I have known this topic to cause a stir, and even an argument or two! But I wouldn't be serving my purpose if I didn't create discussion, introduce new ideas, help people to manage change, and encourage new ways of thinking. Whether or not people are brave enough to stop and listen, to join the conversation, and adapt if necessary, is up to them.
Traditional versus social media
To begin with I've taken a deeper look at the word 'versus'. Historically it has meant things like 'against' or 'turned against'. It is also associated with words like 'change', overthrow' and 'destroy'. But a more contemporary understanding, and certainly my use of the word 'versus' in this case, is to denote a 'comparison', contrasting two things.
Some examples of traditional media are the TV, radio, telephone and newspapers. Social media are those channels that enable people to have conversations and share information online - channels like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. My previous blog goes into more detail about what social media is.
Comparisons between traditional and social media
Traditional media allows people to consume information - people can watch the TV, listen to the radio or read the newspaper. In contrast, social media enables people to consume information AND communicate information. If they find the content they are consuming valuable, they are likely to share it with their network of friends, followers or connections.
Traditional media provides a limited choice of what one can consume. One tends to only has access to what one buys or subscribes to, and what is available in a given physical location. Social media on the other hand provides all kinds of free information at your fingertips. A wide choice of information from all over the world can be consumed and communicated.
Advertising in traditional media is often intrusive, interrupting the users experience - think of adverts halfway through a TV program and intermittent adverts on the radio. Here the consumer has no choice but to wait for the adverts to end, or change channel. On the other hand, social media has no interruptions. (Although today, consumers can also fast forward or rewind TV, putting another spanner in the works for advertising).
Or does social media actually have interruptions too? There are adverts on Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube, and promoted tweets on Twitter. The difference is, the consumer can continue consuming the information whilst the adverts go on in the periphery of their vision, whilst social media channels like YouTube allow consumers to skip ads. There is also an added advantage of social media - adverts can more easily be tailored to suit the individual interests of the viewer, so adverts may actually become useful rather than rude interruptions.
Some argue that social media creates a world that is too loud, with too much information to consume. Because social media enables anyone to create content people go on to argue that social media is largely poor quality information not created by true professionals, as it is in traditional media. This is true to a certain extent, just as it is true for traditional media. After-all not all traditional media is created by 'true professionals' nor would all traditional media pass as high quality content.
One must also bear in mind four points:
- Firstly, social media is the people's choice, the most valuable content wins.
- Secondly, there are tools that enable people to tailor their social media space, choosing who and what they like, follow and share. Tools like lists on Twitter enable people to organise the information they consume.
- Thirdly, social media allows experts in all fields to demonstrate their skills and knowledge. They can create and curate quality content quickly and cheaply via social media.
- Finally, there are many professional teams available to help people create quality content via social media. Just like there are professionals available to create quality traditional forms of communication.
Moving from the traditional organisation to the social organisation
Traditional organisations use one way 'push' communication tools like the radio, a flier, a billboard or TV advert to reach their audience. In contrast the social organisation encourages two way communication via social media channels. Audiences can now interact with and have conversations with the organisation. The social organisation will listen and encourage this new form of engagement with their audiences.
In the traditional organisation, communication tends to be more generic, to a broad audience. Customers have no real way of connecting with the organisation, or each other. In the social organisation there is more chance of spontaneous one to one conversations, leading to the opportunity for powerful relationships to be built with people who have a real interest and passion for the organisation. In addition, social organisations using social media, can tailor content and conversations to particular groups of individuals.
As well as being able to easily communicate with the organisation, customers of the social organisation can also easily find and talk to each other via linked networks of social media channels. This results in the creation of real communities around an organisation. Note that these online communities can be positive or negative, and whether an organisation is traditional or social is not the point - people will gather together and talk about common areas of interest, brands, products or services, whether the organisation is listening, and part of the conversation, or not.
There is an opportunity available to all organisations to embrace this new world and become a social organisation - one that will benefit from standard word of mouth being transformed into high speed word of mouth. This is a world based on two way communication, relationships and reputation, a world that creates attention, reach and influence - three things that organisations can most certainly benefit from.
Are you aspiring to be a social organisation? What are your thoughts and what has your experience been?