My year in social media

As we are heading towards the end of 2011, it seems to be essential for everyone to undertake some form of review of the year. It is as predictable as the many Christmas songs that we can’t escape from the 30th November onwards. So, I decided to have a look back at the issues and events during the past 12 months that have had the biggest impact on social media, or have demonstrated the impact of social media in a changing world.

I have narrowed it down to five events that have occurred during 2011 and have had a significant impact on people. Whether that is good or bad I am not going to judge, I will leave that for you to decide. Others, I am sure, will disagree with the choices I have made but that is why I have titled this ‘my year in social media’.

1. Arab Spring

It actually began in December 2010 but in the early part of 2011 became the most talked about subject. In short it was a series of protests and demonstrations against governments and regimes that spread across the Middle East and North Africa. Many have spoken about how these protests and groups were mobilised using social media. Whatever sparked it, the actions led to governments falling and leaders being ousted. Information was shared through social media which gave many a voice. This mobilisation of individuals seen in the next of my five events, the disorder, or riots, in the UK in August.

2. August Disorder in the UK

In August, many of the cities and towns in the UK saw disorder, looting and lawlessness on their streets. It was the first time for many years that such widespread civil unrest had been seen, and it spread in a wave across the country starting in London. Initially, politicians and others were keen to criticise social networks for helping the rioters to wreak havoc on the streets. However, in the aftermath it was clear that the social networks had allowed immediate conversations to take place between concerned people and the police allowing communities to be reassured. Networks were also instrumental in getting people together to clean up the streets and join together to show their support for their area. It was the first time social media was active in a large-scale major incident or emergency situation and I have called it a ‘game-changer’ with emergency plans being torn up and re-written. The importance of social media was in no doubt as it gave people a voice.

3. Google + Arrives

A new network appeared and has been hailed as a potentially major player for the future. Google+ was unveiled in summer this year. The idea is a good one and I can see possibilities it has. However, for me it doesn’t quite live up to the billing it has been given. I can’t yet see it sat alongside Facebook and Twitter. I do hope that in 2012 I can find a place for it in my day and if anyone can convince me of its benefits I would be very welcome.

4. Eurozone crisis and financial meltdown

There has been a daily bombardment of messages and reports about the Eurozone crisis and the financial problems in the UK. This has played out through the media headlines as well as through social media. One of the other critical elements is the impact the financial situation is having on communication budgets. Public sector communications has seen a huge change in the past year. As budgets have been shrinking there has been even more pressure on communicators to find innovative and no or low-cost ways of delivering key information. In the coming year there will be more focus on the return on investment from communication spend and to show the reach and results achieved. As many keep saying, it will be a challenging time in 2012.

5. Levenson and Phone Hacking

Everyday there have been new stories emerging or headlines appearing about phone hacking or other concerns about the role of the journalist. Reporters will say they are searching for the truth and holding big corporations and bodies to account. This role is now being challenged both by the Levenson inquiry and what it reports, and also by the role ordinary people want to take in becoming ‘citizen journalists’. More people are using social networks and blogging – becoming the reporters of local news and events. It will be interesting to watch the developments during 2012 and I am not sure anyone knows what the next chapter looks like.

This has been an eventful year and one that many have said has changed lives. Speaking personally, I have seen and felt the impact of many of the incidents. It has given me additional knowledge and skills, but as with all such things has brought challenges and an amount of pain. The key for 2012 is to build on what has worked well and to seize opportunities when they arise. So all that remains to say is  – a happy new year to everyone.

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