Social Media Communication Tools
The statements made or opinions expressed by authors in Fair & Equitable do not necessarily represent a policy position of the International Association of Assessing Officers.
This article was reviewed and endorsed by the IAAO Communications Committee.
he evolution of communication tools was described in of social media. In the broadest sense, “Social Media is online
a previous article, “On-line Communication Tools—An content created by people using highly accessible and scalable
Overview” (Fair & Equitable, July 2007, Vol. 5, No. 7). publishing technologies” (Wikipedia contributors, “Social
Early communication forms rapidly evolved from cave paint- media,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.
ings at Lascaux, to written language, to the Gutenberg Press in org/w/index.php?title=Social_media&oldid=300069392 [accessed
1436, to the twentieth century’s mass media, such as the printed July 3, 2009]).
word, radio, and television. Today, the Internet and countless Each social media communication tool or product struggles
online applications offer new communication choices. to distinguish itself from countless competing choices and es-
This article discusses the proliferation of online communica- tablish a significant following. Understanding the proliferation
tion choices that fall under the broad umbrella of social media of online communication tools presents a dizzying prospect
and the ramifications of using these tools. First, an overview to the uninitiated. The challenge is to prioritize these choices
of social media, including its hazards and pitfalls, benefits, the so that they are productive and meaningful. This prioritiza-
factors motivating participation, and profits, advertising, and tion process also involves balancing time and resources (both
viral marketing, is presented. Then, examples of more popu- personal and business). Otherwise, a user can become lost in
lar social media communications tools, such as blogs, texting, a sea of pointless babble, misinformation, commercial greed,
and Twitter, are discussed in greater depth because they are and lowest-common-denominator thinking.
generating so much current interest.
Overview of Social Media Understanding the proliferation of
Social media encompasses multiple Web communication online communication tools presents
technologies and crosses boundaries with traditional mass
media—television, radio, and print. Social media is not a pre- a dizzying prospect to the uninitiated.
defined set of delivery tools; rather, it is a philosophy of how
to use the online tools that are available. Almost all forms of The challenge is to prioritize these
traditional mass media have expanded to include a presence
on the Internet and ties to social media outlets. The world of choices so that they are productive
telephony has also expanded into social media with its por-
table wireless devices, iPhones, texting, and microblogging and meaningful.
services. All these choices are competing for a slice of your
communications world. Communication tools are intended to share meaningful
Branded social media sites such as Facebook, friendfeed, information that provides real-life benefits to users; this is why
Plaxo, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and delicious, people are so interested in having different communication
online aggregators such as Digg, and countless blog sites and options. Styles and methods of communication come and go,
texting services have blurred the lines between communication but the premise is that people choose to communicate in ways
categories by expanding the tools and rules for individual and that best suit their purposes and needs. Does it make any dif-
corporate expression. However, they all fall within the scope ference if the method of communication is modern, trendy,
Fair & Equitable • September 2009 3
and fashionable (Facebook, MySpace, achieved. Understanding what not to do personal information. A recent court
Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and so on), can make it easier to take that first step decision in California (Moreno v. Hanford
rather than what’s been around for a and dive into the world of social media. Sentinel, Inc. , Cal.App.4th)found
long time (the telephone, letters, fax Popular media are filled with reports that posts on MySpace do not enjoy privacy
messages)? Perhaps not. Nevertheless, of online fraud, identity theft, self- rights and do not require consent to be
there should be a basic understanding incrimination, and deliberate misrep- republished elsewhere. According to the
of the choices available and the implica- resentation. A casual Google search for California 5th District Court of Appeal,
tions of those choices. the words “Facebook crime” returned the defendant’s “affirmative act made her
Identifying best practices for communica- 43,500,000 results; this is an obvious article available to any person with a com-
tion tools can be difficult at best. The chal- indication of the growing awareness of puter and thus opened it to the public eye.
lenge is to first understand the purposes online security issues. Uninitiated users Under these circumstances, no reasonable
and needs of communication; then it is may find themselves in trouble if they person would have had an expectation of
this understanding that leads to deter- assume that information they post online privacy regarding the published material”
mining the best tools for the job. With is confidential or protected. (McKee 2009). The message to social
the wide array of communication choices media users, MySpace users in particular,
The following should never be posted is don’t post information if you want to
available, the inclination is to randomly on a social media site:
try new tools in the hope that answers control where it might appear.
will present themselves along the way. Or • Personal information, such as street
the new communication options can be address, date of birth, phone number,
ignored in order to cling to what the user and e-mail address
knows and is comfortable with. Moreover, • Dates that you will be out of town on
people are prone to use new communica- vacation, leaving your home unattend-
tion tools in the same way they have used ed (http://whostwittinnow.magnify.
traditional forms of communication. It net/video/Twitter-Crime-A-Growing-
can be difficult to adopt new communica- Trend, [accessed July 3, 2009])
tion paradigms unless they can be related
to the traditional experience or the user • A mention of the $5,000 diamond ring
is especially adept at adjusting to ever- purchased for that special someone
evolving cultural innovations. • Confidential passwords or other sensi-
tive company information
A recent court decision • Photos or descriptions of embarrassing
or illegal activities
in California (Moreno v.
