Friday, October 7, 2011

What You Don't Know About Social Media (But Should)

When it comes to social media there is more mis-information than there is fact-based knowledge.

Ask yourself, what do you know about social media and why do you think you know it? Did you read a blog about it? Was there any research or analysis provided to back-up the information or was it merely someone's opinion disguised as expert advice?

The fact is, social media is a varied landscape. It is difficult if not impossible to make any blanket statements about social media for the simple reason that is used a multitude of different ways by millions of different people. How people use social media varies by region, dialect, country, state, community, topic and personal style.

If social media were a one size fits all service I seriously doubt it would be so popular.

So, the next time you are working toward a specific social media goal thinking you have all the facts you need, consider employing the services of a social media consultant, or at least, double-check your facts before you proceed.

Governments easily monitor and censor social media
The internet is much harder to police than capital-intensive media such as television, newspapers and radio. With these older media, intelligence authorities can more easily detect broadcast or printing locations. It's not as simple to monitor a digital environment where anyone with a laptop, bandwidth and the requisite education can create his or her own media network by blogging, tweeting or streaming.

In 2006, my colleague Adam Fish and I were working in Kyrgyzstan, which maintained a Soviet-style approach toward policing media outlets and phone communications. We were surprised to learn that, partly because of the country's need for foreign aid, authorities had agreed to relax internet regulation in exchange for assistance. We also learned how hard it was to monitor internet users who were widely dispersed, in some cases using proxy servers and IP-address-scrambling technologies to evade surveillance.

As our research proceeded, we found a small blogosphere emerging in Kyrgyzstan, linking activists and opposition politicians with one another and with sympathisers throughout Central Asia, Russia and the West. The activists understood tat the internet would hardly be sufficient to oppose the regime, but they also found that social media helped them communicate, building ties that fueled at least part of the revolutionary leadership that toppled President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in April 2010.

Click here for more myths about social media.

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