Responses to questions from last week’s Innovation Series lunch #iveseries

The Innovation Series lunch forum held last Friday in Brisbane saw myself, QUT’s Prof Simon Kaplan and CSIRO’s Dr Cecile Paris discuss a range of topics relating to social media and its rise through online channels around the world.

My presentation focused on many of the themes contained within A Faster Future, and sought to remind the audience that while technology moves quickly, it is important to consider the fundamentals of the business before making any decisions regarding emerging fields such as social media. The session generated a lot of questions from the audience, some via Twitter, of which many couldn’t be answered in the time allotted.

Hence the organisers asked me to respond to those unanswered questions, and I have attempted to do so below:

Q:Why did you publish a book rather than via an online channel?

A: My co-author and I were keen to write something at the length of a book, to capture a large swathe of ideas and string them together around themes. The intention was that it be read in a short period of time rather than as an evolving work over many months. Many of the people that we want to reach with A Faster Future are not those that currently use e-reader devices, hence the decision to go with a paperback book. Rest assured, an ebook version is currently being prepared and will be announced soon. We are also considering using online channels to further the book’s evolution over the next year, but no firm decisions have been made.

Q: Do you think journalists have become lazier since the start of social media and why?

A: That presupposes that journalists were lazy to begin with, which I don’t agree with. If anything, the rise of online media and the need for journalists to produce stories for immediate publication online (often creating multiple versions) has made them busier than ever. What social media has done is augment the news-gathering work of journalists with a plethora of (often gifted) amateurs, leading some publishers to take on a role that curates external content as well as generating their own. Social media has also provided a direct response mechanism whereby those who wish to comment on a story can do so immediately. This tears down some of the barriers that have existed between journalists and their audiences, making them more accountable.

Q: To generalise… journalists seek truth, marketers seek to resonate – is there a book in that?

A: There is a book in anything, although some books are more interesting then others. From my experience journalists seek two things – accuracy and a good story. Marketers have a very different remit, which is to drive sales (or some other result), and many of the best do so in an accurate and compelling way. That said, the two professions are often poles apart, if not directly at odds. Whereas a journalist does not care of a story boosts or denigrates a brand, a marketer certainly does.

Q: Do you agree with Simon Kaplan’s view that it’s a social media evolution rather than revolution? and Why?

A: Social media existed before the Internet, we just didn’t call it that. Talkback radio is one version of an old-style social media mechanism. People have always talked about brands amongst their peerrs, and word-of-mouth marketing is considered one of the most powerful forms of marketing. I think Simon also pointed to the coffee houses of 100 years ago. There are dozens of variations in between. Hence I agree that online social media is an evolution of something that had already occured, albeit it a radical step forward in that evolution. But as social media already had foundations offline, I don’t see it as a revolution.