This week is Social Media Week, an initiative being celebrated worldwide with a whole host of events happening from San Francisco to Hong Kong. This occurs twice a year, and in February London participates, hosting up to nearly 150 events organised by marketing agencies, social media specialists, event companies, and interested parties. Increasingly sponsored by well known brand owners including Nokia, The Guardian, and the Financial Times, it provides an inspiring and fun week where social media gets scrutinized, enthused about, and showcased. Case studies where it’s been deployed as a marketing tool, or a channel where it’s been adopted by athletes, sportsmen, and celebrities engaging with their tribes of supporters, or just anyone sharing something with potentially everyone through words, images and sound – all of which provide compelling listening, and add to the a tangible momentum of the conversations shaping the social media world.
Why is this important?
- Social media is now being taken seriously. In a year where social media has played a prominent role in effecting change in our world, many more people, governments, and businesses are sitting up and taking notice of its impact on the behaviour of individuals, communities, and the whole of society.
- What’s hitherto been realised is that the old constraints of managed media channels, and controlled communication, especially within the broadcast media environment, have been circumvented by the conversations and rallying cries that have echoed through its channels.
- Social media is achieving a significant scale of users, 37million in Great Britain alone. Penetration of Europe’s internet users reached 50% by the end of 2011, representing 31% of the population. This is forecast to grow 4% year-on-year (Source: eMarketer).
Collectively, this means that social media is being viewed as a potential ‘world-shaping’ force, albeit in varying degrees depending on where you stand, what you do, or how you use social media. At the moment it’s still being assessed in terms of its communications impact, the debates around it tending to focus on privacy and its accuracy when compared to controlled media. Transparency represents a key issue, especially when adopted by business. Once establishing social media channels, how do businesses react and respond to those who talk back at them – What do you say or don’t say? Should you reply? And how? This has proved challenging for some established brands that have spectacularly shot themselves in the foot when underestimating the reaction from their audiences, and not fully understanding how to respond to the communities in which they’re engaged. Equally, there are those getting it right, and this is a feature of the newly emerging entrprises who see social media as a key part of their armoury.
For me, Social Media Week is a great place to start understanding ‘what all the fuss is about’. Immersing myself in it for a few days last February got me seriously thinking about its role, and introduced me to some very helpful and enlightened people. I learned something, and it equipped me to start asking the right questions. I look forward to building on it this year. I’ll let you know how I get on. In the meantime you might want to join in, so check out the Social Media Week website and open up the hash tag #smwldn on your Twitter stream to find out how people are responding to the London events.