Social Media: The User-Content Revolution

November 1, 2006 at 5:16 am 9 comments

Social media is a blanket term used to refer to a set of World Wide Web-based tools and platforms that share a number of commonalities: they rely on user-created or user-submitted content; they foster two-way communication; they have a broad level of accessibility; and they have a high level of interconnectivity with other web-based technologies. Blogs, podcasts, wikis, social networks and content communities are examples of social media. Websites such as LiveJournal, YouTube, Wikipedia and Myspace, all examples of social media, have gained mainstream media attention due to their widespread proliferation in the recent past.

Technorati, a search engine dedicated specifically to blogs (www.technorati.com), lists over sixty million English-language blogs. Podcasts on every topic imaginable are appearing at an astonishing rate on such sites as the iTunes Music Store and Podcast.net. YouTube and Myspace have been bought out by internet giants Google and Yahoo, due to their ever expanding user-bases. The social media phenomenon is symptomatic of a larger phenomenon that has been gaining momentum in the past five years. Cheap digital technology and increasing accessibility to the internet have spawned a user-content revolution. People are stepping out of their roles as media consumers, and are embracing new roles as media producers.

This has opened possibilities for all forward thinking individuals, such as the independent filmmaker, musician or public relations professional. The facilities for media production are no longer in the hands of the few, and the internet makes it possible to distribute your message in its originally intended form, completely circumventing traditional channels of communication.

Unfortunately, one of the downsides of this democratization is that it has created a credibility gap between social media and traditional media. A constant criticism of social media, and specifically blogs, is that they are unreliable sources of information. A recent article from Brandweek magazine cited research that showed that only 21% of consumers trusted information that they had read in blogs. In defending blogs, Virginia Postrel, a writer for Forbes magazine, makes a comparison between traditional “journalistic” sources Times Magazine and the National Enquirer: both share the same format, however they are about as far apart in content and credibility as is possible. It’s necessary to view blogs in the same respect, and to select your sources as you would any media.

Thanks to a handy web-technology known as Really Simple Syndication (RSS), this task has been made, well, simple. RSS allows you to subscribe to a number of different sources, such as blogs, wikis, and podcasts, and have them all compiled for you in one location. Websites such as Bloglines (www.bloglines.com), and programs such as iTunes make this task easy, and can also provide suggestions for further reading and listening.

From a public relations standpoint, the proliferation of social media cannot be ignored. Social media outlets provide a demographically broad audience to be reached by one easily accessible source. Unlike traditional media sources, social media facilitates two-way communication, allowing the PR person to gauge the impact of their message almost instantaneously.

For further information about this topic, check out these resources:

What is Social Media? from Spannerworks.com. Provides a brief overview of the different types of social media.

The University of Essex, UK: Chimera Institute for Social and Technical Research. A resource for scholarly analysis of the impact that technology is having on society and social interaction. Includes a number of papers written about blogging.

Many2Many blog at Corante.com. A thorough report on current trends and issues facing social media.

– Nick Iszakovits
– edited by Nijah Smith

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Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Audrey Korol  |  November 1, 2006 at 2:24 pm

    Nick, you did a great job outlining the many facets of social media, especially your discussion of podcasts and blogs. Before knowning anything about blogs, I was one of “those” people who thought that blogs, by there very nature, were not credible sources. After discussing blogs in our class, and finding out more information about them, I agree with Virginia’s Postre’s comment in your blog that there are blogs that differ in format and in content. Just like newspapers, there are blogs that are credible, and others that are not. Look at our class blog- it seems to be pretty credible, right!

    Reply
  • 2. Jamie Gill  |  November 1, 2006 at 9:04 pm

    Nick, to agree with Audrey, you did a great job with your research on social media. I enjoyed reading your facts on social media, and you explained well with examples.

    I want to add, by saying I believe social media is going to be more dominant in the future and people are going to rely on it more, because it is easily accessible. FOr example, to research on a topic of public concerns, using the social media links, such as blogs and podcasts is a great way to start, since more and more people are using these to communicate their ideas and concerns.

