December 23, 2009

2009 — The only thing that’s certain is change

Posted in Current Events at 10:13 pm by R

Changes. Changes. Happening day and night. One day. Rainbows. Next day nothing’s. right. It’s scary. Shakey. Everything is strange. When nothing in certain but change.

Lyrics from the musical Annie are probably the most accurate way to sum up my feelings on this year and my reflections on a decade of sweeping change.

First this year. For me personally, 2009 brought lots of change to my life. I can say with out a doubt that I leave this year (and this decade) knowing much more about myself and what I want to do in life than recent years.

The major change in ’09 — I changed jobs! It has been such a  positive transition that has opened me up to my passions and potential. In the two months since I started the next chapter of my career as a social media strategist, I can’t shake the feeling that this is exactly what I was meant to do. Not only is the culture of my new company great, but the work is genuinely satisfying and the team I work with is profoundly talented in so many ways.

I suppose my feelings about my new position pinpoint me as Gen Y. I was looking for something meaningful, flexible and collaborative at a company that is socially responsible in more ways than one (i.e recycling bins EVERYWHERE & they have a deep moral commitment to positively impact their community)…BINGO! I’m officially a satisfied and motivated Gen Y-er. My work is gratifying and my field is fascinating, because the social media field is really brand-spankin-new!

My new position working in social media is also a unique vantage point from which to view the decade. Let me sum it up:

  • My third week at Gonzaga University — September 11, 2001
  • Facebook debuts — February 2004 (Junior year)
  • MySpace mania — 2005
  • Cut Me Some Flack launches — June 2008
  • The social media election — November 2008
  • Twitter mesmerized every newscast on TV — 2009

What is most remarkable to me is that from the VERY beginning of my post-secondary education our world started shifting and changing in a most drastic way. No doubt 9/11 will forever be a date that altered the course of our collective history. The way that single, shocking event was reported on begat the technologies and new communications, or at least a new way of looking at communication that have brought us to where we are at today.

People needed information so rapidly in the curious and terrifying moments after the first plane hit the tower. There were so many perspectives on the tragedy that needed to be expressed so we could grieve together as a nation as the awful — and sometimes heroic — story unfolded. In some ways, social media  is a direct response to the needs of that one day.

Comedian Lewis Black does a sketch about how we ADHA watching the news after 9/11, with tickers running in every direction to get us information about the most every.single.thing. It’s a funny bit, largely because of Black’s singular delivery, but also because it’s so true! There were CG’s running in every which direction, weather up top and reporter hair attached to a head talking at you from the center (I’m paraphrasing Lewis, eliminating his, er, um, choice language and very formed opinions). But boil it all down and isn’t the scroll running across the bottom of insert-your-favorite-Cable-news-network the precursor to Twitter?

Particularly in the latter half of the decade, look at how traditional media has been trounced influenced by social media. Viewers now comment on newscasts right in the middle of said broadcast! New stories are sourced via Facebook. Interviews are conducted via Twitter. Publications now live (and die) by their headlines in 140 characters or less.

The community-building and affinity that brands have access to in social media makes recording agencies like Nielsen nearly obsolete. Why go to them when you can go get it right from the horse’s mouth? Ask the viewers — Glee! fans will gladly tell you what they think of American Idol bumping the world’s best TV show off the air for three months; you guessed it I’m one of ‘em — they will tell you in no uncertain terms what they want! (And I want my Glee! darnit!)

Some forms of communication are hanging on by the barest of threads. Press releases and the newspapers whose pages they filled are on life support as these pre-historic industries acclimate to the new millenium a decade too late. 35,000 journalism jobs lost are a tragedy .Television too will hit its speed bump — though it might not bottom out as badly as print — just take a look at advertising giant Pepsi yanking its annual investment in the Super Bowl in favor of a multi-million dollar social media campaign! Or on a smaller level, cities like Roswell, NM and so many like it losing local television coverage as stations attempt to consolidate.

What it all adds up to is a new world communication order. When I graduated from Gonzaga in 2005, my job title wasn’t even a twinkle in someone’s eye! And yet, four years into my communications career I’ve got the opportunity to be on the leading edge of an industry that will impact every company and ultimately every person in some fashion.

If the word of 2009 is “Twitter” the word of the decade is “Social Media.” These ten years will be summed up not by the events that shaped the time, but rather, the way in which we communicated them. It’s remarkable. It’s exciting. It’s utterly fascinating. Who isn’t hooked?

Looking forward into 2010 and beyond, we are truly altered. I think it’s safe (and totally obvious) to say that the shift will continue as social media exerts its influence into every corner of our lives. Going forth, we will know better how to measure and analyze the changes, become adept to new social media tools at a faster rate and deepen our capabilities on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and their ilk.

What tools, what metrics and what surprises lie ahead are anyone’s guess. The only thing that’s certain…is change.

~R

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