An analysis of traditional media channels, which have been used for mass communication is a good way to begin to understand how Community and Social Media Changed Communication.

Traditional Media Channels

Three popular channels like Television, Radio and Newspapers were great at reaching out to mass audiences. However, these were typically one way channels. What I mean is that you could reach out to people via these channels, but people could not necessarily respond to you via those channels and additionally could not communicate with each other via these channels. So they were typically one way channels.

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In contrast when one compares the above with web enabled or social channels, like Email, or FaceBook or Twitter, where a whole lot of conversations are happening today.

Web and Social Media Channels - Email, Facebook, Twitter

You’ll notice that these channels enable you to reach out to people and additionally the same people can reach out to you via those same channels. Additionally people can communicate with each other as well.

Social Media Channels are multi level

One technology which changed this even further is the mobile phone. This changed the speed the communications between people and made it almost instant. So now you have many to many kind of conversations and conversations happening at many multiple levels.

Social Media Channels are many to many and multi level

The changes brought about by these many to many and multi level conversations meant that now more than ever before, listening became super important. Additionally another aspect which changed was that you now have to observe a variety of different channels and at the same time react almost instantly to conversations out there. Moreover your reaction time got reduced drastically, for e.g. where earlier you had a day before a major story broke in the next days news, now you had less than 15 minutes at times.

Listening, speed and reaction time are super important in the new age of communication

All the above changes and new parameters meant that communications personnel needed to have a new set of competencies.

Considering the amount of conversations taking place online you now needed to develop competency in Word of Mouth(WOM) marketing. Additionally, online reputation management became important as today anyone could broadcast their opinions to multiple people across multiple channels. As people gathered around common interests a large number of communities/user groups came about and hence community management was an added competency. A new set of people whether they were community leaders, bloggers, popular tweeters or popular broadcasters on video sites such as YouTube suddenly had the ability to influence a whole lot of conversations and people. Managing these influencers is a new competency.

New competencies needed by communication professionals to manage new social media channels

imageWith so many people now capable of reacting online to each other, and the volume of conversations happening online, at some point of time or the other, you’d need to deal with e-crisis which have the potential of spreading extremely fast across the web. It’s not a new competency, but rather you’ve got a new set of tools which you’d need to master in order to handle such crisis.

Additionally, communications in most organizations was typically centralised, controlled by the corporate communications, marketing and PR teams. With the advent of easy tools like twitter, blogging tools, etc. potentially anyone within the organization could communicate with the external world. In fact large companies such as Microsoft encouraged their internal evangelists to officially do this. Each company typically had certain social or media policies in place, to guide their employees about what they could and could not talk about. However, what’s important to note, is that a whole lot of people across the organization began communicating. (Note: Traditional marketing/corporate/PR communications still exists and has not gone away.)

Conversations styles across these new channels were typically informal (as most of these conversations were people to people conversations) compared to the formal communications which were traditionally the norm across organizations, .

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To summarize, with the communication becoming many to many and multi level conversations, listening became super important, speed and reaction time got drastically reduced. Business enterprises and communication professionals now need a new set of competencies to manage this effectively.

How community and social media changed communications

These changes in communication due to social media and community affect all business enterprises. Even though these changes directly impact marketing, PR and corporate communication teams, a through understanding of these changes in communication, will enable businesses to be more agile across various business functions, and responsive and receptive to their customer needs and grow their customer base. (To understand the impact across your organization read this -> (Community Initiatives–The logical way)

Most of the above learning’s are not unique to my observations, but are a combination of learning’s from so much knowledge shared by so many people across the globe online and yes enhanced a little by my personal experiences as well. You can watch a video presentation out here Video: How Community and Social Media changed Business Communication