Blogs Are Increasing Our Sense Of Democracy AND Yield Interesting Insights For Media Researchers

Even though blogs as a new medium don´t appear to be very powerful or visible in the larger public debate, it is an encouraging sign for democracy that the top ten blogs are read by most newseditors of the mainstream press.

If blogs are taken serious by news editors, they´re very likely also read by the people behind the scenes in political organisations. Fact is, the top blogs all got their rankings in different ways and everyone´s got a fair chance to actually be heard. This inspires a lot of blog writing and feed back is mostly very gratifying even though circulation might be limited.

The masses involved in writing surely are having a pseudo sense of democracy. Perhaps the first experience of its kind in world history. Writing can make you experience an extra dimension to your normal existence and if politics is the subject a great sense of direct involvement with power is felt. Perhaps that´s why the euphoria about war reporting from the backrooms and cellars in almost impossible circumstances was seen as so tremendous on the outset. It felt very much like listening to illegal radio stations and the music sounded extra good for the few involved.

Research numbers have brought us back to reality though. The initial figures on blogging tell a much less inspiring story. Ordinary people, aside from writing enthusiastically in their pre-formated online gyros, themselves barely depend on what other people write for their news intake. Pew Research Center of the US reported that in 2003, 4 percent of ordinary Americans refer to blogs for information and opinion. Even the most popular blog on the web – garners only a fraction of the Web traffic that major media outlets attract.

But to say that blogs have no impact on the political debate would be as inaccurate as saying that sources the media quote have no impact on (the tone of) their wider stories. Even though blogging is in no way organised and everybody out there is just screaming their message in -at first- empty empty space, some voices are eventually heard and if what they are saying is noteworthy or revealing important information that otherwise would not be known, you can say a blog is impacting on the wider debate.

From a media research point of view, blogs provide priceless information about the collective response of ordinary people to breaking news and their grouping by subject matter and keywords provides great information about the structures that are beginning to emerge in cyberspace at large, something that had not been achieved and that the established media or the search engine community on its own would never be able to accomplish. Larger and more popular blogs are mainly rising in fame because they show they have an excellent sense of judgement when it comes to news gathering, analysis and insight.

Three Social Media Concepts That Need Fresh Language

I realized today that out of the 144 RSS social media subscriptions and 20 email news subscriptions I browse through every day only a very small percentage, maybe 5%, are content worth reading. Everything else is recycled information, most of it peppered with unintelligible buzz words.

I picked 3 social media quotes (I promise, I did not make up these gems) and I’d like to propose we give them a make-over. Feel free to suggest other ways to talk about these same concepts.

1. The online interaction concept – “Concentrate on genuinely meaningful interactions”

Translation: Social media is about chatting with potential customers online about things they care about in a way that shows you care that they care.

Tip: To learn what your potential clients care about, you first have to learn what they say. If you are a Chicago restaurant, do Twitter searches for “Chicago, eat,” “Chicago, food,” “Chicago, restaurant” and reader the chatter. Then start “genuinely meaningful interactions.”

2. The awareness concept -  “Social is a game-changing awareness medium”

Translation: If traditionally you surveyed customers to get their opinions, now you can  get customer opinions in real-time through social media websites.

Tip: Get in the habit of asking questions through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN etc.  If your business is too small to get many online reviews you can still get useful information by soliciting it. Also watch what people say about the competition. You may learn more about how to do it right which may be more productive than learning what a few of your customers think you’re doing wrong.

3. The engagement concept: “Understand the value of online community engagement.”

Translation: I’d like to think this refers to measuring the benefits of building relationships online. However since this is the most obscure of the three quotes, I am not sure. The words value, community and engagement pop up all over social media talk.

Tip: Ask yourself, what does it mean to your business to have an engaged customer? Is it a customer who visits your site once every month or a customer who shops at your store four times per year? You and your business determine what engagement and value mean to you. It’s not the “social media world” that makes that determination. You do. Once you know what engagement means specifically for your business it will be easier to build an action plan, social or other.

Help me out, can you think of other interpretations of these obscure concepts?