Social media masterclass


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This week I am at Thinking Digital (#TDC) as a guest blogger. It’s a collection of some of the foremost thinkers in the UK and beyond on the future of digital and it’s a real privilege to be here. We kicked off yesterday afternoon with a social media masterclass, which turned out to be less a stuffy lecture and more a shared discussion from a variety of perspectives.

Stowe Boyd, the chair of the talk, kicked off with what he called the “strip-malling of the Web”. Controversially, he declared blogging as ‘dead’, claiming it as a transitionary stage between traditional web and ‘social media’ – which he says doesn’t exist (at least not yet). There are valid points – blogging’s format is derived from traditional news outlets’ own, and they have found it very easy to adapt to blogging as a result.

Boyd likens the takeover of the blogging to “strip malling” – likening the blogosphere to an urban landscape, where some big players in the mainstream media end up crowding out the smaller independent blogs. He says those bloggers have since fled to streamed, more social and more egalitarian, media such as Twitter – within that there’s a comparison with the phenomenon of urban flight.

It’s a nice metaphor but I don’t agree with it – not least because blog platform traffic is steadily on the up. Some blog traffic will be disproportionately allocated to the big players, but we’ve known about the power law effect for over six years. And Twitter is no more egalitarian than blogs – some, such as celebrities and news organisations, have tens or hundreds of thousands of followers, and with the exception of a few web gurus, ordinary users have followers several orders of magnitude fewer.

With Twitter is capable of was very nicely enunciated by Paul Smith, aka the Twitchhiker, who used Twitter to hitch-hike around the world for charity: water. Twitter to him was more than just a social network and to call it a social network was to do it injustice; it was a geographic network, a professional network, a news network. It’s all these things at once, and the beauty of projects like Twitchhiker is that they’re able to tap into all of these at once, rather than merely treating Twitter as another media outlet, or just to converse – it did both, but worked it into an exciting social project that did good. And this is only just the beginning – we’re only just starting to use these tools to their full potential.

OK, that’ll do for now. In the meantime I’m livetweeting the conference over at @conferencebore and you can follow everyone’s tweets on #TDC. And if you’re here then don’t be shy – come and say hello…