Posts Tagged ‘ web 2.0 ’

Braving the new world of social media

A year ago, I never expected dialogue with my favorite reporters.

Now it’s expected.

The rules all changed once traditional media outlets began embracing social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Some resisted, thinking the “comments sections” after every story sufficed as feedback. But the smart ones realized that you can’t have meaningful exchanges in virtual spaces where everyone is anonymous and most are emotionally overheated.

Attach a name and face to the comments, however, and the civility and level of intelligence goes way up. Actually respond to the negative posts, and what emerges is a general sense of camraderie between reader and journalist even in disagreement.

That’s what makes Facebook fan pages, when done right, such great communities. Look for New York Times or Washington Post and you not only get lists of stories but an honest dialogue on each.

It works even better when you can break up your readership into segments, like Slate does with fanpages for each of its podcasts. These podcasts themselves feature top Slate reporters and drive traffic to the main site. So each fan page serves as a fun mini-community for political junkies, sports nuts or culture mavens. Post to the page, and you often have a host of the podcast respond to you directly. The pages got me hooked on Slate’s podcasts and overall news site as well, since I have an open invitation to reach out and comment to the creative forces behind the content.

This approach isn’t limited to news. It works well for just about any company looking to actively bond with its customer base (and really, what company isn’t?). The corporate world is beginning to catch on. A recent survey by PR Week of 271 marketers found that 63 percent use social media for their companies. Facebook emerged as the most popular tool, as “connecting with customers” was the most common social media goal marketers listed as “very important.”

In interviewing these early adopters of the trend, a theme emerges of representing the company honestly and openly. Blatant sales pitches (or worse, sales pitches disguised as user-generated content) are highly frowned upon. The marketing executives who have had success in boosting their brand through social media did so by having productive exchanges with their customers, responding to feedback and taking it into account.

It’s not always pretty. The company on Facebook will hear a lot more negative comments than the one hiding behind a static website. But those comments will get said regardless. Only through social media can the company not only hear them but also respond, often solving the problem and building a long-term relationship at the same time.

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Universal access: the future of the digital divide

The pace of technological progress is constant, but not necessarily equal.

While more than a billion people worldwide have plugged into the possibilities of the Internet during the past decade, billions more remain disconnected, prevented by socioeconomic or educational barriers from experiencing the most recent advances. For some it’s a lack of infrastructure or resources to log online, while many others with all the tools to access the Internet fail to derive the benefits, harmed by a combination of inferior computer knowledge and a tech industry disinterested in designing programs and products catering to their needs.

The result is what has been termed “The Digital Divide,” a gap with profound influence on those left behind as the rest of the world accelerates into a digital age. The importance of bridging the gap has driven many worthwhile initiatives to provide laptops and Internet access in all school systems or to train displaced workers in computers. But the divide is a moving target. While studies show that the percentage of people with broadband Internet access is rapidly increasing, particularly in developing countries, many are tapping into the Internet without an adequate understanding on how it can lift them out of poverty and into the knowledge economy. Even in the U.S., where access to the Internet is widespread, a just released report from the Communications Workers of America shows that the average download speed varies dramatically by region with only 38 percent of rural residents subscribing to broadband, limiting the ability of some to leverage the web’s full potential. All the while, others who have long enjoyed technological resources are moving on to Web 2.0 and interactive mediums that will prove key in future opportunities for employment.

The purpose of my research project this semester is to look not just at how this divide exists today but whether it will exist in the future given the rapid development of easily accessible and affordable Internet applications. Will the devices and technologies ubiquitous in the society of the coming decades level the playing field, or will certain demographic groups be unable to adapt and utilize each new technology coming online? Will all youth raised in the current age grow up with the understanding of how to navigate the Internet, or will the training and knowledge needed to capitalize on future technology be exclusive to those with access to the best schools and teachers? What industries are tailoring their services and products for mass use across former knowledge and financial barriers, and which will only derive benefit to the previously initiated? Can innovations created for audiences in the developed world still be integrated into third-world cultures in a manner that can lift those communities out of poverty?

My research will examine current usage trends for various aspects of Web 2.0 to predict which are headed to universal accessibility and which will remain reserved for select groups. It will cite experts on the developments of Web 3.0 to determine whether the seamless blend of the virtual and physical worlds could be universally applied to all societies. It will look at ongoing initiatives to bridge the digital divide, efforts undertaken by a range of multi-national corporations such as Nokia Siemens Networks, public entities like the United Nations and non-profit organizations such as the Investor Group Against Digital Divide. It will evaluate the $7.2 billion earmarked in the U.S. federal stimulus package for increasing broadband access. The report will assess the results of these initiatives and what new efforts on the horizon are likely to yield.

The findings will be presented in a dynamic, interactive format that shows how widespread, or narrow, various technologies will permeate across different ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Viewers will be able to navigate through a selection of current and developing Internet technologies and see which are on the path to becoming universally accessible, and which still require more effort to ensure no one misses out on the tremendous opportunities offered by the Internet of the future.