Social Media: From Mass Communications to Masses of Communicators

Posted on 06. May, 2009 by in Blog, interactive, public relations

Two days and 20 jam-packed sessions of “everything you must know about social media” left me reeling, mostly because it’s really hard to absorb a subject that is such a fast moving target. PRSA’s Digital Impact Conference in NYC shed light on how social media is changing our industry, our jobs, our relationships and our world.

Our World

While B2C and B2B companies strive to figure out how to derive true value from these fast moving trends, social media is changing our collective behavior, because it’s about sociology – real people connecting with others – not about technology. We’ve gone from mass communications to masses of communicators. As everything – television, radio, books, mobile networks -continues to move to the digital space and as the generation that grew up online is just a decade away from ruling our world, the new digital landscape will continue to affect massive change for all of us and how we relate to one another.

Our Relationships

In the past, people mostly relied on friends, family, colleagues and community members to gather information they could trust. That is changing – research shows 18 to 24 year-olds trust online networks almost as much as family now. The digital age has created virtual stranger networks, connecting people through common interests, rather than personal relationships. Now we research everything from doctor reviews and drug dosing to product comparisons and the potential for new spouses, online. Social networking has changed the manner in which we trust – giving us confidence in numbers of people rather than in the quality of the people.

Our Industry

100 years of advertising and push strategies are coming to a halt. The digital landscape has created 1000s of networks of people actively searching for, discussing, sharing and comparing – virtually everything. Branding is no longer what a company says about itself, but instead what consumers say about companies, online, as they tweet, blog and blather on about everything from outrageous employee behavior (Dominos Pizza crisis) to evangelizing trusted brands (Whole Foods, ½ million followers singing company praises daily). As PR and branding professionals, our role will be to lead our clients through this jungle to the right online tribes. Then we need to get them to listen to conversations people are having about them, identify and prioritize influencers, and join the conversation in an attempt to gain influence and inspire action.

Our Jobs

Communications professionals seeking employment in the digital age will still require the same core competencies they used to – sound judgment, industry experience and  business knowledge in order to provide good strategic counsel. We will also need to understand all the tools of the trade, including new digital strategies that are redefining how we respond because digital is forever, it’s 24/7, it’s real time and nothing is sacred. This presents opportunity and risk for every brand.

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