PodCamp Toronto is an unconference at its best – a volunteer planned two-day event every February on the campus of Ryerson University – where URL meets IRL with equal parts learning and socializing. The casual atmostphere takes you back to days when social media was mostly outside the status quo. Of course PodCamp, like social media, is more mainstream but that entropic start-up energy is still very much at its core.
This year, I gave a talk called 'Social Media Barometer' – my take on some of the recent trends and changes happening in the social communications space. It's by no means exhaustive; more of a roundup of some of the developments and tools that have caught my attention recently. And it's all new material, so to speak.
I was generally pleased with the session though I still need to fine-tune the flow… I'm interested to hear your take on the ideas and if you have any others to add.
Here's a summary of my six pressure points:
1. The new generation gap. For the hippies, it used to be 'don't trust anyone over 30'. But recent research is pointing to a digital divide between those under and over 35. There's a distinct difference almost across the board in the way the two groups interact with each other and use digital and social tools. The younger generation is more media brand agnostic. Trouble is many of the marketing/communications decisions are being made by the over 35s who aren't ready to view the world through a youthful lens. Maybe this is why social media adoption is slower than some of us might like.
2. You've been pinned. It's got a whole different meaning than it did in the '50s. Pinterest is the latest media darling where you post and share images on a virtual bulletin board. Nearly 70% of the pinners in North America are women, while in the UK, 55% are men. (Another divide?) What really fascinates me about Pinterest is that it's an interest-based platform for people as opposed to say, Facebook, which is relationship-based. That opens the doors for a whole new wave of niche or customized sharing, with people socializing around their passions rather than just their friends.
3.Search me. With Google search plus your world, discovery is becoming more personalized. I think this is both good and bad. It's good in that the results incorporate what your network is sharing and that can make them more relevant. But we'll also lose some of the serendipity of search, uncovering a nugget that leads you on a different path. Sure you can sign out of Google and clear your cache, but most of the time what you find will be more tailored, and maybe a bit less diverse in opinion/perspective, too.
4. Are we there yet? Mobile's been circling the block for a while now with global traffic more than doubling for a fourth year in a row and mobile search growing by 400%. According to Cisco, by the end of the 2012 2/3 of mobile traffic will be video. With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets,we're more portable than ever before and that's going to affect how, where and when we work, learn, socialize and search. Watch for SoLoMo; the intersection of social, local and mobile. What we're missing is that killer app that brings it all together, weaves in augmented reality, video, shopping, reviews, social networks, games and even talking (what a concept). Ideas anyone?
5. New media companies. Facebook, with 85% of its revenues from advertising, is one. So is Googlet/YouTube which is offering production deals to Hollywood talent. Twitter's become a customizable news feed. Are these the new big three, replacing ABC, NBC and CBS as the 21st century media moguls? One difference is they generally don't pay for the content but do sell ads. And users aren't simply consumers, we're becoming programmers in the way we select, recommend and amplify content to our social networks via the second screen.
6. Digital first.Traditional media are adapting. Here's a provocative talk by John Paton, a former Canadian editor and now CEO of Digital First Media. He says that (and I'm paraphrasing), newspapers should stop listening to reporters and put the digital people in charge. PR, is the flip side (dark side? b side?) of journalism and it seems to be we need to adopt a digital first approach to communications. That means not being afraid to walk away from the news-release-as-answer (something far too many PR folks are still hanging onto) and approaching our practice from a fresh under 35 perspective. It's time to let go of our traditional model, innovate and evolve.
And here are the slides.