Rolling My Own SAP Global Media Survey
July 16, 2007
Once I saw that Shel Israel made his SAP survey open to anyone who wanted to take it, I decided that I to answer the questions myself – mainly because social media in general, and blogging in particular, is what has allowed me to essentially create my own job. Also, because I can. So without further adieu, here’s my responses (questions in italics, my answers in plain text):
1. From where you sit in the world, how has social media changed your life? How about the lives of your other family members?
A little background – I currently live in Chicago, where I’m a freelance writer and blogger (mostly for AOL, but I also contribute to other blogs on occasion as well as various print publications too). In general, it’s given me tons of opportunities and allowed me to connect with people all over the world that I wouldn’t have otherwise come into contact with. As a writer, I have to appreciate the ability to publish and present my material to the world as well (I wrote more about that in this post). And of course, there’s that whole keeping in touch with friends and family aspect too. I’m not exaggerating when I say that without social media, my life would be totally different.
The rest of my family is not as involved with the web as I am – my parents and grandparents email and shop online, but that’s about it. My two younger brothers are both students (at the University of Michigan), so they’re into Facebook and the typical college stuff. All three of us use the web as our main source of new music – both to discover new artists and to download it. Actually, I would say that Napster was the first form of social media I used (you could message other users on it). Then the RIAA came along and ruined the party.
I was a junior in college when Facebook showed up, and I since I went to one of the first schools to get it (Notre Dame), it was the hottest thing around for a while – I was amazed at how quickly the entire campus seemed to take to Facebook. Maybe we were/are all nerds, but the saturation rate was incredibly fast. Now, it seems that everyone is still on it, but only the techie types use it for anything beyond looking up old friends and seeing who is who’s network, what groups they belong to, etc. (read: they use Facebook for stalking people they’re dating or have crushes on).
Actually, I didn’t get into blogging myself until 2005 – I graduated and decided that somehow, I would become a writer. So I started a blog, used that to promote myself and get other writing jobs, and the rest is history. A few of my friends have personal blogs or livejournals, but there’s a definite difference between the more tech inclined people I’ve met through my work versus the laypeople. This entertaining post from Seth Godin describes the “digital divide” well – it’s funny, but I’ve found it to be true.
2. From where you sit in the world, how do you think your personal and business lives will change over the next five years? How about for the rest of your family?
First of all, I think that the digital divide I mentioned in my last answer will start to narrow. My general age group was the first to really grow up with the internet, and as a result, we are a lot savvier and open to new technology and we’ll demand that employers keep up. I know I can’t speak for everyone my age, but I think that we also tend to question authority more. We want to know why our boss is telling us to do something, basically. We require more transparency and we want to be involved in decisions. We want to be passionate about our jobs and feel like we’re making a difference, not like we are cogs in a corporate machine.
Thanks to the web, we have more information at our fingertips and more opportunties than ever before, and in the next five years, I think we’ll see a rise in collaborative projects using social media technology, more telecommuting and remote work environments, and that the pace of technological innovation will continue rapidly.
As for me personally, I think that while the tools I use to do my job will change, the actual core of what I do (writing, sharing ideas, collaborating on various projects with people from around the world – essentially, communicating) – will remain.
3. What do you feel are the ascending social media tools and which are descending?
First of all, I don’t think that blogging is going anywhere (I certainly hope not!), but that the types of platforms used and the overall community will shift, with the people who blog only to keep up with friends and family shifting to Twitter or Facebook. Authority blogs – blogs kept by experts on a particular topic that are more reminiscent of newspaper columns and meant to be a continually updated reference – might become even more popular, and the market for web content that provides value in some way, shape, or form will continue to grow.
Twitter and Pownce are great for allowing groups of people to keep in touch in a passive, unintrusive manner (check and see what the other person has recently tweeted instead of actively contacting them – it reminds me of nothing so much as posting a constantly updated series of AIM away messages, actually – you can use it to see what others are doing and post what you’re up to or share an interesting link within limited amount of characters).
Facebook and Myspace probably aren’t going anywhere for a while, but I think that the future of social media lies in creating networks that can talk to each other. I can’t remember where I first heard the phrase “data silo”, but that’s what comes to mind when I think of social networks right now. I think in the future, the networks will be networked, or maybe that’s just me predicting what I would like to happen.
4. The folks at SAP are particularly interested in social media’s impact on the global enterprise as well as small to medium-sized corporations. Do you have any knowledge or advice for them?
