An article by SMH/Age reporter Paul McIntyre recently suggests that with the Prime Minister of Australia on Twitter, blogging his way to the next election, that it's about time business sites up and gets more serious about harnessing the power of social media as a business tool.
All the evidence suggests it will be impossible to ignore.
Twitter, a micro-blogging venture in which users post views, or "tweets", to a maximum of 140 characters, is still tiny. But numbers are up more than 500 per cent this year in Australia, says Hitwise. And the time Twitterites spend with the application is greater than MySpace, Facebook and any of the big five online publishers, including ninemsn and Yahoo!7.
Twitter is just one emerging social media application, but combined with others (and there are hundreds) it is creating a boom for the PR industry because someone's got to interpret what's being said about companies and brands online.
However while technology may be helping media audiences gather news from sources outside the mainstream - eg blogs, social networks, podcasting, vodcasting, video-sharing sites, it can't deliver what companies need: automated insight about consumers.
Companies around the world over are starting to dabble with social media - and they have to or they will be left behind.
Here are some of its statistics on online users gathered this year:
Bloggers globally: 184 million;
Those who watch video clips online: 82.9 per cent;
Those who say they have joined a social network: 57 per cent;
Those who have uploaded photos to a network: 55 per cent;
Those who have uploaded videos to a network: 22 per cent;
Those who have uploaded a video clip to a video sharing website: 8.5 per cent.
These are global figures, but UM breaks out some numbers for Australian users: 62 per cent say they have read a blog, up from 21 per cent in 2006 and 55 per cent last year.
Most important point for companies: 34 per cent of bloggers say they post opinions about products or brands!
So the challenge for those of us in PR is not only to monitor these forums for information and discussions around our products or brand but how we engage and participate in the discussion.
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To read Paul McIntyre's original article visit http://www.theage.com.au/news/technology/biztech/using-social-media-for-commercial-gain/2008/12/04/1228257189521.html