Thursday, December 01, 2011

Old Old Story in a New New World

"It's a People-Driven Economy, Stupid!"

(Credit: Social Media Titans)
This quote by Erik Qualman sums up the new environment. The new future is social media networks. According to Qualman, winners will be companies that are able to deliver valued products, develop team players, responsible to societal concerns, practice democratic styles of management, provide generous referrals, engage recruiters, and connects with consumers with the help of consumers. On the other hand, losers will be those companies that still rely on traditional marketing to sell their goods and services, employ undisciplined people that refuses to listen to popular choices, that procrastinates in developing a social network influence, that fails to hire the middlemen, that neglects the use of search engines, that essentially refuses to adapt to the new changes happening in social environments.

A) The New World

It is no longer just the economy that is driving the world, like what James Carvilled coined in 1992. The new normal is described by Eric Qualman:
"It's a People-Driven Economy, Stupid!" (Erik Qualman, Socialnomics, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley, 2009, xvii)
What is socialnomics? For Qualman, it is a 'massive socioeconomic shift.' The new 'king' of influence is not traditional marketing but digital word of mouth. For example, with the pervasiveness of cell-phones, people text each other more frequently, and in greater details. Using the new cell language is not just quick, short and sweet, it brings a certain level of intimacy. It is a rise of a new messaging and twittering language.

  • LOL - lots of love / laughing out loud
  • ROFL - roll on the floor laughing
  • K - ok
  • ^5 - High Five
  • 143 - I Love You
  • 182 - I hate you
  • ? - I don't understand
  • ?4U - Question for you
  • <3 - broken heart
  • idc - I don't care
The list goes on. There have also been linguistic studies at a graduate level on such new mode of communications. The point is, technology and the use of it has shaped the way people communicates with one another. In response, technology companies have even incorporated in their cell devices, dictionaries that can interpret some of these short forms as valid words! Companies need to become more personable, and the best way is to let friends 'like' them on Facebook, 'tweet' them on Twitter, and to gain sufficient mindshare so that people will naturally 'google' them. However, digital word of mouth marketing is only the beginning. It is the consistent connection with people and their friends that will make the difference. Qualman's key thesis is this.

"We no longer search for the news - it finds us." (9)
B) The New Ways

The corollary is to then build mechanisms to ensure that our news finds its way to potential target audiences. Through the new media: Social media. Examples are:
  • For newspapers, it is no longer viable to maintain news feeds through traditional print and subscriptions. The multitude of unpaid bloggers easily trump the few paid reporters.
  • For news, traditional news collecting, editing, printing, and distributing has been short-circuited by people who self-publish news on the fly.
  • For dissemination of news, it is no longer just linking to other websites apart from your own. Sharing, forwarding, and re-posting information has become far more influential than information on one page.
All of these proves that social media is about people connecting with other people based on people's interests. After all, referrals from friends are more credible. The big few is losing out to the small many. Traditional news medium travels fast. Social news networks makes news travel faster. CNN is losing out to Twitter, big time. The recent tsunami in Japan, riots in the UK, and many major news events are prime examples of how people are turning to Twitter for the latest updates. 

C) The New Implications
  1. Social Media is the new normal. This essentially means that if you are not connected, you are essentially out of touch with society. If you do not have a Twitter account, get one. If you are not on Facebook, make sure you are on it. If you continue to maintain traditional media, you will realize that your emails are increasingly used less by your friends and more by spam robots sending all kinds of electronic junk into your mailbox. For instance, the large French IT company ATOS has started a plan to be 'email free' in three years! One of the reasons is that they get more and more junk, and less and less legitimate emails.
  2. It is More Difficult to Contain Untruths. Social media is essentially word of mouth communicated digitally.
    In the old days, news are regularly checked and double-checked so that there is no plagiarism, no untruths, and that it falls within ethical boundaries of publishing and news organizations. With the rise of social media, what is private today becomes public property tomorrow. One example is the famous Apple logo with a silhouette of Steve Jobs which has gone viral. Initially credited to a Hong Kong student designer, there has been lawsuits and counter-suits about the rights to the design. Who is right? It is difficult to tell.
  3. New Ethics Needed. In a social media environment, the feeling of 'everybody-thinks-they-are-right' is raised a few notches. For every argument, there is a counter-argument. For every thought, there is a different point of view. As each person asserts his/her rights, it is no longer a straightforward exercise to determine truth. What is 'true' to one is not true to another. Like beauty is to the eyes of the beholder, truth is true to the eyes of the beholder. This calls for a renewed need for ethical considerations. We need to teach good social network behaviour. We need to cultivate a group of positive influence that uses the new media well, to increase its positives and to decrease the negatives. At all times, truth needs to be upheld. 
May I suggest then, that Christians be actively engaged in this new social medium environment. Let me offer three suggestions.

D) The Old, Old Story

Firstly, learn the language and etiquette. This is your passport to the new social media world. Learn from the young. Learn to text. Learn the language on smartphones. Know the limits of electronic communications. 

Secondly, know your own limits. If you are not sure, ask. If you are not able to, seek help. It is tempting to spend hours on the computer, tablets, or your cell phones just communicating mundane stuff that do nothing more than to create buzz. When that happens, it is like a hamster running on a spinning wheel. Lots of action but no movement.

Thirdly, grow a biblical mind first. Do not let social media influence your view of the Bible. Let the Bible help you to interpret, to size up, discern, and to speak truth into the world of social media. 
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God." (Col 3:16)
Christian, let the Word of God speak into our hearts. Let the Word of God guide us in all wisdom. Let the Word of God empower us to speak up boldly, and speak out truthfully in the age of the social media network. May each 'follow' on our Twitter network reminds us, that we first follow Christ.


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