• Negative comments about your work-
Hanford Sentinel, Inc. place, spouse, boss, friends, coworkers,
or anyone else you know
, Cal.App.4th) • Anything you wouldn’t want your
mother to see Posting to the MySpace karaoke site is an ex-
found that posts on
• Anything you wouldn’t want the rest of ample of something you might want to think
MySpace do not enjoy the world to see. twice about (http://ksolo.myspace.com/actions/
The media are full of reports of people
privacy rights and do not who posted all or some of the above and
553&sid=28897[accessed August 6, 2009]).
require consent to be paid the price, ranging from social embar- In February 2009, the question of who
rassment to jail. A few unfortunate individ- owns the information posted on Facebook
republished elsewhere. uals have become victims of harassment, arose when the company updated its
ary 2009, Reuters reported that MySpace lete their data if and when they leave the
User Beware had deleted or blocked approximately service. Owner Mark Zuckerberg posted
Online communication tools, especially 90,000 accounts set up by registered sex a clarifying message on the Facebook
high profile branded sites such as Face- offenders over the past two years (http:// Blog saying that Facebook would never
book, MySpace, and Twitter, have a great www.reuters.com/article/technology misuse information stored on Facebook
potential for misuse. To appreciate the N e w s / i d U S T R E 5 1 2 7 8 C 2 0 0 9 0 2 0 4 pages. What is most interesting is that
benefits of social media (discussed later), [accessed August 18, 2009]). Zuckerberg does not publicly share most
it helps to first understand the hazards This report should shatter any miscon- of his Facebook information. In July 2009,
and pitfalls so they can be avoided and a ceptions about who is out there waiting Facebook’s Chief Privacy Officer, Chris
positive social media experience can be for an opportunity to take advantage of Kelly, introduced stronger privacy tools
4 Fair & Equitable • September 2009
to allow users more control over their Another issue is the accuracy of infor- The Positives
information. Facebook also continues to mation available from online sources. A There are many benefits of social media,
provide assurances that it will not misuse well-publicized story on CBSNEWS an- but they are sometimes exaggerated by
the personal information of Facebook us- nounced that the files of both President service providers, which are motivated by
ers or make it accessible to advertisers. Barack Obama and Senator John McCain commercial gain. Careful analysis and a
Some interesting statistics about Face- were hacked into during last year’s presi- healthy skepticism are required to deter-
book are as follows: dential campaign (http://www.cbsnews. mine the specific benefits for individual
com/blogs/2009/05/29/politics/po- users or companies.
• Facebook has more than 250 million liticalhotsheet/entry5049271.shtml [ac-
Critics and evangelists alike acknowl-
active users. cessed August 11, 2009]). The German
edge that social media is here to stay
• The fastest growing age group of users edition of Wikipedia was reported to and will eventually provide significant
is those 35 years old and older. have been hacked to download malware
benefits for those who can adapt to the
(short for malicious software) (http://
• More than 30 million active users cur- www.itwire.com/content/view/6921/52/ ever-changing landscape of choices. It is
rently access Facebook through their [accessed August 11, 2009]). a powerful way to share ideas so they can
mobile devices. develop quickly. Users should understand
Individual users of social media would in advance what they want to accomplish
• People who use Facebook on their do well to imitate the practices of tradi-
using online communication tools. How-
mobile devices are almost 50 percent tional mass media, which use more than
ever, many users simply dive in and start
more active on Facebook than non- one source to verify their information.
experimenting without any idea of or
mobile users. If you find information claiming to be expectation for the final result. A large
• More than 1 billion pieces of content factual on a blog or anywhere else on the number of social media tools are free or
(Web links, news stories, blog posts, Internet, try to verify it by comparison low cost, encouraging participation and
notes, photos, and the like) are shared with reports on other sites or in tradi- experimentation with different commu-
each week. tional mass media. Because unconfirmed nication techniques. Social media tools
• About 70 percent of Facebook us- rumors can spread across the Internet in are increasingly accessible, through home
ers are outside the United States. minutes, it is easy for the same alleged computers, portable wireless devices, and
(http://www.facebook.com/press/ news to appear in multiple places and library and school programs.
info.php?statistics [accessed August still be untrue. Quantity does not neces- What Sites Are the Most Popular?
