Current trends in digital media focus upon crowd-sourcing, collaboration and bottom-up approaches to material. A commonly used phrase is that sellers should ‘fish where the fish are’, with the trend having moved from ‘push’ marketing to ‘pull’ marketing (where users opt in). Since 2004, the ‘fish’ have largely been on social networking sites. Friends Reunited , launched in 2000, was the first social networking site to achieve prominence in the UK, but since 2004, such sites have exploded exponentially, although the emphasis is moving from quantity to quality.
Blogging consists of regular online entries, generally displayed in reverse-chronological order. No website which is interested in improving its search rankings (on Google) can afford to be without a blog. Each entry should be targeted around a keyword, consist of around 500-800 words, include an image, and offer a call to action. Popular software includes WordPress and Blogger.
Much social media is used to provide traffic streams back to blogs and websites. The ROI (return on investment: which tends to consist of time rather than money) can be hard to quantify, but indicators such as traffic spikes and external comments can be used as measurements.
The dangers of social media are often quoted, and there are legal issues, including the dangers of harassment, cyberbullying, defamation, information leaks, misinformation and loss of intellectual property. There are concerns about security, privacy, stolen IDs, the permanency of information on the web (if you don’t want to see it on the front page of a newspaper, don’t post it). Companies are concerned about the spread of malware, time-wasting and the dilution of brand reputation. For companies using social media as push-marketing, the story is not good.
The benefits, however, are recognised by many. Regular users of social media, especially those who concentrate on one or two networks at a time, find it a great place to find others working in the field, to share and build on information, rather than multiple users reinventing the wheel. With an increased focus on authenticity, trust and relationships are built through regular interaction (one Tweet a day won’t cut it), whether that is with new external contacts, or for internal communications, and users become adept at adapting to each new system.
Twitter, created in 2006, is a form of microblogging. Initially based upon SMS messages, ‘tweets’ are limited to 140 characters, displayed and delivered to the author’s ‘followers’. A ‘retweet’ (RT) is when another user reposts your message, thus circulating it to their followers – a true compliment. Twitter is great for making and maintaining contacts with others with similar interests, with hashtags, e.g. #history, helping find these. Hashtags are especially useful for conferences, and for pulling news on a particular story. Average user age 25-54, although the celebrity culture means an increasing number of younger users. Third party applications, especially via iPhones, expand the usability of Twitter.
Facebook, created in 2004, has changed recently changed its core user base of 18-34 year olds to 35-65 year olds. Facebook has 350 million active users worldwide, with a successful targeted paid-for advertising model, and third party applications are key. Interest groups can create Group Pages, whilst fan-pages offer more marketing potential. Facebook is typically used to maintain friendships with people already known in the ‘offline world’, making viral campaigns successful (see Ikea example: ).
MySpace in 2006 was the biggest social media site, but was overtaken by Facebook in April 2008. It collects great amounts of data about its users, so advertising is very targeted. MySpace offers customisable backgrounds, ability to upload videos and MP3s. The site is largely used by musicians, and it is claimed that artists such as Lily Allen, the Arctic Monkeys & millions of other artists been ‘discovered’ through the site.
Bebo, an acronym for “Blog early, blog often, has existed since 2005. Offering quizzes, videos, photo uploads, music, pop polls and third party applications, the site is typically used by younger users, built around school networks.
LinkedIn has the strongest reputation in the business world. Users can import their CV, link to Twitter, blogs, and Slideshare. Users can host readings lists and join groups with similar interests. LinkedIn recommends connecting only with those you really know as users can post recommendations on their connections. Companies can also create an online portfolio. Particularly good for head-hunters, job-hunters and entrepreneurs.
Ning , Chinese for peace, launched in October 2005, offers an online platform for people to create their own social networks around specific interests, whether local or global. Network pages are customisable with features, visual design and member data. Educational groups have found them great places to connect and start discussions.
Second Life is an internet-based virtual world launched June 2003. Its users create avatars for themselves, are called Residents, and interact with each other and the virtual environment, participating in individual and group activities, travel the world, undertaking tasks, and creating and trading virtual property and services with one another. Users must be over 18, although Teen Second Life is available to those aged 13+.