    Overall Nick, I think social media is a great way to get fast information that is also current, but I believe using Academic Journal articles is also very important when assessing why people may use blogs, podcasts as a form of communication.

    Jamie Gill

    Reply
  • 3. Leah Wilson  |  November 3, 2006 at 1:10 pm

    Hey Nick,

    I must say I was intrigued to read more. I will definitely ckeck out the sites you mentioned. I must admit that I am ignornat to the new ways of social media (ykes…dont even have an ipod…or cell phone for that matter). So I realize that it is time for me to jump on the bandwaggon! The reality is that the forefront of the PR filed is shiffitng towards a hevay dependence on social media for a qucik fix of information at any time any where. Great points made and you have peaked my interest to reasearch social media more on my own . Lets face it, if I do not accept that I am emerged in media savvy environment ASAP…I may run into some problems!

    Reply
  • 4. Colleen D  |  November 3, 2006 at 5:17 pm

    Nick,
    I agree with the others on what a great job you did researching Social Media. I was intrigued and pulled in while reading, and you definitely made clear your important points.

    How long do you think it will take for forms of Social Media, such as blogs and podcasts to be accepted on a wide scale? Do you think these forms will ever be as trusted as mainstream news sources?

    You did a great job expressing the importance of understanding Social Media and the impact it will have on our careers.
    I will certainly be checking out the sources you mentioned.

    -Colleen

    Reply
  • 5. Colleen D  |  November 3, 2006 at 5:17 pm

    Nick,
    I agree with the others on what a great job you did researching Social Media. I was intrigued and pulled in while reading, and you definitely made clear your important points.

    How long do you think it will take for forms of Social Media, such as blogs and podcasts to be accepted on a wide scale? Do you think these forms will ever be as trusted as mainstream news sources?

    You did a great job expressing the importance of understanding Social Media and the impact it will have on our careers.
    I will certainly be checking out the sources you mentioned.

    -Colleen

    Reply
  • 6. michael  |  November 3, 2006 at 5:47 pm

    hey there nick

    great post !

    In fact, i am reading your entry as i am listening to an ‘inside pr’ podcast

    i like the way you write especially for this topic – perfectly on the line between professional and hip.

    Reply
  • 7. Nick Iszakovits  |  November 6, 2006 at 4:27 pm

    Thanks for all the positive feedback!

    I don’t know if I’m qualified to answer your question, Colleen. I think social media will always exist as a compliment to traditional media, however in my opinion it will never achieve the same respect and regard. The public currently has uncontrolled access to these mediums and there is not a filtering mechanism in place for people to discern the good from the bad. Until or unless this happens, I think that blogs, podcasts and the like will always be the weird second-cousin of the media world.

    Michael, I have yet to listen to the ‘Inside PR” podcast, but due to your endorsement of it in class, I am now a subscriber to ‘Grammar Girl’. As I was driving to school last Thursday, listening to the CBC as usual, I caught a programme called ‘The Age of Persuasion’. It’s a documentary-style programme produced by Pirate Radio out of Toronto, and it focuses on advertising, marketing and the like. As there is some crossover between these areas and PR, you and the class might want to check it out should you get the chance.

    Reply
  • 8. prclass  |  November 12, 2006 at 5:32 pm

    Nick, your blog was very well written and easy to read. I had virtually nothing to edit. Good job!

    Reply
  • 9. prclass  |  November 12, 2006 at 8:20 pm

    hiya Nick

    I must say I am addicted to the podcasting particularly Grammar Girl and Inside PR (and not just because the people who run it are on this blog…) I just find them both so relevant to our course of study. Plus, it is much easier to listen to a podcast when I am, say doing dishes, rather then finding time to read about a topic.

    I have heard that CBC program but have not gone to their podcast yet.

    Michael

    Reply

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