Only the few corporate communicators and journalists who truly have their heads stuck in the sand will deny that a communications revolution is transforming the way consumers receive and absorb news and form opinions about products and companies.
We’re past the point of thinking only about effective ways to communicate to consumers; consideration has to be given to participation in a dynamic myriad of conversations. It’s certainly no longer just about shouting above the din in a one-way blast of product information to the market. It’s not even about a two-way conversation with prospective customers. It’s about reaching key influentials that are especially inter-connected on subjects relating to your brand in ways that are relevant to them. And it’s about opening your company’s doors and windows to allow interested parties to come inside and take a virtual look both at your products and your behaviors. And it’s also about telling your brand’s stories in interesting ways while being authentic both in facts and in tone.
It’s not just about starting a corporate blog. In fact, the word “blog” is surely destined to the oblivion of passé status, dismissed as being “so 2006.”
So what will blogs and other forms of social media become as they “grow up”? In the spirit of the new media, your thoughts are welcome. But let me jump start the conversation with some initial observations:
- The numbers game may not be the best way to measure relevance. Some blogs and Facebook communities have huge numbers of passive “participants” with little in common; still, their “circulation” numbers are dwarfed by a decent mid-market newspaper. If blogs are in many ways a rebellion against something-for-everyone mass media, are the biggest and blandest blogs really relevant? Blogs with sustaining relevance, it seems to me, will be those that unite and energize focused communities of people with common interests and passions, even if their overall numbers are only in the hundreds.
- But those hundreds may be spread all over the planet and bring a true diversity of thought to the conversation. This “Force for Good” blog, for example has readers from five continents with a common interest in public relations practices and reputation management. (Note to Australia: still haven’t heard from you!)
- Related thought: This fascination with “popularity” leads some frenzied participants to comment hundreds or even thousands of times without adding any value to the actual topic. Last week the Danish news site Avisen.dk banned 35 prolific bloggers who seemingly have nothing better to do than continually leave inane comments. It’s a common problem. The egoists who rush to be first poster with such insightful contributions as “First here!” or to spend hour upon hour jousting with other losers need separate playpens.
- Nearly every newspaper columnist has a blog – call that a reader forum and assume that it continues well into the future. As will some form of blogs by political candidates and those special interests pushing a particular political intervention. Assume also that the tens of millions of blogs created in the original “here’s-what-I had-for breakfast-today” spirit of the first web-logs will continue to appear and flame-out without much impact on anyone.
- Technology increasingly will free participants from being anchored at a fixed computer. Laptops with wireless, Blackberries and now i-phones and soon other hand-held phones with multiple modes of connectivity will proliferate with obvious and not-so-obvious consequences. Emergency warnings, including urgent notices to evacuate, could help college campuses and other communities better deal with life-threatening crises. But the same electronic readiness could turn a stupid prank into a hugely disruptive or even dangerous stampede.
- As communication increasingly becomes hyper-shortened, will thought and discussion be reduced to quips and barbs? Blackberries have taught e-mail users to be concise (their notes limited by the speed and dexterity of their thumbs) – a good thing, but also to mindlessly proliferate “discussion” by adding yet another reason to question a potential decision and then clicking “Reply to all.”
That’s what I think. What about you?
- Jon Harmon