plurk’s karma point system gives you new icons—ribbons, if you will—for posting more often and inviting new people to Plurk.

There are other factors as well that are changing the way we communicate.

  • The desire to be connected at all times, whether through a computer or a mobile device, or something else in the future.
  • The rising cost of travel that will cut down on face-to-face meetings.
  • The increased affordability, quality and functionality of digital communication tools. GoToMyPC, WebEx, Yugma and other similar tools allow us to do training and hold meetings with people from around the world while we sit in our Portland, Maine offices.

I don’t see these trends changing drastically in the next few years. We’ll continue to be wired, gas prices will continue to rise and we’ll continue to want to communicate and network with the other humans on our planet.

Social media represents a major shift in the way we communicate with each other. Not everyone will adapt, but the younger generation is already comfortable with these tools. While there will always be the telephone and email for us “old folks,” a lot of important conversations will be going on exclusively in the social media arena.

So I ask you: The future of communications: are you in, or are you out?

If you’re in, I invite you to reach out to me:

If you’d like to brainstorm about your own microblogging strategy, contact flyte today.

–Rich Brooks
President, flyte new media

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