YouTube, created in 2005, is a video sharing website on which users can upload and share videos, and create themed playlists of favourite saved videos. In March 2008 it was estimated that it would take 412.3 years to view all YouTube content. A more professional version is Vimeo, and a Christian specific version is Tangle, which also offers other features.
Flickr, created in 2004, is an image and video hosting website, widely used by bloggers to host images that they embed in blogs and social media. Hosting over 4 billion images in October 2009, the site offers photo storage, tagging, photo-favouriting, group photo pools, and rating by level of ‘interestingness’. Picasa is a similar site.
Google Wave, created 2009, expected to go global in 2010, is an online collaboration tool that enables groups of people to edit and discuss documents simultaneously on the web. Unlike email where messages are passed back and forth, Wave hosts a single real-time copy of a conversation that all participants can edit and add to. A confusing interface has slowed its uptake. Helpful: http://completewaveguide.com/
Wikis tend to be used to create collaborative websites, the most famous of which is Wikipedia, created in 2001, offering 13 million articles in more than 200 languages by September 2009. Wikis do not offer static content, but actively seek to involve the visitor in an ongoing process of creation and collaboration. Changes can usually be made without review, although entries can be post-moderated, with a record kept of page changes.
Squidoo is a community-based publishing platform on which users create “lenses”. Lenses are pages, tending to be overview articles, gathering everything a user knows about a topic of interest. Launched in 2005, Squidoo is in the top 500 most visited sites in the world. Hubpages is similar.
Skype is a software application that allows users to make voice calls over the Internet (VOIP), whilst also allowing instant messaging, file transfer and video conferencing. Calls to other users of the service are free, while calls to other landlines and mobile phones can be made for a fee. Chats can be copied and stored elsewhere, although there’s no ability to save conversations.
SlideShare is a slide hosting service which allows users to upload, view, comment, and share slideshows and other documents. Such sites are particularly helpful in the fields of and web-conferencing, with videos, audios, animations easily contained within presentation slides. Slideshows can be embedded in blogs, and users can join interest groups. A great information source, but be aware of Intellectual Property issues.
Digg is a social news website, where users submit links and stories to share with others. Users can vote and comment on submitted links and stories. A story that is voted up is ‘digged’, a story voted down is ‘buried’. The site has come under criticism for allowing sensationalism and misinformation to thrive.
Delicious is a social bookmarking site, allowing users to tag, save, manage and share web pages from a centralized page. Tagging is the key, with each bookmark tagged with freely chosen index terms. Users can network with others interested in similar tags, and see other webpages which have been tagged under the same term, e.g. http://delicious.com/tag/socialmedia. The ‘hotlist’ on the homepage gives a taste of internet trends and memes (catchphrase or concept that spreads rapidly from person to person via the Internet). Reddit and Stumbleupon are similar sites.
Diigo allows users to highlight text and attach sticky notes to specific parts of web pages, and remain available when users return to webpages. Highlights are collected in a library, and entire sites and associated documentation can be saved for future use or downloaded for online browsing. Items can be tagged, and can also be published as blogs, reports and slide-shows. Content is fully searchable, and users can join groups for those with similar interests.
Friendfeed is a real-time feed aggregator consolidating updates from social media and social networking websites, social bookmarking websites, blogs and micro-blogging updates, or any other RSS/ Atom feed. Friendfeed provides the facility to track activities across social media networks. A concern is that readers will comment on blog-posts within FriendFeed instead of on blogs, resulting in fewer page views for the blogger.
Many sites use a form of ‘tagging’, a form of metadata which helps describe an item and allows items to be grouped, creating a ‘folksonomy’ or collaboratively created list. Convergence is a key term, and sites such as DandyID (http://www.dandyid.org/id/drbexl) allow users to collate their digital fingerprint in one place. Increasingly social media sites are being accessed via smartphones, for which many specific applications have been developed (over 100,000 for iPhones in November 2009). There is an increased emphasis on single-sign in, leading to the development of options such as OpenID and Facebook Connect. Most of the programmes we now take for granted didn’t exist 10 years ago, so as new platforms continue to develop, there is a concern for the portability of data between different applications.