Ten Ways Social Media Changed Our Thinking in 2009

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Originally published in MediaPost's Social Media Insider


All
the top trend lists this year have been a blur. There's lots of talk of Twitter
and Michael Jackson, but I wanted to dive deeper and think about what we really
learned. In many ways social media managed to change our thinking about what
happened, what's going on, and how the world's changing.

I'll focus on 10 ways in particular. Not all are exclusive to the
past year, but many of the milestones from the past 12 months may well shape
how we perceive the road ahead.

Democracy: The Green Revolution, Iran's
populist attempt to reject the summer's election results, was a global
eye-opener for how a tool like Twitter — so easily dismissed as frivolous —
could change the world. The result may have been underwhelming, with Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad maintaining power — but for those who saw the tweets from
Iranians, often retweeted wildly, it will leave its mark. Contrast this with
other movements, such as when Philippines voters used text messages to mobilize
and oust
President Joseph Estrada in 2001
. The Philippines revolution followed a
peer-to-peer model. In Iran, though, the tweets were largely public, and
instant commentary on those tweets was publicized further, shattering the
barriers between those who were taking part and the spectators hanging on every
character.

Death:
We now mourn in public. Michael Jackson inspired millions — billions? — to
grieve openly. I stayed silent on Jackson but had to express public
disbelief over Billy Mays' passing. As I write this, friends and strangers are opening
up about Brittany Murphy. The self-expression becomes more problematic when it
gets personal, as a Floridian mom learned when she tweeted about her son
drowning. This led to the headline "
Twitter played no role in drowning of military_mom's son Bryson
." We
don't yet know how to grieve publicly, and many such as military_mom will learn
that others aren't ready for it. But in time, perhaps even by this time next
year, stories like this won't be newsworthy.

Sales: Dell has tracked over $6.5 million
in revenue to Twitter. There are several  morals to the story: 1) It's
possible to track sales from Twitter. 2) It's still in its infancy; Dell earned
$61 billion last year, so its Twitter sales will barely cover the Post-it notes
used at the 75,000+ employee company. 3) Those are only the direct sales, and
every time the press reports on Dell's model, some consumers will go to Dell's
outlet site without bothering to check what's happening on Twitter. Bottom
line, though, social media is making an impact on sales, and this year we
finally started to measure that effect in earnest.

Searching: Google, Yahoo, and Bing committed to
giving real-time search valuable real estate in their results pages. Sometimes
it will be higher up and sometimes further down, and it will surely be much
bigger than Twitter, but now it's here. Most people aren't going to think to
search Twitter or Facebook or Foursquare, but they will visit Google or Yahoo
or Bing, and they'll access the real-time links if they're relevant. We're
still learning when it's relevant, but there's little doubt now that it
matters.

Local marketing: So, how did you find out
about that restaurant? Did you see a special for mayors on Foursquare? Did a
friend check in via Gowalla and share it as their Facebook status? Were you
walking down the street with your iPhone out while you augmented reality with
Yelp's Monocle or Urbanspoon's Scope? Okay, augmented reality may be more
gimmicky, but the social services are starting to help people find each other
— and help people find local hot spots. The fusion of mobile, social and local
started to create real opportunities to change consumer behavior. What was true
for early adopters in 2009 will apply to the fast followers in the year ahead.

Celebrity Access: In January, Ashton
Kutcher joined Twitter. He was followed by Ellen DeGeneres in March and Oprah
in April. We got to see what they saw, from Chris Brown's view
of 90,000 fans
in Manila to Chad Ochocinco's view
of his opponents' football field
. Vin Diesel posts a couple of times a
month on
his Facebook page
, where he has over 7 million fans. And after Kanye West started
a new Internet meme
by grabbing the microphone from Taylor Swift at the MTV
Video Music Awards, he
apologized on his blog
. Yes, we have ghost tweeters and plenty of opacity,
but now that fans have this direct, personal, and occasionally even unfiltered
access, it's not going away.

Fan participation: This summer, two amazing
events happened in the arts world simultaneously. Here in the U.S., the rock
band Of A Revolution (O.A.R.) crowd-sourced
song lyrics on Twitter
, crediting fans for their contributions to the song
that became "Light Switch Sky." Meanwhile, London's Royal Opera crowd-sourced
lyrics to an opera through Twitter
. In the process, Twitter became a
curation tool, and both curators here used other forms of digital media such as
blogs and online video to further engage fans. Want to hook your fans? Give
them a stake in the content.

Gift giving: Thought you were doing
something special for a Facebook friend by giving them one of those little
icons as a gift? How about giving them something they'd be really excited
about, like an MP3, a charitable donation, or a "gourmet feast" gift
basket? Yeah, that last one runs $85, but they are your friends, right? Today,
those goods are provided through the Real Gifts application. Tomorrow, it may
well be Amazon. What I'd really love to see is gift recommendations tailored to
recipients' profile interests right when you're sending something virtual or
physical.

News-sourcing: Journalists were among
the first to embrace Twitter. Will they similarly lead the charge with Google
Wave? They're starting to, anecdotally at least. Mashable loves covering these
stories, from the Seattle
Times
posting a Wave to find
a suspected cop killer
to town
squares
hosted by the Austin
American-Statesman
. Google Wave itself may or may not be the
platform of the future, but it's opened the door to news ways for the media to
interact with their audience.

Gaming: In November 2009, over
6 million gamers
(and their loved ones) bought the blockbuster "Modern
Warfare 2." That same month, about 70 million gamers played
"Farmville." I know I'm stretching comparisons here, but the notion
of what a blockbuster game is continues to shift. Is it a game that millions of
people pay $50 for right when it comes out, or a free game played by tens of
millions of people, where a small percentage pay small sums over time for
in-game upgrades? There's room for both models, and there's room for new
thinking on what a successful game is.

That's just a taste of how our thinking changed this year, and it
only leaves me hungrier for the new perspectives ahead in 2010.

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2 thoughts on “Ten Ways Social Media Changed Our Thinking in 2009

  1. David,
    I guess I knew that social media brought us together to reconnect with old friends, and to make new ones, but I never associated Social media with bringing us together on so many levels. To think that through social media we can mourn the deaths of so many together with so many, is an overwhelming thought… thanks for the post, just fantastic

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