How media is changing the language of business

This topic was first presented on 5 March, 2008, to the
Rotary Club of Grand Cayman Sunrise. It has been revised and updated for
publication in The Chamber magazine. This is the second part of an article
about the effects of new media on business today. If you missed the first part,
it would be a good idea to read it in the previous issue of The Chamber

Part 1:
Communication Paradigm Shift

Video comes of age 

Our time-travel abilities in the Way Back machine have us
scoping out the new media scene in 2008. One of the new things Facebook had
introduced were company-related “fan” pages.

Consider Forrester’s 2008-era fan page on Facebook; if you
scrolled down a bit, you’d see that they had embedded videos. This verified
Debbie Weil’s prediction about business communications embracing multiple
media. Through the use of embedded video, companies could re-purpose events,
allowing people to “participate” at their convenience and to review the
information at will.

Of course when discussing online video, it’s difficult not
to think about YouTube. Even by 2008, YouTube had become wildly popular because
it allowed people to upload and share videos for free. This also represented an
amazing business opportunity.

IBM, for example, had more than 4,000 videos on YouTube in
2008. That’s 4,000 videos they could show anyone for free. They didn’t have to
tie up costly computer resources or host huge video files!

Of course, all that glitters isn’t gold. YouTube listed more
than 75,000 Dell videos in 2008, but not all of them were created by Dell. Many
of them were posted by people who HATED Dell.

Fortunately, negative videos really aren’t a problem. It’s
actually important to know everything being said about your company, whether
positive or negative. Pretending that everyone loves you is NOT a smart
business strategy in the 21st Century when negative “word-of-mouse” can spread
ill-will faster than a tsunami.

Rather than treating the Internet as a ticking time bomb of
public embarrassment, smart companies embrace social media as virtual
life-lines for staying in touch with their customers, providing vital
opportunities to perform damage control in a timely and pro-active manner.

Everyone can be a star! 

Now let’s take a quick look at podcasting in 2008. Brent
Leary created a blog for his small consulting company and then decided to add
audio to it. A local radio station decided to run the audio component as a
weekly show. The show became Business Technology Radio and attracted guest
speakers who included many of the major players in social media.

The programme was not only available on radio and on the
Web, you could also listen to previously aired episodes at any time or place by
downloading podcast recordings of the show. The show even attracted major
sponsors such as Research in Motion, the company that makes the BlackBerry
mobile phone.

Of course, the biggest central location for podcasts was
Apple’s iTunes Store. You see, the reason podcasts are called “pod”-casts is
because of the Apple iPod, a portable media player that people use to customize
the entertainment and information they listen to while working out at the gym,
commuting to work in their car, or doing household chores.

And by 2008, iPods also had the ability to display videos.
So the selections offered at the iTunes store included downloadable movies and
video podcasts, in addition to the audio podcasts and audiobooks it had always

People can also subscribe to podcasts. Because they can be
produced on a regular basis, each sound file can be considered one episode of a
continuing programme. In 2008, the iTunes store had more than 100,000 podcast
episodes available. By subscribing to a podcast, every time that person
re-charged his or her iPod, the latest episode was automatically downloaded
into the portable player. It was like giving every business its own television
or radio network!

In 1995, the current paradigm shift was just beginning. And
it took me until 2008 to recognise the true impact that shift was having on
business as we know it. But how does this impact your company today?

Once more, back into the Way Back machine, and we’ll return
to the year 2011.

Back to the future… 

Today many pundits complain that reading and writing blogs
consume too much time in a busy work day. As a result, micro-blogging via
Twitter is the latest way to keep your customers and employees informed about
your company or industry’s fast-paced changes and news-worthy events.

With Twitter’s 140-character limit on messages (called
“tweets”), it forces the writer to get immediately to the point and gives the
reader a fast way to stay knowledgeable. Tweets can include photos. (Worth a
thousand words, right?) And tweets can be sent from a mobile phone, so keeping
current updates flowing to your company’s Twitter followers is fast and easy.

As for Facebook, more than half a billion people now use it
– 10 times more than in 2008! According to the research company Nielsen,
Facebook has replaced e-mail and Instant Messaging as the communication medium
of choice among computer users. It seems that e-mail usage has shifted from the
desktop to mobile phones. With Facebook providing direct messages and instant
chat capability, users seem to be consolidating their communications in this
single service. Clearly, those company “fan” pages are more important than

Meanwhile, YouTube received a boost from the new video
capabilities in the iPad2, a 1.3-pound tablet computer with not one, but two
built-in cameras and $4.99 state-of-the-art video editing software. And
although it’s not specifically considered a social medium, Skype’s free
international video calling capabilities turn the two-camera iPhone into a
pocket-size multimedia show-and-tell device.

Perhaps one of the most interesting trends is how
social-media based companies are starting to leverage each other’s strengths.
For example, TripAdvisor – a site where travelers can post their reviews of the
locations and businesses they encountered on a trip – has teamed up with
Facebook to allow people to specifically view reviews posted by their Facebook
friends. Studies have shown that Facebook users trust their online friends’
assessments more than anything marketers may say. Companies had better pay
closer attention to online buzz.

Social media are clearly changing business practices and
strategies. Whether you like it or not, the old ways are gone. Keep up with the
times or be left behind.

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