13, 2009]) sarily mean quality. Seeking confirmation
from more authoritative sources is a best Table 1 lists the top 30 U.S. sites accord-
In light of these statistics, privacy and
practice that should not be ignored. The ing to the Quantcast ranking, based on
content ownership issues are likely to
more important and/or critical the infor- number of monthly visits. Table 2 lists
become more important in the online
mation, the more thoroughly it should the top 30 sites, based on the number of
be verified before conclusions are drawn monthly visits, according to an Alexa Top
Social networks are being identified or it is repeated. Sites in the United States report. These
as a key target for hackers, but a major
concern in the working world is employee Table 1. U.S. site rankings according to a Quantcast report
judgment. Employees who go online 1. google.com 7. microsoft.com 13. blogspot.com 19. answers.com 25. walmart.com
and do foolish things, such as making 2. yahoo.com 8. wikipedia.org 14. ask.com 20. adobe.com 26. twitter.com
inappropriate remarks about cowork- 3. msn.com 9. myspace.com 15. amazon.com 21. wordpress.com 27. paypal.com
ers, customers, or business practices or
4. facebook.com 10. ebay.com 16. mapquest.com 22. windows.com 28. espn. go.com
posting confidential passwords, have the
5. live.com 11. aol.com 17. about.com 23. photobucket.com 29. att.com
potential to cause irreconcilable damage
to their own reputations and to their work- 6. youtube.com 12. craigslist.org 18. weather.com 24. bing.com 30. imdb.com
place (http://gigaom.com/2009/05/05/ Source: http://www.quantcast.com/top-sites-1, accessed July 28, 2009
hackers-its-dumb-employees/ [accessed Table 2. U.S. top sites according to an Alexa report*
August 11, 2009]). Some companies bar 1. google.com 7. msn.com 13. twitter.com 19. wordpress.com 25. weather.com
employee access to social media sites, not 2. yahoo.com 8. wikipedia.org 14. amazon.com 20. microsoft.com 26. about.com
only because of obvious productivity issues
3. facebook.com 9. craigslist.org 15. go.com 21. photobucket.com 27. nytimes.com
but also because of real dangers related
to usage of these sites. 4. youtube.com 10. ebay.com 16. bing.com 22. imdb.com 28. linkedin.com
5. myspace.com 11. blogger.com 17. cnn.com 23. espn. go.com 29. apple.com
The good news is that if you are careful
6. live.com 12. aol.com 18. flickr.com 24. comcast.net 30. an x-rated access
and follow sensible guidelines, then social
media tools offer many benefits, which are
considered later in this article. Source: http://www.alexa.com/topsites/countries;1/US, accessed July 28, 2009
*Rankings are limited to U.S. only in order to avoid listing sites that appear in other languages.
Fair & Equitable • September 2009 5
data snapshots tell an interesting story be accomplished in a short time by using Socialthing! (http://socialthing.com/),
about what is important in the online online bill paying, e-commerce, market- Minggl (http://www.minggl.com/),
world and provide fodder for endless ing, news reporting, and other informa- Digsby (http://www.digsby.com/), and
speculation and discussion. For instance, tion systems. If a task can be accomplished Gizapage (http://www.gizapage.com/#).
do these rankings reflect economic, more quickly without a loss of quality and The list is endless and constantly chang-
social, marketing, or other influences? effectiveness, it has to be good—right? For ing. Many of these products are in beta
Regardless of why people visit these sites, better or for worse, online communica- versions, and users should read the terms
the tables clearly indicate that social tion has accelerated exponentially due of use before trying them.
media sites are a prominent part of the to increased access to the Internet and The major social media sites have also
online communication mix. an expanded choice of tools. jumped into this arena by offering aggre-
Factors Motivating Participation in Online gating tools on their sites. Now the only
Communities Social media offers difficulty is selecting the organization
If common-sense precautions are ob- tool most appropriate for a user’s needs
served, participation in online commu- unprecedented and purposes.
nities using social media tools presents
a low-risk way to reach both large and
opportunities to Promotion. Social media sites provide
multiple avenues for promoting a brand
potential target audiences. Because accelerate the or product. For those who have some-
there is little financial risk, online com- thing to sell or promote, presuming
munities tend to experiment with lots communication process people want it, social media tools allow
of ideas (both good and bad) and niche them to maintain a pervasive presence.
