Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Event - NetIKX 'Social Media - What Next and What Can We Do With It?''

Yesterday's NetIKX half-day seminar, with Stephen Dale and Geoff Mccaleb was a fascinating look at where the world of social media is heading.

Stephen kicked off proceedings with a YouTube video which asked a simple question:
Is Google the #1 most visited website?
The answer, of course, is 'no'!  The most visited website is Facebook - which has 30m users in the UK alone; that is almost 50% of the population.  The statistics in the video came fast and furious, but as Steve summarised it all the numbers are "big and getting bigger!"

Key themes for 2012 are collaboration, gamification and networking.  While all the social networks are growing in membership and usage, Google+ has had by far the highest rate of growth, reaching 25m users much more quickly than any of its forerunners.

Importantly for businesses is the fact that we are now in a situation where content and information is in abundance while resources are constrained, two way business, communities and value in relationships rule the day rather than 'top down' one way marketing.

Steve contended that the focus now is all about sharing - sharing user generated content, sharing recommendations, sharing bookmarks, sharing interests, sharing ideas.

He pointed out that curation of all this content and working as community facilitators, was an important role going forward for people with information management skills.  Social media sites exist dedicated to gathering information relevant to a community and sharing it already exist (eg; paper.li, storify, scoop.it, etc).

Other key trends Steve highlighted included big data (where data sets grow so large they cannot be analysed using conventional database management tools), mobile internet  (which will be outselling desktop platforms by 2013), and location based services (including augmented reality where your mobile combines GPS, visual and internet data sources into one display).

Steve summarised by saying that social media is most definitely not a fad, it's ubiquitous, growing rapidly and creating new and interesting ways to share information.  People need help with content overload and knowledge curation - and we are best placed to meet this need.

Geoffrey echoed this theme, starting off his presentation by saying that social is taking over the web.  He gave some interesting examples of this in relation to recruitment, including that 89% of US companies used social media tools in recruitment in 2011, either to source candidates or to screen them.

He illustrated the power of social media not only by referring to the Arab Spring and Occupy protests, but also by highlighting that the SOPA protests were covered by only 1 mainstream media outlet (CNN), so Congress changed its mind based almost solely on pressure from a social media campaign.

Dispelling any lingering feeling that social media somehow 'isn't real' or 'is just virtual' or 'just for kids', he also gave examples of companies whose sales and stock prices have been massively affected by social media (positively or negatively), including Southwestern Airlines, Dominos Pizza and Comcast.  Reputation management has moved far beyond a press release in the newspaper, and time to address customer complaints raised on Twitter or Facebook is down to 48hours or less.

After a break for coffee we reconvened into breakout groups to discuss a range of questions:

  • what is the information risk of using social media?
  • what role could/should information intermediaries play?
  • which social media tools to use, when
  • are social media tools appropriate to use within organisations?
  • how can social media help engagement with communities?

During the feedback session after this, the main theme to come up was a discussion of the sustainability of social media - both speakers felt it was here to stay, and that while technologies will undoubtedly keep improving (eg, to enable more sharing via audio/video), the sharing itself will continue, with value coming from the leveraging of connections and relationships.

Information professionals will have a key role to play in this development, curating content, analysing big data, creating visualisations and infographics, evaluating information, validating it and being a trusted facilitator.  To achieve this, traditional skills of information organisation and retrieval will need the addition of more ICT skills, for data analysis, mobile apps, and social media network engagement.    

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