Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Social media can't go it alone ..

I think Shel Holz is off the mark - he's right when he says that business should not abandon traditional communication channels and totally dive into social computing to deliver its messages and address its issues.

'The audience, we are told, has no interest in being talked to; we must, at all costs, accommodate a growing desire among the audience to be engaged in conversation.

I do believe in the conversation and the shift to a social computing environment and all the consequences for business and communications. However, nothing changes everything and I've maintained for years that the new tools should be added to the old, not replace them.

Validation came while I was reading my hard copy of the March 20 BusinessWeek. (That's right, I still get a dead-tree copy in the mail every week. It's easier to read that way, particularly in the bathroom.)

The article that struck me: "Why the Web is hitting a Wall" (paid subscription may be required). The article by Roger Crockett reports on a Parks Associates survey that reveals 39 million American households do not have Internet access-meaning only 64% of households do. (And only a small percentage of these read blogs or listen to podcasts!)

The study broke down the reasons why so many Americans are avoiding the Net. It's a knee-jerk reaction to assume they're all just getting what they need at work. In fact, that rationale accounts for only 31% of nonusers, according to the study. Sixty percent of people over 65 aren't connected.

There are 6 million homes with PCs but no Internet connection, and most of them wouldn't subscribe to Net access at any price. Another million say they're not interested in "anything" on the Net.

Analysts anticipate the total online US population will only reach 67% by 2009. The bottom line is simple: Abandon traditional methods of communication for social media and you also abandon 36% of the total consumer market.'

This is all a bit US centric and he doesn't really understand what social media means to the rest of the world - a world where there is a necessity to use these tools - a world where there are cultural, traditional and other environmental restriction to open communication. He doesn't understand that where there is only a top-down information flow, bottom-up is required to get the full message out.

This same notion can be applied to the social media within the context of the corporate world or grassroots organizations. This is why mainstream media is running scared.

They get it. Look over the fence Shel. There's a whole other world out there.

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