Social media can be viewed in two ways.
You can view it as a complimentary form of communication. Fun to play with for a while, but it won’t be replacing your cell phone any time soon. It might be helpful, but who wants to communicate with their loved ones solely through 140-character tweets?
Or it can be seen as the new way of communicating. Similar to how if we needed to contact someone years ago, we can choose between a phone call and an e-mail. Now we have more choices. We can call, text, e-mail, leave a Facebook message or use its chat feature, AIM, you name it. All of the new choices allow you to have a voice, with the immediacy you choose.
So let me say it: social media is a powerful communication tool that is here to stay. Despite cries that these sites don’t generate any revenue, they still pack a lot of power in a realm that is still pretty much undefined.
Twitter is now a global water cooler. Anyone wanting to know what’s being said about you, your organization or any event can easily type in the search term and get hundreds of bits of information. Watching the Super Bowl or the Grammys or the season premiere of your favorite show is a totally different experience when you watch it in real-time with thousands of other people.
Facebook keeps tinkering and making changes to make it simpler and more complicated all at once. But they are creeping toward being one of the largest websites on the internet. That, my friends, is no fluke.
Organizations should care about social media because it gives them a direct link to the consumers and general public that used to take a well-timed, well thought out pitch to the local media. Of course the local media (TV, radio, print) is still valuable, but social media gives you the chance to put out your own message, to have people hear your news straight from the source. Then it spreads organically. For example, at my company, we just shot a 30-second TV spot. Once it ran, we could put it on YouTube, blip.tv or vimeo to get even more views and stretch its usefulness past its initial ad buy. Previously it might have been stuck in a PowerPoint or some other type of presentation. Now it’s immediate. It’s on our terms.
The main point of social media is that it’s evolving faster than we can define it. The Twitter of 10 years from now will probably be unrecognizable of the Twitter of today. Or maybe it won’t even exist. Maybe there will be a new website or a new tool that helps us communicate. It doesn’t really matter what it’s called, but rather how well it works in keeping us connected in the manner we choose.