“The Web does not just connect machines, it connects people” (Tim Berners-Lee). Social media is pretty much what Tim Berners-Lee envisaged for the web when he started his early development work. The original web 1.0 was an analogue of traditional publishing media which provided the opportunity for people to read on-line – this was familiar, easily understood and accommodated. Web 2.0 provides the opportunity for people to write as well as to read on-line – this is less familiar and has not been so well understood or accommodated. Social media takes Web 2.0 even further by predicating itself on people’s contributions, interaction and participation – the consequences are even less well understood or accommodated than Web 2.0.
Simply in terms of numbers social media is is important. Radio took 38 years to reach 50 million users; Terrestrial TV took 13 years to reach 50 million users; the internet took four years to reach 50 million people. Facebook added 100 million users in less than 9 months! Facebook has been growing at over 100% year on year; in February 2010 it had a “population” of 400 million active users (25% of all web users) – if it were a nation it would be the third largest on earth. 67% of Internet users use social networking, its ahead of email use and accounts for 10% of all time spent on-line. Wikipedia has more than 13 million articles in more than 260 different languages and would be 1043 volumes if printed. Youtube serves 1 billion views a day.
Social media is shaping the way we communicate and access information. Social media provide new public and private places to meet and interact – the importance of which are now being recognised by all areas of society from politics, business, work, media, communities to education.
In Politics: Obama’s use of social media in the US presidential election is well known as are the applications while in government from the Whitehouse Youtube channel through to presence on twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Flickr etc he could be decribed as the first wired president. Access to social media is important for access to politics and the world of politics.
In Business The importance of social media is recognised both externally and internally. IBM, for example, use social media on a very large scale in a decentralised mode both internally and externally. Dell, for example, provide a “case study on how a company has successfully integrated social media into its marketing communications, and culture“. Social media provide an essential medium to develop and expand business – levelling the playing filed and allowing small business to access resources only massive corporations could in the past. Access to social media is important for access to business and the world of business.
In Recruitment and Work: Social media search has become commonplace in staff recruitment and for people to find jobs for example use of Linkedin, Facebook and twitter. Even MI6 have been using Facebook in recruitment. Access to social media is important for access to work and the world of work.
In News: Social media has become an integrated and vital factor in news. Professional use of user generated content is recognised and BBC news journalists have been told to use social media as a primary source of information. Twitter, for example, has played a vital role in reporting events after the Iranian election, The Mumbai attacks, The Hudson Bay crash. Access to social media is important for access to news and the world of news.
In Media: Social media has become an important media “channel”. Youtube, for example, is becoming an integral part of mainstream media on-demand delivery – hosting content from 60 partners, including Channel 4 and the BBC. Live performances are being streamed via social media U2 on Youtube and the Foo Fighters on Facebook. Social media is helping to evolve the way media is produced and consumed. The Youtube orchestra and the work of media remix-mashup artists show how social media are evolving media. TV and radio shows often either have an official twitter presence such as BBC Question time and Radio 4 today or have unofficial presence that adds a new dimension such as for the Eurovision song contest or an unexpected consequence as in the case of 2009 Xfactor. Access to social media is important for access to media and the world of media.
In communities: local groups, councils, governments and organisations use social media to provide information and to interact. Many UK oocal councils use twitter, Emergency departments, Governments and Councils use social media for emergency and health and disease communication. Councils are urged to stop thinking about their own web sites as the limit of their engagement” and make greater use of social media. Access to social media is important for access to communities.
In Identity. One of the major factors in identity is that of social interaction and we shouldn’t be surprised to find that social media is playing a major part defining on-line identity and will do so even more in the future. Original forms of identity might be described as Identity 1.0 – website and institutionally centric – typically we need to enter unique identification into each system we want to interact with. A currently developing form of identity could be referred to as Identity 2.0 – user centric – where we can enter a common identification into the various systems we interact with. The promising current development with identity 2.0 this is with OpenID for identification OAuth for authorisation and their combination. Many major systems have become OpenID+OAuth providers (e.g. Google, Yahoo, Microsoft) and many allow its use to provide access. Social media (Facebook, Myspace, Twitter) also offer Identity 2.0 – both in terms of identity construction through social interaction but also for access to third part resources.Twitter, for example, is an OpenID+OAuth provider and this is my preferred method of accessing websites. Facebook can act as an OpenID rely and have also developed their own widely used social identity system called Facebook Connect while Google has been developing Opensocial as methods of providing access to and adding social features to third party websites. Access to social media is important for access to identity and to interact and access a great many resources.
In Education: Learning is about interaction with information, people and activities as is social media. Youtube, for example, gives access to an unprecedented wealth of learning material accessible from the Youtube Edu channel are videos from world class universities and experts such as MIT, UCLA, Stanford, Harvard, the Open University and UNSW, as well as a wealth of socially generated material on all manner of subjects from relativity through to how to change a tap washer and how to change a car tyre. Wikipedia is of course a well used socially created source of information but also has its socially created content at Wikiversity.There are also some very interesting learning activities and resources available such as the 140 university on twitter. While many Educational institutes use social media such as Twitter and Facebook to engage students before, during and after courses. Access to social media is important for access to education and the world of education.
Social media is increasingly integrated with the web and with our lives and its going to become more so. Major websites are adding social features and many of these are connected back to social media identities. Social media is being integrated with common applications, for example even Outlook is going to get social media features, Gmail has social media with Buzz, Yahoo provides full access to Facebook and Google has integrated social media in search results. Social media will play a big part in the future in terms of information generation and management. Google CEO Eric Schmidt envisions a radically changed internet “dominated by social media content” – “It’s because of this fundamental shift towards user-generated information that people will listen more to other people than to traditional sources”. Louise Gray builds on the ideas of Chris Messina and describes how “The social Web changes the entire process of content discovery. Instead of portals, we are relying on mortals. Our trusted friends and experts bring us the best content from around the Web to us directly, via Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed, and even that old tool… e-mail.” The idea is that social media will provide much of the access and content and that the “human filters” of social media will provide much of the capability to help us manage. Dion Hinchcliffe describes how social media are making the “classic web” obsolete and Jeremiah Owyang looks further ahead predicts 5 eras of social media and describes just how important and integrated social media may become over the next decade.
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