Granted, this isn’t exactly my area of expertise, but I believe that social media could be used to help employees of the company feel more connected to each other, even if they were located all over the world -and to the company’s leaders, if they could use the social media to interact in a person-to-person manner. Social media networks tend to make people seem more human (listing interests, favorite websites, personal blogs, etc.) than just a name in the email inbox. They can encourage conversation and equalize people by de-emphasizing titles and focusing on what you actually have to say – they can level the playing field.
Collaborative projects could also be made easier with social media, whether it’s creating things with apps like google docs or just communicating with Twitter or any of the chat programs.
On a slightly related note, I think that is the problem with Linked-In – it actually depersonalizes its members by focusing only on their careers and related achievements.
5. Do you have any interesting case studies of unique uses of social media?
It’s not exactly a case study so much as a look into a niche community – my first foray into the blogosphere was a fashion blog, which I still keep, so naturally there are a lot of companies ranging from huge multinationals to one-person startups trying to market to the bloggers, who have increasingly become seen as the early adopters and the “cool kids” (I just posted about this too, because I’m very interested in how PR types view the blogosphere and how I can work with them to present the latest and greatest in an unbiased manner).
I think that the Stylehive – a sort of fashion social bookmarking site – is really interesting and cool. Shopbop (a trendy online boutique) , In Style Magazine, and even ultra mainstream stores like Nordstrom and the Gap have recently created featured communities and become involved in the Hive – it’s definitely one to watch.
6. What social media tools do you use? Which are your favorites? Why?
Besides the obvious blogging platforms, I like Facebook but not nearly as much as some others do. From where I stand, it’s still more of a network of personal friends than a business tool, but that is starting to change. Del.icio.us makes me very happy – both from the social point of view (I like to see what others have saved) and the ability to have an organized set of bookmarks that I can access from any computer.
Twitter and Pownce don’t seem to have caught on outside the general techie types – the only people I know on those are other serious bloggers. I actually use AIM still once in a while, but that’s mostly because much of my family still uses it too. I’m not a fan of Myspace, but that’s mostly because I don’t like the interface and, well, many Myspace pages are highly unattractive (and that’s putting it mildly). At the risk of sounding like a snob, I prefer a more elegant or streamlined design. Of course, there are also plenty of blogs cluttered with the widgets of the week, but in that case I can subscribe to the feed and avoid the ugly if I like the writing.
8. Are you reading more blogs or less these days? Are you watching more online video or less these days?
I’m definitely reading more blogs than ever, but I may be the wrong person to ask for an objective opinion, because I’m so heavily involved in the blogging community. I also seem to keep finding even more great blogs to add to my reader. In regard to online video, I’ve always been more of a reader than a watcher, so that hasn’t really changed (I’m not really into podcasts either – but I’m one of the people that comprehends the most when I read something as opposed to just listening to it). I do like to hunt for concert clips on YouTube though.
9. (I poached this question from Ethan Bodnar’s survey answers) You’re a lot closer to the classroom than many of my readers. How do you think social media can be used to improve public school education?
I would love to see teachers really embracing social media and using it to engage in collaborative learning with students working on similar projects from all over the world. Group blogging could be great for lots of subjects too. When I was in college, some of my professors created message boards that resulted in some awesome discussions, but what if we could expand that to say, students taking similar classes at other schools as well?
Students already look to the web as their first source of information and entertainment anyways, so why couldn’t there be places to discuss and critically analyze what they’re studying; besides, schools in general has to get away from just stuffing students full of facts and focus on teaching them to create, innovate, and think critically. I have a feeling that this kind of thing would probably be harder to implement than to dream up, but what’s stopping a teacher from finding some kind of “sister classrooms” in other cities and/or countries where the students could collaborate and share their work?
10. Additional comments?
The future of traditional media – newspapers, magazines, TV, and radio – will likely continue to be greatly affected by the web, which allows people to connect and question what they are being told. Fark.com, for instance, basically exists to point out the absurdity and question of the relevance of the “news”, and the content is all user submitted and/or created.
I think that we’ll also a see a rise in “books as manifestos” (another phrase that I’ve begun to hear a lot in media circles (both traditional and online). Books will lay out the central principles of an idea or, when it comes to fiction, the characters and their world. Communities will form around them and sites and blogs will spring up. This has happened/can happen with TV shows as well. Of course, books and the like have always been a starting point for discussion, but social media lets this conversation happen on a much greater scale.
Conclusion: I have a feeling my answers seem all over the place, but hey, social media is a really broad topic. And it’s the reason why I’m taking this survey – if I hadn’t seen Doc Searls and Hugh Macleod’s answers on their blogs, I would never have known about it, and if other people hadn’t started posting their responses on blogs and on Facebook, it probably wouldn’t have become open source either. Cheers to Shel and the existence of social media in general for another unique opportunity.