This guest post comes from Mark Seall – Mark is the founding writer at TalkClimateChange and is also a regular contributor at ProBlogger. You can find Mark’s full Bio on his personal blog at marksblog.org.
Until recently, I have to admit to being very skeptical of the long term value of social media. My own experience has been relatively poor in that social media has provided me with few long term readers, which has lead me to discount its value, and largely ignore its potential. I said as much in a recent post on ProBlogger, at which point Brian Wallace took me to task and encouraged me to update my thinking.
My discussion with Brian made me realize that my current position on social media is in fact the complete opposite of the longer term thinking that I usually try to promote. In the long game, social media does indeed offer significant value through allowing smaller blogs to be noticed, enabling the cream of the blogosphere to rise to the top more quickly, and effectively democratising the media industry by allowing readers to determine what gets attention based on merit, instead of allowing editors to decide this for them.
Social media will undoubtedly change things for everybody, from bloggers at the lower end of the media food chain to the global news corporations at the top. Like good politicians, bloggers need to master the process of building a following and becoming nominated to stand in the daily social media elections (my own best performance has been a miserable 50 diggs, and about 15 stumbles – pretty poor), but what are the further implications of the social media phenomenon? Knowing that this revolution is coming, which strategies can be employed to fully exploit the opportunities that social media presents beyond simply becoming a top social media community member?
Right now I have a few emergent and ill-defined thoughts, and even fewer answers. I would like to use this post to share my musings and start a discussion before pretending to come up with some smart ideas of my own..
How will social media continue to be influenced?
I believe that blogs will represent a crucial media battleground in the coming years. Large media firms are beginning to exploit blogs as a cheap way to produce insightful content and win back readers who are being drawn in large numbers to savvy and entrepreneurial bloggers who are becoming increasingly organized, professional and consolidated. Social media will certainly play an important part in this battle, as large media seeks to influence by weight and small media seeks to influence by guile.
Will large media firms begin to exploit social media, or will they continue to rely on the strength of their existing brands? What are the wider implications for the blogosphere if large media firms truly engage in this market? To what extent will the media merge and differentiate?
What about the wider influence of social media on the landscape of content produced?
Democracy is not without its share of problems. Winston Churchill once declared that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except all of the others have been tried.” Elaborating on these thoughts he later said “The strongest argument against democracy is a five minute discussion with the average voter”. Reading some of the comments on Digg one can derive some sympathy for that position!
As social media begins to evolve and increase its influence, will the resulting media democracy have a dramatic influence on the content created in the first place? Will editors begin to focus on stories that will bring in votes rather than on quality content? Will quality become less important or more important – or will it simply be defined by what is ‘diggable’?
With this in mind, if you were building a new blog enterprise today, what style of content would you go for? How much would social media influence your content and how central would it be to your overall content strategy? Are blogs which do not appeal to social media still viable?
Will branding continue to play an important role?
Good brands provide a promise which acts as a useful tool for consumers during the selection process. People go to CNN.com or news.BBC.com today because they know what to expect and what they are going to get. However, branding may begin to influence reader behaviour in other ways. Firstly, the rise of new media brands such as Digg will enable the media democracy and become an important and trusted news source, potentially relegating other brands to the position of content provider instead of content portal. Secondly, branding is likely to play some role in the social media voting process. Will voters vote purely on merit, or will they be more inclined to vote for sources they know? Will existing brands be able to use their brand power to leverage social media, or will we see a truly democratic democracy?
Will brand building remain important, or will the value of existing brands be stripped away by the new democratic process? Will social media truly level the playing field, or just partially redistribute it?
What impact will social media have on entrance barriers to the media world?
Before the advent of the Internet, getting published was a big deal. Before the advent of the blogosphere, getting noticed was a big deal. Today, with the right techniques and an interesting message it’s relatively easy to build a following, and by exploiting social media it’s possible to reach a very wide audience very quickly . As social media takes off and enters the mainstream, will it become easier or harder to enter the game?
Will individuals once again become lost in a sea of content as everybody fights over the same space within social media, or will new content creators be able to succeed purely on merit? Will the world of media see evolution or revolution?
These are questions which promise to occupy my mind for a good while. I’ll be back shortly with another post as my thoughts crystallize, but in the meantime I would love to hear your views.