Last week, Shel Israel launched a research project for his client SAP, and asked people to answer a few questions about the current and future state of social media on a global level.
So far he has interviewed me; Hugh McLeod, from the UK and US perspective; and Tom Raftery, an IT blogger that answered from an Irish perspective. The questions have started to spread and other bloggers are asking their readers some of the same questions. Additionally, Shel has asked his networks on Facebook and LinkedIn to answer some of the questions.
I have re-posted some of Shel's questions and my answers below to get your creative juices flowing; however, I would love to see what you think about one or more of these questions. Post them on your own blog, if you have one, or answer one or more of them in the comments section. If you post on your own blog, tag your answers “SAP Global Survey.” Feel free to disagree, agree or come at this from another angle. Shel will share his findings about this survey at his blog sometime next month and we will all be a little richer for it.
SHEL: By my count, you have only been in the world of social media for a little more than a year. In that short period of time, how have you seen it change?
KAMI: One year and seven months. I have often referred to the online world of social media measuring time in dog years. In some ways, each week seems like an eternity with all of the changes that continue to occur. One of the most striking has been the rise of the social networking spaces, such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. These platforms have matured in over the past year in ways that didn't seem possible before. People are collecting “friends,” but I wonder if the focus is as firmly entrenched in the idea of building relationships as it was when I first started. The scale of social media has expanded to such an extent that it no longer encompasses just early adopters. Social media have now broken into the consciousness of the general public. Even if you don't create content or read blogs, the mainstream media is following and quoting those that are influential in the realm of social media. It is hard to escape the fact that the content creators have also become gatekeepers.
SHEL: In Texas and the Southwest, who, in general, is coming into blogging and social media? What about business and the enterprise?
KAMI: Some of the most notable corporations in Texas to take up blogging have been Dell's “Direct to Dell” blog in Dallas, and Southwest Airlines “Nuts About Southwest” blog in Houston. They have been a great example for many of my clients and other communication professionals. When I first started exploring social media in 2005, none of my clients incorporated any of its elements, but today all of them participate at some level — even if it is only monitoring. One of my clients, SeaWorld San Antonio, just completed a social media campaign centered around the opening of its new ride, “Journey to Atlantis,” that incorporated YouTube, Flickr and a purpose-built website. We are now reformulating that site to broaden its scope a bit.
SHEL: What tools do you see business embracing? Why?
KAMI: First, I see businesses very interested in monitoring what is being said about them in blogs, podcasts and other social media. Some of the tools we use to do this are RSS feeds from Technorati and Google Blog Search. We also add in must-read blogs and podcasts that are culled daily via an RSS reader. My clients are very interested in online publishing tools like Word Press and Moveable Type, but they are just as likely to go with a more proprietary solution if it delivers what they need. In other words, they are interested in results, in solutions that meet their business needs. The only difference is that now they are open to social media tools as a part of that mix.
SHEL: When it comes to social media issues, who is most influencing business decisions?
KAMI: I tend to work with the top communication and marketing professionals at the Director and above level. However, in every case where a company incorporates social media there has been buy-in from the topmost level of the organization. In organizations where we don't get that buy-in, the program moves slowly, if at all.
SHEL: What do people talk about on the social media that you follow? In business circles what are the conversations that you see grab hold, and which do you see just sort of trail off?
KAMI: Most companies are not too interested in a “blog,” or at least the word “blog.” When you explain to them that through social media they can reach stakeholders they never thought were possible to reach, that brings intense interest. So, I have launched a “news” site, with comments, and have reached out to stakeholders by providing them coveted content. This kind of language seems to play well in the C-suite. Business hasn't changed, in general it is ready to do whatever it takes to communicate with its customers and bring results. We just have to be willing to explain social media in a language they can understand, and show real business results.
SHEL: Can you give me some examples of how your clients use social media?
KAMI: Yes, I think that I mentioned SeaWorld San Antonio recently ran a social media campaign that was quite successful, if people would like to read the case study, I posted it last month. Another client, eDrugSearch.com, is using its blog as a way to reach out to the healthcare blogging community and extend its mission to provide information and let people make their own decisions about their health. I am working with another client, Fizzy Meals, to launch a blog where she provides some of her insight into healthy eating. I also have some clients interested in a two-way communication mechanism for Internal staff, especially in a crisis. The platform would include SMS (text messaging), e-mail blasts, a RSS-fed news module, forums for employees to ask and receive aid, and other features. It would also have a public-facing news platform that would spring into action as needed. Other clients just choose to monitor what is being said about them.
SHEL: What trends do you see taking off in general and in the business sector?
KAMI: Certainly, businesses are very interested in results, that is nothing new. However, as I said before, their willingness to consider social media as a part of their business strategy is very new.
SHEL: How, in your opinion, has blogging changed business communications?
KAMI: I am not entirely sure it has changed it much yet. I do think there is a breed of communicator today that understands that in order to be effective we need to build relationships. However, I am concerned that some people are just going through the motions and not seeing the true power these tools have given us to engage in a two-way conversation with our stakeholders. This is very different that collecting “friends” that you will never know and pushing out content in the hopes that it will win eyeballs.
SHEL: Lets play visionary. How will social media have changed business five years from today? How about 10?
KAMI: Ah, the role of visionary. If I had a magic wand I would insist on world peace…That being the impossible dream, I would settle for getting along a little better. In all seriousness though, social media has already started to change the fabric of the way that people gather and consume news. If you look at the statistics, the younger generations no longer rely on television as their main source of information. They do rely on the Internet and their cell phones. However, over the next five to ten years, the Baby Boomers, who do love television, will be working through the system, so I don't think television, newspapers and other more traditional forms of media will die. However, I do think they will evolve. We see this already. Publishers are already becoming producers, witness the offering of viral video at the “Wall Street Journal,” the “New York Times” and the “Washington Post.” Conversely, television producers, such as CNN, are putting more emphasis on their Web properties. Business will follow this trend and become content creators. I think that this is the Golden Age of content and parsing it out will be the big challenge. With so many voices, there will be a growing crisis of attention, and the companies that can solve that problem and win a share of the attention will be the real winners.
tags: SAP+Global+Survey, Social+Media, Interview, Shel+Israel