Keeping Up With Social Media

Spannerworks in the UK has published an e-book (PDF link here) on social media which gives a useful introduction to the main formats and trends, if you needed one. Antony Mayfield, its head of content and media authored this and he starts by defining social media in five ways: participation, openness, conversation, community and connectedness. The main formats he lists as blogs, social nets, wikis, podcasts and content communities such as Flickr, and so on.
Social media is developing so quickly because it is about the basic human need to communicate ideas, create work, discussion and finding connections through shared interests. At the root of social media is the technology that enables everyone to create and distribute their own material, and new, efficient distribution methods like RSS and search.
Creating and then sharing that content has produced the mash-up phenomena, a whole swathe of ingenious (and occasionally useful) projects from ‘A Hard Day’s Night of the Living Dead’ on YouTube to the UK rail service – one of hundreds of Google Earth mash-ups. The number of mash-ups of music and film is a good indicator of its popularity and marketers have begun to use this trend to promote products.
Mayfield describes how blogs, wikis, podcasts and so on function and goes on to describe Second Life which continues to fascinate. During one day this month, $417,000 was spent in Second Life and marketers are moving in on this virtual world too – Toyota launches its Scion 4×4 in the game next month and the hotel Aloft is opening in 2008. The BBC, to its credit, has already latched on and (kind of) simulcast this summer’s Big Weekend festival in Second Life with avatars of presenters and bands – mindboggling.
Mayfield: “It is spreading so quickly not because it’s great shiny, whizzy new technology, but because it lets us be ourselves, only more so… People can find information, inspiration, like-minded people, communities and collaborators faster than ever before. New ideas, services, business models and technologies emerge and evolve at dizzying speed in social media.”
— We’ll be looking much more closely at all these social media issues at our first conference, The Economics of Social Media, slated for February/March in LA. More here, and we’ll post details soon.
More social media news in our dedicated archive.

This article originally appeared in MediaGuardian.