‘Social’ and ‘Traditional’: how these descriptors are becoming obsolete

‘Social’ and ‘Traditional’: how these descriptors are becoming obsolete
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Out with the Old, in with the New!


Social media crept up on a lot of us. Just under a decade ago I recall discovering with a vague sense of fascination and disgust that Google had a product called Orkut that allowed people to network and share aspects of their lives with that network and the wider world. At the time I didn’t think that sharing was all it was cracked up to be, and as for networking, I had the email addresses of anybody who mattered?! I discounted the notion of even setting up an account to explore its possibilities, confident that it would amount to little if anything…

Orkut may not have amounted to much in these parts (although tell that to 30 million Brazilians and quite a few folks in India and Japan!), but those of us who live at least some of our lives online are now saturated with the concept of sharing via multiple Web-based channels and tools. I’ve gotten over my vague sense of disgust, apart from when it comes to the more blatant attempts to deify certain brands and organisations with at best dubious ethics or positive influence on human health and society through sponsored content and targeted ads. But hey, such is the modern world unfortunately, and social media certainly can’t take all the blame for that.

So, social networks and their currency – social media – are here to stay, that much is clear, but just as it took me a while to realise what was happening, traditional media was slow enough to recognise the movement as well. Social media properly executed, involves information sharing and dialog as opposed to the one-way broadcast and reception model of traditional media. This, quite obviously, is not news to you or anybody else we will meet at congregation 13. What you may not have considered however is the huge importance of both media ‘types’ to one another, and that the symbiosis between them is strengthening with each passing day.


How social is assimilating traditional

Broadcast media of all types continues to ‘break’ stories and place conversations in the public sphere as it always has. People have always discussed what was in the news, and long before the sharing that defines Web 2.0 we had online chatrooms and forums, and indeed before we even had the Web itself we had newsgroups and digital bulletin boards. What we are seeing with social networks is a commitment within its communities to the sharing of, and conversation about, stories that often come ‘from the ground up’, e.g. the CEO who’s fires a senior employee in front of a meeting of all employees, or the campaign to raise funds for a sick child to get the treatment the rare disease they suffer from requires. These stories often become ‘traditional’ media stories broadcast to netizens and offline folk alike. Obviously this is a great thing for campaigns as they grow in public awareness, which in turn increases their reach back on the sharing is caring Web.

Over the last few years we’ve seen how both news and leisure programming and publications have incorporated the Social Web into their offerings, with Twitter of all the networks gaining the most from this interaction. In the case of print media, the use of Twitter and Facebook has created a breaking news channel with instant feedback and ongoing debate. I worked at the Galway Advertiser for most of the last year and in that time it almost doubled its Facebook fanbase to 38,000. Breaking news stories certainly pushed that reach, with significant levels of engagement being achieved, however ‘virality’ was often achieved more by the soft content featured on a regular basis, e.g. the posting of attractive or interesting images of sunsets over Galway Bay, or events in the city such as the Christmas Fair and Galway Arts Festival, as well as occasional competitions and promotions. Varied content was key in attracting a new like, which is currently happening on average every 14 minutes. The Facebook pages of competitor publications have struggled to match that level of engagement, and I believe that one of the reasons for this is their adherence to a publishing model which restricts the types of content to hard news stories. The Advertiser has successfully positioned itself as the Galway conversation, purely and simply because it mimics the conversation that could easily be happening around the fire in Tigh Neachtain’s, that is, everything and anything can and will crop up, including product promotions by satisfied customers! In other words, Social as Traditional


What’s coming next? Twitter TV?

What can we see coming down the tracks? Could the Social Media platforms set up online, possibly even digital broadcast TV channels of their own with programming featuring news and current affairs, sports, entertainment, business, all sourced from hotspot activity on their own networks? I think such a development is a distinct possibility. As traditional becomes social, social will in all probability embrace traditional to the extent where the merger of the two will be effectively seamless. Will your brand, non-profit, club or band become one of the stars of the new media? Start thinking about how to prepare for that now, because as we’ve all seen, this thing moves fast and is gaining speed all the time…



This article was originally posted on the Congregation website as my official contribution to Congregation 13: http://www.congregation.ie/blog-papers/social-and-traditional-how.html

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