When you try and quantify the impact social media is having on industry, it's actually quite alarming how dangerous this medium can be on our lives and our careers.
We discussed the impact of blog culture over a year ago, but the speed by which social media has crept into our daily activities, already dates many of the opinions expressed back then. The information world has altered radically, and this economic environment is accelerating the speed of change.
As an analyst in global services industries, my job is to get across insight and opinion to as wide an audience as possible. A couple of years' ago, if I'd produced an article or report, I'd probably send it out to about 100 people... that was the extent of the audience with which you would typically deal, and you'd rely on your firm's marketing department to disseminate press releases and media advisories to drive more eyeballs to your craft.
Now I'll put out a couple of tweets and likely blog piece to a network of literally multiple thousands to capture attention. Within hours, the word is out and people will either react quickly with their comments, or choose to ignore it. For example, the April Fools' Day blog post Obama to ban offshore outsourcing received 18,000 web-hits within a 24-hour period, while a more routine industry piece Wipro and Oracle partner to blow-up the BPO delivery model still managed 4,000 eyeballs within hours of being published. Clearly, catchy headers get attention, but more importantly, it's the delivery of information which is changing the game. So where I could, in my past, comfortably manage my network of 100, it's now an insane group of thousands right across the globe.
So what should you read into all of this? Basically, we're deluged with a massive overload information and have to scan selectively data to extract the points we need. We're all getting Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) whether we like it or not, as information is thrown at us from blogs, tweets, emails, websites, Facebook, LinkedIn etc.
So who's at risk?
Media: People are becoming incredibly selective about visiting media websites these days. The days of pulling people to media-sites are over; it's about pushing information to willing audiences. Tier 2 media publications in the past could easily convince advertisers to spend money with them - now it's a lot harder. Most sell-side firms are much savvier at understanding how to attract eyeballs to their wares. Some tier 2 media publications barely get a few web-hits a day in today's industry - and it's getting worse for them. They need to pull people to their sites, and can't expect to sit pretty, waiting for people to magically stumble upon their content - regardless of how good it may be. Most media sites which fail to drive compelling content through social networks, will not be around this time next year.
Analysts and Consultants: Executives want to know the low-down on industry occurrences the day they happen. They also don't have anything like the time or patience to read more than 500+ words on a topic. While there is still a need for seminal reports that evaluate vendors and markets, the general commentary and analysis of topics and events as they happen has completely changed. Analyst firms which cannot get their reaction out to industry quickly are wasting a lot of their own time and resources. The same applies to consultancies which have traditionally relied of quality white papers to excite prospective customers about their skills and experience. No-one has time to read entire papers these days, so consultants need to use smarter channel to get their qualities to market.
PR firms: No-one opens press releases these days... unless they're compelling. Moreover, many firms today find they can deliver their own press release info by pushing the news out to interested people via social networks. And it costs them nothing. Some PR agencies charge over $1000 to distribute a press release and manage the follow-up. I'd be surprised if many smart firms still followed that practice today. Hence, PR specialists need to push their clients' news to targeted influencers in social networks, with the hope they will relay the information to their massive networks in turn. The old way of doing things is quickly dying, and many PR agencies which fail to live with the chance will fall by the wayside.
Service Providers: The traditional means of influencing markets and creating awareness are dramatically changing. Ultimately, service providers need to influence their prospects and those people influencing them, and shrinking marketing budgets are driving them to make smarter and bolder investment decisions. Getting shorter, sharper messaging out to market is key, and the influencers are changing too. Targeting consultants and analysts with powerful social networks is increasingly important, in addition to using smarter PR vehicles that micro-target the right audiences. Most buyers today simply want to know who's out there who's working with firms like them - and whether they fit the bill. Hence, marketing messages that are more direct, better targeted, and to-the-point are paramount. Long-winded sales presentations and lengthy brochures / white papers are a thing of the past.
So what's the solution? While disruption is clearly hurting the majority, opportunity is opening up for the smarter minority. The key is to go with the change, cut down on the verbiage and source the new channels and influencers that reach your audience. You might well be surprised by the speed of the change...