A little while back, I sent out a request via Twitter asking if anyone would be interested in being interviewed for a discussion on social media. With the medium meaning so many different things to so many people, as well as how it can be used, I was interested to hear the views of the people I connect with.
My original plan was to run a “round table” style of blog post – raise the questions and then have a mix of views as the responses. However, the answers I received back were all excellent, and showed why social media is the mix of interesting people and views that it is. So, I decided individual posts would be far more effective in an on-going series of interviews.
Sharing her views today is Mary Higgins, a writer originally from the UK but now living in Canada. Mary is a self-confessed social media and tech geek who is currently writing her first novel. My sincere thanks to Mary for taking the time to reply and share her views. To connect with Mary, or find out more about her, please visit her blog The Last Geek Bus Home.
If someone was to ask you for your definition of social media, what would it be?
Social Media is using technology to connect with and share ‘stuff’ with other people. I would say there are 3 main elements to Social Media:
a) The Technology: At it’s heart, Social Media is about new ways of using technology so that allows you to connect and share (files, comments, information) with other people (users). There seems to be new applications arriving every day and that adds to the general noise about Social Media and also the confusion. Not all applications do the same things and finding the right one to fit your needs (especially when you are not sure what your needs are or will be) is difficult.
b) The Connection: The applications are available but are meaningless without the people using them. Why do people start to use Twitter, for example? Early adopters used it to connect to each other but more and more people are using it now because they have friends already on Twitter and want to join in. Or a favourite celebrity is on Twitter and they want to follow them.
It’s about connecting with people and building communities and it is a two-way communication. Anyone can follow on Twitter but the real value comes when you start responding, asking and answering questions, building relationships in a real way.
c) The ‘Stuff’ you share: Communities are developed around the technology and/or around a group of people using the technology. You can choose to share as little or much as you want. Some people will unfailingly tell you what they had for breakfast while others will share that they have developed a new application or have published a new blog post. One of the advantages is that you choose what you share and you choose what to listen to from other people.
What is your reason for using social media?
Initially I started blogging because I had something I wanted to talk about. And when I say ‘talk’, that is what I mean. I didn’t want to be splurging words onto the Internet for their own sake - the intention was to engage with other like-minded people and have discussions, make connections and take part. I was lucky enough to meet people who took the time to talk to me and show me new things. Tabz (Tabitha Grace Smith) introduced me to Twitter but more than that she showed me that it’s value was in the interactions with people, not just following.
Another person who influenced my use of Social Media has been Felicia Day, the creator, writer and star of the webseries The Guild. She uses Twitter, her blog and other applications to connect with fans in a direct way. It has just been announced that the second season of The Guild has sponsorship from Microsoft. I enjoy the social aspects enormously. I’m a writer and being connected to other people when you work from home is very important. I’ve been following Felicia for a long time and I’m actually doing a video interview with her this week on my blog.
Do you feel that social media is being used to its maximum effect?
No, but that needs some serious qualification! It is a difficult question to answer because of the 3 elements that go into Social Media. In terms of the technology available at this moment I would say that only a fraction of the potential use of products is being utilised. The ‘Connection’ part is getting better but I think a lot more can be done to integrate applications.
Unfortunately when problems such as the Twitterrank incident happen it highlights the fact that while people want to try new things out they don’t always understand the implications of what they are doing.
What social media tools or applications do you use? Why these ones in particular?
Twitter, Plurk, Friendfeed and MyBlogLog are the main ‘tools’ I use for communication, research and connecting with people. I am part of the MicroMagnate community because I wanted to connect with other small business owners in Canada. I’m also part of community at Watchtheguild.com because it’s a webseries I love and the people there are fantastic. I am also on Twittermoms and Geeks. I have my own blog and I write for Whedonage.com, and I enjoy replying to the comments people make. There are many other websites and blogs I visit and comment on, also.
Where do you see the future of social media, both in general and for you?
I think the whole area will expand in the short term but then I’m expecting that many of the applications around today will not continue. This is a new area and no-one is sure where it will lead or even where they want it to go. Although Social Media is a big topic in some quarters most people have never even heard the phrase. But humans naturally want to interact with other, are naturally social, so I think this will expand and cross over to the mainstream in the near future.
Are businesses effectively using social media? If not, what can they do to improve?
I don’t follow businesses on Twitter or anything else, but I do follow individuals who represent businesses. I prefer to read opinions of people that I respect personally. Organisations that understand that it is the personal touch that many people value will probably do better and I know that some larger businesses are using it well. It does take a big commitment, though, and I think the worst thing a company can do is to launch a Social Media campaign and then not put the resources in to maintaining it. Posts, comments, and all feedback needs to be treated seriously and promptly.
What do you feel are the best and worst features/uses of social media?
There was some recent research to show that women bloggers are more likely to be addicted to Social Media than other women. That is no surprise to me! I think it can be very addictive because the feedback you get can be instant. When I am writing I have to take myself out of the loop so I can concentrate otherwise the temptation to keep refreshing the screens to see who has said what and where everyone is up to is very great!
I also think that important issues can be caught up in a storm of argument and counter-argument. Just as in other areas of life, enabling people to have a voice means that some of the things they say are going to annoy, irritate, upset and offend others. There is not always an obvious arbitrator for matters when issues are taken up across blogs, message boards etc. People need to respect the beliefs and opinions of others.
The best parts are when real communities are built up. People are connected to each other and there is a flow of ideas, help and advice. In some cases ‘Tribes’ have helped out members in very practical ways. When podcaster Doug lost his house in the recent fires his Tribe came to his assistance to cover the costs while the insurance ran out and the money was sent to him within days.
- You can find more “Discussing Social Media with…” interviews here.
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