Ten Ways Social Media Changed Our Thinking in 2009

by , Dec 22, 2009, 11:30 AM
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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. Myself, 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.

0 comments on "Ten Ways Social Media Changed Our Thinking in 2009 ".

  1. Monica Bower from TERiX Computer Service
    commented on: December 22, 2009 at 11:43 a.m.

    Great article. It's difficult to keep fresh ideas and perspectives on something easily blown over in the blur of top tens we're all seeing as the year and the decade winds down, but this was noteworthy.

  2. Peter Schankowitz from Joe Digital, Inc.
    commented on: December 22, 2009 at 11:48 a.m.

    What a terrific year end synopsis! If there were an Oscars of sorts for "best and most promising use of social media" for 2009, For me, the utilization of Twitter during the Iranian uprising is the clear winner. The other things such as commerce, gaming etc. are all fascinating and evidence of the power to come, but all in all, watching a revolution in real time? Pretty amazing.

  3. John Slevin from iceCentric
    commented on: December 22, 2009 at 12:34 p.m.

    Yes - with each reference to a "change" I can't help but think of other uses, relevant ties to how I want to interact with people, businesses and society. It changes how I see the world. Thanks David.

  4. Jon-Mikel Bailey from Wood Street, Inc.
    commented on: December 22, 2009 at 12:37 p.m.

    Initially I think (aside from the early adopters from the digital marketing world) there was mostly a novelty aspect to Social Media. I think now people are taking notice of all of the marketing benefits of Social Media. The smarts ones are planning, strategizing and tracking. Mostly I think we have learned that this is still just an extension of your overall marketing and messaging strategy. You still need to think about branding, your website, conversion, etc. Great breakdown, thanks!

  5. Jeffrey Fry from Profit Prophet
    commented on: December 22, 2009 at 1:02 p.m.

    I think Twitter, Facebook, et al, will become mainstream and begin to loose its luster in much the same way IM, chat rooms, and just about every other new connection system has. Something better is coming around the corner, and we do not know it yet, but it will be here soon.

    I really think much of the social media hyperbole is just that. Yes, it does have some impact, and yes, it has changed some people, but so did TV and radio. I do feel we are a much more connected yet divided world with all the cliques forming, but to recognize our differences is the first step in accepting them.

    Personally, I think Twitter has jump the shark. It is just too much work to maintain and keep up. I think a small group of people are responsible for 80% of all tweets, and that does not a revolution make.

    Still nice compilation of 10 things.

  6. Jeffrey Fry from Profit Prophet
    commented on: December 22, 2009 at 1:03 p.m.

    I think Twitter, Facebook, et al, will become mainstream and begin to loose its luster in much the same way IM, chat rooms, and just about every other new connection system has. Something better is coming around the corner, and we do not know it yet, but it will be here soon.

    I really think much of the social media hyperbole is just that. Yes, it does have some impact, and yes, it has changed some people, but so did TV and radio. I do feel we are a much more connected yet divided world with all the cliques forming, but to recognize our differences is the first step in accepting them.

    Personally, I think Twitter has jump the shark. It is just too much work to maintain and keep up. I think a small group of people are responsible for 80% of all tweets, and that does not a revolution make.

    Still nice compilation of 10 things.

  7. Swag Valance from Trash, Inc.
    commented on: December 22, 2009 at 3:53 p.m.

    2009 was the year I deliberately shunned social media for the first time. I suppose that in itself was a milestone.

  8. Katie Smillie from SocialMedia.com
    commented on: December 22, 2009 at 4:55 p.m.

    Social media is also changing the ways brands approach online advertising! Social advertising is something we've been working on for a few years now, but 2009 we saw it really gain traction. More and more marketers are seeing that social ads are performing better than non-social ads across a variety of metrics including CTR, brand awareness, and purchase intent.

  9. Patrick Tangney from Freedom Interactive
    commented on: December 22, 2009 at 5:35 p.m.

    What I found interesting about social media in 2009 is that it's turned into a VERY good source for following breaking news. I can turn to my twitter account, facebook and others for a quick glance to get a feel for what's happening at the moment.

  10. David Shor from Prove
    commented on: December 22, 2009 at 11:03 p.m.

    2009 was also the year that Social Media in many marketers' minds split into two realms: CRM vs. Outreach

    Efforts that use social media to tighten relationships with brands and those who have already made contact blossomed.

    Efforts that use social media to reach out to new audiences and engage new customers continue to be experimental.

    Both are good signs.

  11. Dave Hale from DHI-Communications
    commented on: December 23, 2009 at 8:18 a.m.

    So true, that social media will explode in 2010. Businesses sprouting up since SM became "the thing" are like the dot coms did several years ago. Only difference is that SM sites and businesses are not the same as all the dot coms that went belly up.

    Those of us who have embraced the use of SM in our businesses know the key difference; if you can get it for free why pay for it? The cost of marketing via SM is so low even startups I provide business coaching to all use it.

    I think 2010 will see an explosion in the education sector which is one of the industries I provide consulting to. I just finished developing three social media and Internet marketing certification programs for a major college located in Columbia, SC that I will begin teaching in Feb. 2010. With so many businesses wanting to jump on the SM bandwagon, their only draw back is ensuring their employees know what they are doing and are well educated.

    Dr. Dave Hale
    The Internet Marketing Professor

  12. Bill Roth from NCCT
    commented on: December 23, 2009 at 10:52 a.m.

    Excellent article. Social media is the awareness channel being used by Concerned Caregivers and the Millennial Generation for going green. A huge, relatively untapped, marketing path for growing green revenues and a key ingredient of The Secret Green Sauce http://bit.ly/5Bu99y

  13. Langston Richardson from Cisco
    commented on: December 23, 2009 at 12:07 p.m.

    I have to say, I really didn't consider "DEATH" until you laid it out here. I would say this is more of a matter connected to real-time discussions where people can respond to. Life/Death, Sex, and Food/Shelter are all hot button subjects when shared with the write (or wrong) emotional pull, will get us humans to respond.

    It's comforting to know that in all of our technological reality, that very ancient impulses have remained consistent in us. It's truly what our marketing careers are based off of.

    Langston Richardson
    twitter: @MATSNL65

  14. Bruce Christensen from PartyWeDo
    commented on: December 24, 2009 at 10:42 a.m.

    David,
    Like the list. But I focused on the 2G's (Gifts and Games).
    In the "real world" we use tangible gifts and gather as friends and family to share in the gift-giving experience.
    Social media is just beginning to learn that it can facilitate the gifting and gathering process.
    A gift-sharing game, combining Amazon and Facebook, would allow real gifts to be shared from any computer.
    A further discussion on this subject can be found at http://bit.ly/7Brs8x

  15. James Wood from HD Productions
    commented on: December 26, 2009 at 2:03 p.m.

    Hi I would like share two videos that contrast the use of social media technology and would like to see your comments on them.

    Us Now - Look at the real life impact and influence of social
    media offline featuring Don Tapscott of Wikinomics.
    http://v6.oftheworld.tv/archives/1018

    The negative impact of Facebook and what happens with
    your account information.
    http://v6.oftheworld.tv/archives/975

    Looking forward to a new interesting new decade with
    Social media and its progression.

    Yours,

    James Wood
    HD-Productions.biz

  16. Aaron Clopton
    commented on: January 4, 2010 at 3:05 p.m.

    You can check out www.newstwit.com for evidence of the Newsourcing you write about here. Quickest and cleanest aggregation of tweeted news organized into channels of interest.

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