Exploring Social Media Series

Filed as Features on November 4, 2008 6:44 pm

One of the Anderson Historical Family Farms in Wisconsin - copyright Lorelle VanFossenHanging on the wall in a family friend’s home is a quilt bearing the name of our grandmothers. Surrounding their names are the names of men and women from their community. Funds were needed for a community project so a quilt raffle was developed. Each participant embroidered their names onto flour sacks in this once agricultural community now lost to the time and the metropolitan expansion of Marysville, Washington, USA. All the flour sack squares were sewn together to create a simple and colorful bed quilt, padded with a left over blanket and backed by a bed sheet.

The quilt was displayed in the community center of the now lost village while community members spent what little money they had on raffle tickets, knowing it was going for a worthy cause. Her grandmother won the raffle and the quilt comforted the beds and the spirits of their family’s sick and cold children for decades, finally finding its way to her wall in honor of the past and community spirit that once thrived in a place covered with housing subdivisions where no one knows their neighbors.

For the village of Sunnyside and others around the world, community quilts were their social media tools and resources. Neighbors would get together in between long days of planting, harvesting, and familial responsibilities to chat and share stories and news over pieces of fabric.

Local bars served the same purpose, along with food and drink, to create a family away from family where people could be “themselves” and share their thoughts with others, often encouraged by the spirits.

The Pony Express was another form of social media tool, transporting the news on horseback across dangerous lands filled with tough terrain, weather, and enemies. Mail call was a social event in communities awaiting the delivery of the mail by horse, wagon, ship, or other methods, bringing members of the community together to await the news and share it once received.

A friend grew up in Jerusalem, living under Jordanian siege where communication from the outside world was exceptionally rare and valued. One of her family’s major sources of news came from charity donations delivered from the United States, England, and around the world. Canned and preserved food, blankets, and clothing were wrapped in newspaper, often months old. They’d carefully unwrap each piece, smoothing and ironing it out, then read every word, including the ads, eager for the news as well as the entertainment. Whole family and community discussions would fire up as neighbors shared their scraps of newspaper with each other and debated what tidbits they could glean from the old news stories.

When communities formed at great distances from each other thousands of years ago, news traveled via migrants, transients, and entertainers. Any traveler was a source of information from the outside. Traveling singers and actors, including the ancient Mummers mumming their stories and political news and views through theatre productions, were the equivalent of today’s newspapers, magazines, televisions, and Internet. They spread stories of neighboring communities, politics, wars, and propaganda through entertainment, clearly biased by the fact that they were paid for the “show” not the facts.

In addition to WOM (Word Of Mouth), the oldest social media tradition is the family reunion, where the tribe and its relatives came together to exchange news and DNA.

The art of the social for communication and spreading the news is the same now as it has been for thousands of years. Yes, the techniques have changed dramatically over the past 100 years, but the process is much the same. Instead of waiting months or even years for word, word travels instantaneously via telegraphs, telephones, television, and the Internet.

The skill set is the same, so why are so many people confused by what social media means?

Why is Social Media Confusing?

In “Define Social Media“, I asked you to help us define social media and got some interesting answers, of which one was a step in the right direction.

Alistair Shaw said:

Tools that help connect people.

The concept of social media in the Web 2.0 world confuses many. Basically, social media is about the tools that help connect people so they can communicate with each other. Understanding which tools work for which purposes, and which tools will reach your demographic needs, is the key to understanding how modern social media works.

Just as the telegraph and telephone changed the speed of communication, and radio and television created a richer social communication experience, not all businesses were serviced by these tools equally.

Telegraph was a vehicle for transporting short abbreviated messages. Until the telephone became mobile, people could chat as long as they were tied to a land line, unless they had a party line, which had a very different meaning in the old days. In the earliest days of the telephone, one phone line connected multiple families with “party lines” so you couldn’t make a call until your neighbor finished theirs. It didn’t take long for this shared telephone service to become a social service as people discovered they could listen in as well as talk to more than one person on the phone at the same time.

With radio, advertisers found they could reach wider audiences with their aural campaigns. Ears were tuned in around the world for the latest news and adventures and music. With television, visual media left the printed world in droves and entered a new realm of sales and marketing. With the Internet, web pages became virtual billboards, and blogs and forums became personal customer service vehicles to convey messages and also have a two way dialog.

With social media and Web 2.0 technology, communication services such as Twitter were born, forcing communication down to 140 character telegraph messages. It’s true. History – and technology – repeats itself.

Today’s Internet experience offers a wide range of social media tools that go way beyond the web page and blog experience. Personally, I think that the most confusing part of social media is making a choice. There are so many choices, how do you decide which one will best meet your needs and goals? What do you choose to invest your time, money, and energy into when it comes to marketing and branding today?

Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll explore the various social media tips, techniques, and tools to help you get the most out of social media, especially for bloggers. Your input is critical during these discussions as you understand what tools you need for your blogging experience better than others and we want to learn from you, too.

Exploring Social Media Series

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  1. By dinu posted on November 5, 2008 at 12:24 am
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    // With social media and Web 2.0 technology, communication services such as Twitter were born, forcing communication down to 140 character telegraph messages. It’s true. History – and technology – repeats itself. //

    vow !!, that was a good one ……
    I tried to learn lot about SEO practices, I did learn a bit, and social media expertise is zero for me :D so, I waiting for this series !!

    Reply

  2. By Michelle / chelpixie posted on November 5, 2008 at 1:33 pm
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    Beautiful storytelling Lorelle. Keep up the blogging this way. It pulled me in and I enjoyed the post greatly.

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    • By Lorelle VanFossen posted on November 5, 2008 at 6:02 pm
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      Thanks for the kind comments. I’m eager to find out other bloggers’ experiences and expertise on the subject of social media. There is a lot of confusion around the concept and I’m anxious to help dispel the confusion and learn how others are using online tools to help them connect with the rest of the world and their readers. Aren’t you? :D

      Reply

  3. By Craig Oda posted on November 5, 2008 at 11:21 pm
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    Lorelle, social media is a form of media that is passed on from one person to another in a growing web of connections. If the media is sent out from one source, it is closer to publishing. For example, a company that has a bunch of YouTube videos on their site might be engaged in video publishing rather than social media. The social activity is a viral activity. I did a writeup of how Google uses social media techniques in their product launches. The bottom line is that 60 days after the beta launch of their product, there are 450,000 independent blog postings about it.

    Check out the analysis here: http://is.gd/6mJk

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  4. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on November 16, 2008 at 12:17 pm
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    Craig, that used to be called word of mouth (wom) and is practiced today in so many ways. Thanks for sharing your analysis.

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  5. By Craig Oda posted on November 17, 2008 at 11:26 am
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    Lorelle, I think you make a great point. I believe that word of mouth (WOM) using online tools is basically the same as social media. It seems that social media is really trendy and overused now days. It seems to have a mushy, changeable shape that means different things to different people. For this reason, people focus on the tools. Things like Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube are tangible and easy to understand. It is a site. This is the URL. Go to it and see. However, I don’t think that people on Facebook makes it social media. Facebook is a tool that makes it easier for media to become social. However, I don’t think it is social just because it is on Facebook.

    I look forward to your other posts.

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