Wednesday 28 April 2010

Fragmented shadows

The social media world is a strange one, and the rules or indeed lack of them is even stranger. There be pitfalls here, and even the most experienced can easily fall into them, whether that be experienced in using the web as a tool to network and communicate, or experienced in marketing and PR.

Increasingly, there is an ever expanding group of people who I have not met, but whom I talk to on a semi-regular basis through Twitter and other forums and media. We've crossed paths through a number of different means - hashtags, common employers, common interests, friends of friends, old university friends. I've even managed to cross paths physically with one of them at the top of the Blue/Red descent at Coed Llandegla mountain biking centre, only realising in retrospect that we had chatted on Twitter.

I don't know these people, but I like them. I don't know what they look like most of the time, but through their tweets and comments, political or musical or other, I trust their opinion on certain things, ask for advice and take it. The advice is freely given, and so is my thanks. A trade which at another time will be returned, as they need assistance with something that I can provide.

But I only see what they allow me to see. I only see a side of them they are comfortable sharing with me. I see fragmented shards of the whole of their personalilty.

What should not happen, but increasingly seems to be, is the same for organisations, events and companies. I should not have to chase around Facebook, Twitter, official and unofficial forums, to make sure I have every bit of information I need. I should not be finding different information released on Facebook to the information which is released on Twitter. I should not be clicking on a link in Twitter which sends me straight to a Facebook page, which if I'd wanted to join, I would have - on Facebook. Linking to Facebook pages is fine, now and then, but if every tweet you release is simply a link to another social media channel, I am going to assume you are too lazy and stupid to work out what the real use of Twitter is supposed to be, and unfollow you. I don't think I will be alone.

Multiple channels of communication are the same in the social media world as they were in the 'old' media world. If your copy is not tailored to the audience you are aiming it at, the audience will yawn and bin you. However, if the audience has to do the equivalent of chasing down the local free newspaper, the local newspaper, the County newspaper and listen to the local radion station religeously as well just to ensure that they have all the information they need, because they know that all the information will not have been released through all these channels - well who would bother? They wouldn't have, is the simple answer, because no one has the time to follow and consume all the channels. Everyone has their own preferred method of absorbing information - the trick is to use the channels to target your different audiences but to essentially say the same thing, just in different language depending on your audience. I don't wish to be spoken to the same way you would speak to a 13 year old, but then nor would I wish to be spoken to in the tone of those who have seen World Wars. My values are different, my priorities changing and my trigger words very different.

Multiple channels of communication are supposed to run in parallel. They are supposed to enhance your message, not fragment it. Which interest of the many I have that I focus on is different depending on which forum I am writing on at any given point. I am not lying about who I am, I am not pretending to be something I am not, I am simply tailoring my message and thoughts based on the audiences values who will be reading it. If organisations, events and companies don't catch up and work it out, they will fail in the social media world, for failure to understand a very simply concept. Nothing has changed except the method with which you are communicating.

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