I have been dusting off my handy dandy RSS newreader for the first time in quite awhile, getting up to speed on what has been happening in the PR blogging world. I have been really off line for a couple of months, so I was a bit afraid. I shouldn't have been. It seems like nothing has changed much...I've been reading the same old conversations about the same old companies. There are a ton more widgets, gadgets, and gurus, not to mention the latest greatest Demoers/Crunchers. But the underlying stories are pretty much interchangable from 2007 to 2006.
Some random thoughts about this sameness:
- It tells me that most businesses are still trying to figure out this social media thing, and are nowhere near maxing the opportunities of Web 2.0. For all the buzz and movement on top, the actual full-scale adoption of these new technologies is moving slowly.
- The same questions are still being asked, and there aren't a lot a new, solid answers. (There is still the lack of good solid results-based case studies.) This is probably one reason why things are moving slowly.
- All of this is not necessarily bad. At least I don't feel out of date! But seriously, real world adoption always falls behind the hype. There are tons of opportunities for improvement out there!
Of course, there are some companies that have done rather well in adopting the first social media technologies (I am using the term loosely here). And this brings me to the question I have been thinking about over the past few days. What comes next? Once a company is providing a variety of RSS feeds, a series of blogs, a forum, a regular podcast and so on, what should they start to think about moving forward? Microblogging? Virtual worlds?
I think the answer to that question has to be examined through the lens of network building. As I have written and stated in multiple arenas, I believe that the role of public relations today is to build and facilitate networks of people connected to a company, both strongly and loosely. I also think we need to empower these people to speak on behalf of the company. This being said, when we evaluate the plethora of new tools becoming available, we have to figure out if they will work for our specific organization's network building activities.
One area I think is relatively unexplored is cultural activity. What is possible beyond a photo in an employee magazine of a gifted employee's painting or cultural event? As our work and personal lives are ever more intertwined, is there a way to encourage the sharing and expression of culture on a corporate website via social media tools? Maybe it would be easy to start with a photo sharing/comment platform where employees, customers, visitors comment on cultural events (a play, a painting, a wine tasting, etc.) Sure, one could argue that these types of commentary are superfluous to one's core business. And yet, by knowing each other better as human beings, wouldn't this create trust and connections? There are already successes in this area through companies who have let their employees blog about whatever they want. But I think there are ways to do this beyond the blog. And it might just make the world a little bit brighter.