The revolution in social media has been so sudden that it’s useful to understand where it comes from, and why it’s not going away. You are a publisher now, whether you like it or not, and it’s not because of Harlem Shake videos or celebrity Instagram feeds. You are a publisher because American culture has changed. So what changed it?
Your need to write a blog post is at the end of a causal change that looks like this:
- Changes in hardware. Development of networking technology (routers, switches, fiber optics, et al.) made it possible to connect up all the local networks via the Internet. All of a sudden, there was an Information Superhighway (thanks, Al). Separately, cameras got better and cheaper, cellphones became smartphones, and every home had multiple pieces of hardware that could create content.
- Changes in software. Concomitant with changes in hardware, software developers started taking advantage of this new power, taking concepts like BBS and updating them into forums (more people connected to the internet means more potential contributors) and eventually social media. (Shout out to Friendster and MySpace 1.0, who died so others could live.) Software like Blogger made it possible for anyone to publish their deep thoughts in a format that looked relatively slick.
- Changes in culture. Everybody remembers their first time on Facebook (or even MySpace). Before social media, the only way most people managed their personal brand was their high school yearbook page and their resumé. But very quickly it became a commonplace thing to have a profile on social media (for anyone between ages 13 and 73), and your mom has a pretty good idea of what a hashtag is. Turns out lots of people like creating content, and a lot of it is actually pretty useful. Encyclopedias go out of business because of Wikipedia and Google. Old Media starts to falter as advertising budgets follow the target market to the Internet.
- Changes in business. As your customers change, you have to change to keep up with them. And when 99 percent of purchases of complex products or services begin with a Google search and 57 percent of the customer’s buying process is done before having a conversation with a supplier, you need to adapt to how your buyer actually behaves.
The last 5 years have brought on an enormous shift in buyer behavior and demands on marketers. But it’s not going away. Do you expect to be using Google (or another search technology) any less in the next several years? Do you think your clients will become less demanding in a globalizing market? The world has changed, and we all have to change with it if we want to stay relevant.
The explosion in content is real, and changes the rules of marketing for everyone. Every two days, we create as much content as was created by homo sapiens from the dawn of time to 2003. Quantitatively, we can argue about whether the change is measured in terabytes or exabytes, but qualitatively, it means that you need to be in the content business whether you like it or not.
Adrian Blake is CEO of Social Media Contractors and lives in the intersection between Software, Culture, and Business.
Screenshot via Talking Heads "Once in a Lifetime" on YouTube
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