Social media and networking channels have during the past year established themselves as the preferred method of communication amongst the varied publics that we interact with. Facebook, Twitter and Youtube have become part of the mainstream.
Those who at the beginning of 2010 doubted the power of these channels are now active users, even evangelists. Last year social media was about discovery. It was about people building up their communities online. It was about real-time engagement.
This year in 2011 we‘ll see less experimenting and an increase in engagement. The knowledge that we have as individuals will be pooled and shared within our communities and this in it self will create challenges and opportunities for companies and individuals that we in public relations will be working with.
Communities: engaged and empowered
2010 was about Wikileaks. Partnering with news outlets around the world including The Guardian, The New York Times and Der Spiegel Wikileaks and it’s community focused on releasing classified material to the media and public. While the aim of the site when it was set-up in 2006 was to expose ‘oppressive regimes … (and) be of assistance to people of all regions who wish to reveal unethical behaviour in their governments and corporations’ Assange and his associates focused on uncovering political machinations around the world.
What Wikileaks did in 2010 was to light a fuse that will see in the coming year more people consider and question the ethics and values of their employer. We’ve already had the case of former Julius Bär employee Rudolf Elmer who worked for the bank for over 20 years until his dismissal in 2002. In a very public press conference at London’s Frontline club Elmer handed over to Wikileaks Julian Assange secret documents detailing the activities of his former employer in the Cayman Island and alleged tax evasion.
Sites such as Wikileaks, Openleaks andTradeleaks will prosper and be a contact point for investigative journalists and campaigning organisations wishing to question the transparency of members of the business community.
We can’t dismiss Wikileaks or what it stands for. In fact, the publicity generated and the way in which it’s core values have been promoted will have made people, employees in sensitive positions in the corporate and private sector, more willing to leak confidential information. For many, and not just the hacktivists, Wikileaks is the raison-d’etre it needed.
The media will not die. News will not disappear. The fact is social networking is making news consumption as popular as ever. Half of the problem that media organisations have though is that consumption is not taking place on platforms that publishers control and so monitise. Research by telecoms operator Orange confirms how ‘14% of people who access the internet on their mobile phones read fewer newspapers as a result,’ before adding that, ‘13 percent said that owning smartphones like the iPhone meant they read more newspaper content online.’ And with Advertising-spend still down media organisations are working hard to find a new business model.
Last year News International started putting its main titles behind a pay-wall, something that other news outlets are watching with hope. Murdoch is one of the only publishers that can invest in this experiment. If it works though, and many editors are hoping that it does, then the pay-walls will be going around other titles.
Quality journalism costs money. It shouldn’t be free. But getting readers to spend money during a recession will be difficult and it’s because of this that in 2011 we shall see more news outlets releasing apps for mobile devices. Those that are free will switch to a paid for subscription service. Paying for content through apps will be a precursor to getting people to pay for quality content online. The content that is currently free.
Mobile is everywhere. It is the channel that personalises everything we do. It allows us to update our status, our community, our location, our likes and dislikes. All this data allows brands to tailor their offerings for more personal approaches.
Why is mobile so important? Well, over a third of Facebook’s users now access the site through a mobile device. Twitter meanwhile has also seen a rise of people accessing it through a mobile, with also more than a third of users accessing Twitter via their mobile phone. Expect this to rise.
Mobile is not just about phones, but also about tablet PCs and the ubiquitous iPad. Consumers today want content, updated, on demand wherever they are. Keeping your audiences up to date and up to speed will be central to the work of public relations professionals. And with the news-cycle crunching down even further reaction times will shorten even further.
Crises only became so when people accessed their desktops at work or home, but with the increase use of mobiles, people will be able to react to issues quicker than ever before. Listening and engaging will be central to the job of those working in communications.
Of course as the use of smartphones continues to grow and establish itself so will geo-location services like Facebook Places and Foursquare start to take-off. And with the recession, business will look to use every opportunity available to them to help people part with their hard earned cash.
Content accessible through mobiles will become a must for established organisations and brands.
This year of 2011 will be a key a seminal year in the integration of social media into communications. It will be a year of communities and engagement.