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Online communications:
what a difference a year can make

By Lee Hopkins

Firstly, might I just take a moment to welcome all of my new readers who have been migrated across from my ‘old’ newsletter into this new ‘conversational’ medium — I can promise you an entertaining few months ahead as you become more aware of what is being called ‘Web2.0′ and its implications for business communication.

Please feel free to leave any comments you like on my posts — this is what makes the ‘new’ web so ‘conversational’. Just follow the link from your email back to my blog and leave a comment.

What ALSO makes the ‘new’ web so conversational is the cross-linking and cross-thinking that goes on. For example, fellow business communicator Bryan Person has just started blogging, after being a frequent commentor on mine and others’ blogs — welcome, Bryan!

One of his first posts on his new blog outlines how a scant twelve months can be so descriptive of the impact of the ‘new’ web and the ‘new web’ tools.

Says Bryan,

In trying to understand the growth and impact of new media, I like comparing where my own knowledge and typical technology use stands today with where it stood, say, one year ago.

Then …
One year ago, I didn’t subscribe to podcasts or use RSS feeds in any meaningful way. In very late 2004 or very early 2005 I had read about something called “podcasting” on J.D. Lasica’s New Media Musings site, and I’d also directly downloaded and listened to a couple of episodes of the Boston Sports Massacre. Heck, I’d even written a note about podcasting and RSS feeds in one of my occasional columns for Boston Sports Media Watch.

But I didn’t take much interest in learning how to “subscribe” to a podcast, and I didn’t exert much effort in finding good shows to listen to. On the RSS side, I downloaded a free reader and clumsily added a feed or two. But I found the application slow, clunky, and not entirely useful.

Flickr? I saw a work colleague using it from time to time, but I once again wasn’t really hooked.

MySpace? I’d never heard of it.

Blogs? I was figuring these out, at least, and in fact had just launched a sports site/blog to write about some of the action in my daughter’s softball league.

Then, at some point around June, the light finally dawned.

Now …
It’s hard to imagine not being a consumer of and advocate for blogs, podcasts, RSS feeds, and social media, in general.

  • My iTunes podcast subscriptions number around 15-20, though I’ve undoubtedly listened to several times that number of different programs over the past 10-11 months. Shows such as the twice-weekly For Immediate Release and the daily Financial Aid Podcast have become appointment listening at my computer or in my iRiver, and many weeks I spend more hours listening to podcasts than the radio (yes, I still listen to the radio).

  • I subscribe to and read nearly 200 RSS feeds on topics including social media, public relations, online communications, business blogging, the Boston media, language learning, and sports. While I still find my RSS reader clunky (perhaps a topic for a future post), I’d be helpless to consume anywhere near as much information from blogs and news websites without it.

  • I post family photos to a Flickr account and have a MySpace account to network and reconnect with old classmates.

  • I belong to a group called the New England Podcasters, whose esteemed members include a marathon podcaster, a comedian, and a New England Patriots Fan of the Year.

  • I read books espousing the benefits of business blogging such as Naked Conversations, which, with some good fortune over the next couple of weeks, will have also given me the ammunition and talking points that lead to a blogging assignment for a recruiting company.

New media tools have irreversibly changed my life and professional ambitions over the past year, and I know I’m not alone in expressing these sentiments.

Wonder what the next 12 months will hold?

Bryan is absolutely right — the last 12 months have been a fun and stimulating ride. As you come to terms with and start to understand this ‘Web2.0′ way of online resourcing, you will find your own paths, your own ‘favourite reads and listens’. For example, go to a podcast directory like Podcast Alley and you’ll be able to find audio treats on material like business communication, such as [ahem] mine or For Immediate Release, the twice-weekly PR/Marcomms industry ‘must listen to’ report, where I also contribute a small report each week.

But you can also find plenty of music, book reports, ‘how to’s on everything from macrame to endurance running. You name it, chances are someone somewhere has released at least one podcast on it. If not, why not start your own? Go check out my own list of reasons for podcasting and see for yourself what all the media fuss is about.

Then come back in twelve months’ time and tell me how your business communication landscape has changed — or better still, start your own blog and tell everyone! Curious about starting your own blog, or scared to, or both? Check out the most popular post I’ve written on this blog: Why and How To Blog, which also shows you how to start your own reading list of great blogs.

After a while, you will find yourself having to cull the number of blogs you read — there are only so many hours in the day, after all. When you do cull your list, you will probably have a fear that you might miss something ‘valuable’, that you might not be able to keep up with all that is happening.

This is an understandable state of mind, and the ever-fantastic Kathy Sierra (she should be one of the first blogs you read every day!) has some timely advice on the subject:

You can’t keep up. There is no way. And trying to keep up will probably just make you dumber.You can never be current on everything you think you should be.

Take heart from Kathy and learn from all of us seasoned bloggers: trying to ‘keep up’ will kill you, or your relationships with your family, friends and work. Balance is all.

Now, get out there, check those links above and enjoy! That’s what ‘web2.0′ is all about — learning, growing and having fun doing so!



Reports I have written:

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Measuring the impact and ROI of social media
Measuring the impact and ROI of social media - for Ark Group
Making social media work for your business
Making Social Media work for your business - for Ark Group
Social Media: the new business communication landscape
Social Media: The New Business Communication Landscape - for Ark Group
How to get started with podcasting in your organisation
How to get started with podcasting in your organisation - for Melcrum Publishing
How to use social media to solve critical internal communication issues
Contributing author to How to use social media to solve critical internal communication issues - for Melcrum Publishing

How to use social media to engage employees
Contributing author to How to use social media to engage employees - for Melcrum Publishing

Contributing author to How to communicate with hard-to-reach employees - for Melcrum Publishing



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