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TED CANOVA

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How To Take The Social Media Plunge

Posted on 19 October, 2010 at 17:30

Almost overnight, we’ve leaped from the Stone Age to today.  


In February 2001, as a TV News Director, I tested the promises of the internet by sending one of my reporters into isolation for 16 days. She lived in an empty apartment with just a computer and internet access. No television, no telephone. What followed may seem obvious today, but back then few could predict.


The reporter, sleeping on the floor and without food, was on her own. She rented furniture, bought groceries, found free long distance, and even adopted a pet -- all on-line. In those 16 days, she interacted with 7,000 curious viewers, many of whom became inspired by our experiment and started to use the internet.

Eight years later, the internet is the most influential technology since television. No longer just a thing to “google,” the web is impacting and connecting every generation; how we work, how we socialize and how we interact. While the early web seemed so vast, today’s social media movement makes our community smaller. 


Your kidspaved the way. The youth movement is largely responsible for making Facebook an essential “friend.” But the more adult playground, Twitter, is finding “followers” among parents. Adults between 35 and 49 now make up the largest age group on Twitter with nearly 3 million visitors, the majority of whom use it while at work! In today’s media landscape, people don’t consume information—they snack on content. That’s why daily newspapers are in trouble, why weekly magazines are outdated, and why even television and radio news are struggling to keep an audience. 


To see just how this “snacking on content” works, let’s look at my own Twitter page. There are 1,100 people “following” me; most of them, I don’t know. In the course of 60 minutes, dozens of people shared information with me. Roll your eyes but the message that brought the biggest smile was from a perfect stranger: “There is a bunny eating grass next to the daffodils outside my office window.”


It would be short-sighted to cast aside social networking as a time waster. In the same hour, news items were also posted on my Twitter site:

  • U.S. Treasury to buy $1 trillion of banks’ toxic assets
  • Treasury provides $5 billion in auto supplier aid
  • Current flood level of Fargo’s Red River
  • RNC names new media director
  • Lance Armstrong shatters his right collarbone

Social media is still evolving but it’s important for you to take the next step, even a small one, to join the conversation.


Go Social

Sign up for Facebook. Feel your way around the site. Invite family and people you trust to be “friends.”  Post messages. Share family photos. Don’t feel pressure to accept every invitation you get from other people.


Go Professional

What Facebook is to family and close friends, Linkedin is for professionals. Open an account, upload a professional photo, enter professional information, and invite people in your contact list to be in your network. This will open your rolodex and generate new business contacts and leads.


Go Crazy

Twitter is for people who like to share. The mantra, “What Are YouDoing?” prompts people to share a message and link to articles and videos they find interesting. The more you use Twitter, the more people will “follow” you.


Does social media make us better informed, more enlightened and more connected to our community? Boomers will remember Marshall McLuhan, a great thinker of the 60’s who warned of consumer’s willful blindness to the downside of technology. In addition to coining the phrase, “the medium is the message," McLuhan spent his later years advancing four questions: 

  1. What does it (the medium or technology) extend?
  2. What does it make obsolete?"
  3. What is retrieved?
  4. What does the technology reverse into if it is over-extended?" 

For instance, a car extends the foot. But it makes walking obsolete. Then it retrieves the adventure to travel, but then when over-extended, it makes us long for a quiet walk.


What can be said for social media? It extends connections to people. It could make verbalization obsolete. It retrieves a chance to learn more than you ever could. When over-extended, it makes people yearn for less tech, a quiet place or more face-to-face interaction.


At any level of engagement, social media is forcing all of us to stretch our minds. I use social media to connect with the community, whether to build personal brands or to find cost-efficient ways to connect businesses with consumers. In these tough times, social media provides a refreshing and powerful tool to sustain success.

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