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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Social Networking is really Social Broadcasting

Social Broadcasting
OK. To the view of this blogger, the term "Social Networking" is not only inappropriate, it's illogical. The correct term is really "Social Broadcasting" and if more people thought that way, they would understand how media has really changed over the last two decades and how to take advantage of the tools available to them.

Two events led to the use of the term Social Broadcasting for this blogger. First, on April 10, 2008, James Earl Buck used Twitter to get out of an Egyptian jail. What happened was that Buck, a University of California at Berkeley, or "Cal student", was in Mahalla, Egypt reportedly covering an anti-government protest when he and his colleague Mohammed Maree were arrested.

While being transported to jail, James Earl Buck used his cell phone to send a message that read "Arrested." (If it were me, I'd have sent a tweet rather than a message.) Eventually, bloggers and friends at Cal and around the World were activated. They got him a lawyer, and got him out of jail.

The second event is that a number of people, generally over 40 or 50 years of age, and for the most part in the advertising industry, ask why they should "do" social networking. They want to know why they should connect with people they do not know.

On Linkedin, the busines-oriented social broadcasting system, that question comes up so frequently it's become annoying. I give the same answer all the time: to get out a message. That's when I realized the reason many don't do social networking is because the very term itself is misleading. It's social broadcasting.

According to Wikipedia, the definition of "Broadcasting" is:

"..the distribution of audio and/or video signals which transmit programs to an audience. The audience may be the general public or a relatively large subset of the whole, such as children or young adults."

But that definition is outdated because it implies the use of electronic communications as practiced in the 20th Century with television and radio. The Internet changed all that, as websites and blogs, and mobile devices allow us to send text messages.

So, to that old definition of "broadcasting" one only has to add the word "text" to understand my point, so the definition now looks like this;

"..the distribution of text, audio and/or video signals which transmit programs to an audience. The audience may be the general public or a relatively large subset of the whole, such as children or young adults."

Think about that: "The audience may be the general public or a relatively large subset of the whole, such as children or young adults." It can also be your Facebook friends and Twitter followers or YouTube subscribers. Or all of them.

In my case, it's all of them. Zennie62 YouTube video distribution is done at times using Tubemogul, which permits me to upload one video to as many as eight different video distribution sites. Then the same video automatically goes to my Facebook, Friend Feed, and Twitter accounts. This is also true for Zennie62.com blog posts.

The distribution to my network of followers, friends, and subcribers is something I call my "horizontal broadcast network." Why? Because its "cross-platform," that is from Twitter to Friend Feed to Facebook and so on. Each one of those systems is a platform.

My "vertical broadcast network" is simply the number of people in that platform I have as friends, followers, or subscribers.

So by adding platforms you expand your network horizontally. By adding more people in each one you grow it vertically.

I use the Social Broadcasting System to get out information. My Facebook page is listed as for "networking." I'm not concerned about privacy issues on Facebook because there's nothing on it I don't want people to see. Many of my Facebook friends are people I have not met before. I'm using it for Social Broadcasting.  On Twitter, I practice "retweeting" which is just a way of passing on information from one broadcast network, or set of Twitter followers, to another - in this case, your own.

This is no different than the old newspaper distribution system of subscribers. In that case, one newspaper had so many subscribers. From the newspapers perspective, some knew the writers and publishers, but most did not.

But Social Broadcasting's cross-platform reach brings in the concept of going to a Twitter stream which is a lot like tuning into a radio station while driving. You can stay there or find another station. On Twiter, you can follow and unfollow with ease. That action alters the flow of information to you, and changes your broadcast reach as well.

Note that I did not mention who you should follow or friend. That's not the point, and marks the difference in thinking. The objective is to have a wide a reach as possible. Period.

You're in the broadcast business, like it or not, and for the simple reason that you can't perfectly control what anyone consumes that you chose to put out there.  If it's something that your friends, think is worth sharing with someone you don't know; you're plan of control is trashed. Once it's out, it's gone.

If you think about Social Networking as Social Broadcasting, then you see we're all really social broadcasters. And that's how media has changed and why Old Media suffers. Communications technology has caused millions of small media production efforts to spring up, if we consider cell phone and especially smart phones.

An advertiser can chose to sponsor a media effort with someone you and I never heard of just because of that person's reach. And that person may have just a computer, a blog, and a cell phone. Two decades ago, that was unheard of; ad money flowed to newspapers like The New York Times and The San Francisco Chronicle and The Chicago Tribune.

Not any more.

What, then, is the answer for The New York Times and The San Francisco Chronicle and The Chicago Tribune? To team up, or buy up, blogs and websites. That's the only way to expand the Old Media brand. Not one of the Old Media companies can make as many blogs that have the same impact as buying existing ones with set a audience Social Broadcasting base (because they're likely to have a Twitter account and YouTube accounts as well).

The other answer is to copy Associated Content, Examiner.com, and Gather.com, and add writers and pay them based on a traffic-based estimate.

Or perhaps the best approach for Old Media (The New York Times and The San Francisco Chronicle and The Chicago Tribune as examples is some combination of both.  

From the ad agency perspective, the idea that Social Networking doesn't work can be changed if the agency thinks of it as Social Broadcasting. Then the idea of "media buys" is much different and extends far beyond television and into not just blogs and websites, but someone's Twitter account too.

But even with all that, it's only a dent (but if played correctly a big one) in the total sea of media producers. Why? Because that set of people includes you and me, and the teenager with the cell phone who texts every minute about every thing, and uses Twitter to retweet any tweet on Justin Bieber.

We're all social broadcasters. We're just too busy thinking of social networking to see it.

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