So what is the big buzz around social media?

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Clay Adams | April 3rd, 2014

Frankly, social media isn’t new. In my younger days I was extremely active in social media. It was usually a Friday night at the old Journalist’s Club in Sydney with a bunch of fellow media folks enjoying some cold Tooheys. And a Saturday night. And Sunday. We were certainly a social media bunch in those days.

Today, the NSW Journalist’s Club is more, replaced by apartments. Like many print journalists, social media as we once knew it is gone.

Now, social media means something entirely different. It is all about being “connected” and “in touch” with the world. Of course the price we pay for that instant gratification is accuracy. As mentioned in an earlier blog, one of the aims of social media is be first with news and information. Whether it is actually correct information or not is irrelevant.

Despite what some may – foolishly – believe, there are few checks and balances in the social media world. Many people on Twitter are, frankly, twits and there are numerous examples of people posting images and comments on Facebook that have come back to bite them in the ass. Even some bloggers deserve awards for stupidity and a blatant commitment to distorting truth simply to pursue an agenda.

Not, of course, that I would be one of those. Absolutely not. Never.

Social media of the digital age certainly has its merits. Then again so did the social media of old, although the photographer colleague who, after several drinks, would insist that I try to hit him (he was the son of a prominent Aussie boxing trainer) became tedious after a while. Thankfully, I never tried. Likely one of my smarter decisions in those days.

More than 1 billion people on Facebook

Today, over 1.2 billion people use Facebook to make “friends”, while 92 million share photos on Flickr. Over 200 million use Instagram and 26 million are on SnapChat. Over 243 million share their thoughts 140 characters at a time via Twitter, while some 30 million prefer the real-time video technology of Skype (which, of course, excludes those of us here at VCH because this technology is actually blocked from our desktops. It seems we are not among the blessed 30 million).

YouTube has 1 billion subscribers making over four billion views a day. VCH has 174. Not million. Just actual people, which means we clearly don’t have enough cute kittens, naked bodies or stupid people filming themselves doing dangerous things.

There are 45 million folks using foursquare to find 1.3 million businesses, but a paltry 100,000 seeking romance on Hinge. Word of advice…there are 55 million on Plenty of Fish. Your odds might be a tad better over there.

In terms of sites that support our ever-increasing digital world, Netflix now has 44 million subscribers choosing what to watch and when rather than have their TV viewing shaped by network executives. Over 500 million listen to music via iTunes; 76.5 million post blogs via WordPress (including this one and VCH News); while eight million people use Vancouver-based Hootsuite to manage their Twitter world.

There are 120 million people buying and selling on eBay; 425 million sending messages via Gmail, and 30 million people making presentations with Prezi (which, in my humble opinion, is about 30 million too many).

Of the various social media realms, Twitter is the most hyped. While so many tweets are tediously boring and reflect the user`s yearning for connectivity, many are highly relevant and actually enhance a person`s profile and credibility in the digital world. Many major events, disasters and announcements appeared on Twitter before mainstream media.

Over 50 percent of people report learning about breaking news via social media rather than traditional news sources. One of the more bizarre cases was the Pakistan resident who tweeted about noise and commotion at their neighbour`s house. Turned out their neighbour was Osama Bin Laden and the noise was from US Navy SEALs.

It’s all about timing

Having said that, the effectiveness of social media is in the timing. The average life of a tweet is about 48 hours with 73.8 percent of clicks occurring in the first hour, 85 percent in the first 12 hours, and 92.5 percent in the first 48 hours. Beyond that, you are old news and an old twit…sorry, tweet.

As for how much attention people actually pay to your tweet, well I have some more disappointing news. While a massive six percent are re-tweeted, 71 percent meet with no reaction. Ninety-two percent of re-tweets happen in the first hour. After that you are already cyberspace trash.

My own experience of social media is that it is hard work. While I have a Facebook profile, I built it primarily to share images with family in Australia. Given it is rarely updated, you can guess how enthused they are to hear from me.

I also have two Twitter accounts, @vchclay for work and @ozclay for “play”. Those who see my tweets will know I’m not a Twitter star. The fact that my biggest re-tweets haven been on my personal account from people like Socceroo Tim Cahill, the Vancouver Whitecaps, and Melbourne Victory suggest my private ramblings are more interesting than my work ones. I can already hear my colleagues wondering why that would be a surprise.

In short, social media is here to stay. We need to embrace it to remain relevant. That may be as simple as having regular online access or as wide-reaching as a multi-level approach with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, and a myriad of other things you can do on a computer, tablet, or phone.

The VCH Social Media Policy

If you are active online, I encourage – no, insist – you review the new VCH Social Media and Online Communication Policy. Not only will this help ensure you know how to use social media wisely as a VCH employee, it will also (hopefully) stop you doing something really stupid that you will regret later.

Thinking back to the social media of old, some things truly never change.

About the Author

Clay Adams
email iconClay.Adams@vch.ca  

Clay Adams is vice president of Communications and Public Affairs and has extensive experience in strategic communications and planning, media relations, issues management and stakeholder communications in Australia and Canada. Clay writes on communication related topics with a wry humorous style and has an interest in discussion about how we want to be understood by others. View all the posts by Clay.

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