interest areas in the hopes of finding and obtain rapid An example of promotion by saturation
a responsive, interested audience. In a is the social media sites of U.S. President
2009 presentation, “Forging a New Trail feedback on any topic. Barack Obama, who sets a political prec-
with a Web 2.0 Compass,” Will Fisher of edent with his overwhelming use of social
the American Speech-Language-Hearing media, as follows:
Association defined social media in part Feedback. Social media offers unprec-
as “building community through user edented opportunities to accelerate the • http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/
participation and user-generated con- communication process and obtain rapid • http://www.facebook.com/
tent” (Fisher 2009). This view illustrates feedback on any topic. This easy access WhiteHouse
both the strength and the weakness of to ideas and opinions is an important
component of consensus building within • http://twitter.com/whitehouse
social media—they are totally dependent
on the level of interest and dedication of an online community. With many ideas • http://www.myspace.com/whitehouse
the participants. Thus, smaller communi- being shared at the same time, there is
ties such as nonprofit associations and the hope that some of the better ideas
government offices with limited budgets will naturally float to the top.
may be challenged when maintaining a Organization. Social media allows inter-
presence on social media sites. est groups to explore new ways to orga- • http://www.vimeo.com/whitehouse
There is a danger that the community nize. Traditional in-person meetings are • http://my.barackobama.com/page/
will be dominated by a few individuals constrained by physical distance, travel content/hqblog/.
who control and direct the information- costs, and time. Social media tools have He also has a link to the iTunes store
sharing and community-building pro- the potential to fill the gap and allow where visitors can access his video pod-
cess. In order for smaller groups to find groups to get organized online. casts.
productive uses for social media, they One issue that social media users face is Did the use of social media tools help
need to understand and carefully man- how to keep up with the ever-expanding his campaign? Who knows? Did it hurt
age the resources needed to maintain a choice of products. New social media or- his campaign? Doubtful. Does it provide
sustainable presence. In spite of claims ganization tools, aggregators, and updat- an opportunity for increased awareness
that online communities build them- ers are being developed on an ongoing of political issues for a whole new genera-
selves through volunteer efforts, it is usu- basis. These tools specifically manage a tion of voters? Absolutely!
ally a few key individuals who exert the multitude of sites by providing central-
effort to maintain a site until it reaches ized access, single-point status updating, Flexibility. Social media in all its forms
self-sustaining participation levels. and the ability to organize connections provides an incredibly flexible selection
such that users do not have to log on to of tools that are capable of organically
Time Savings. Time savings is a key moti- changing and adapting to the commu-
vating factor in the use of online commu- many separate sites. Popular social media
organizers are Hellotxt (http://hellotxt. nication needs of users. As stated previ-
nication tools, including social media. In ously, social media is not a predefined set
the world of the Internet, a great deal can com/), Ping.fm (http://ping.fm/),
Sendible (http://www.sendible.com/), of delivery tools; rather, it is a philosophy
6 Fair & Equitable • September 2009
of how to use the online tools that are not necessarily want to participate in mass Profits, Advertising, and Viral Marketing
available. It is capable of changing and communication but would rather focus Certain factions on the Internet have
adapting to meet the preferences of us- on targeted issues with a select group. come to believe that all sites related to
ers and making allowances for individual Social media allows the user to select the social media should be free. Some social
creative expression. If needs change, the level of organization and size of the com- media evangelists and open-source coali-
tools can change to meet the new needs. munity within which to operate. tions contend that online communities
Compared to traditional mass media, can and will sustain themselves without
online communities are not restricted intervention from commercial interests.
to a fixed schedule, predefined hours Nielsen’s analysis This cultural phenomenon is well recog-
of operation, or a single specific delivery nized by social media service providers as
mechanism. This blurring of boundar- of social media they attempt to find the magic formula
ies can be intimidating, but it is also for profitability.
liberating in the sense that participants conversations in 2007
The following are the facts of life:
are free to experiment with how they
communicate without severe economic
and again in December
• Internet service providers are in busi-
consequence. Twitter is a good example 2008 showed that ness to make a profit.
of a social media service that is flexible
• Telephony providers are in business to
enough to adapt to how people commu- “false” was the term make a profit (and succeeding).
nicate using wireless services. Twitter rec-
ognized that texting could be expanded most closely associated • Major social media sites like Facebook
to become essentially a broadcasting and MySpace rely on advertising to pay
service for personal updates. Its current with “advertising” their way and have a stated intent to
popularity is testimony to the power of make a profit if they have not already
adapting to meet specific niche needs. (A.C. Nielsen 2009). done so.
(See the detailed discussion of Twitter
later in this article.)
Apparently, sincerity • Hosting services are in the business of
making a profit directly from custom-
Scalability. Internet World Stats esti- means something ers sponsoring sites.
mates that 23.8 percent of the world’s • The bottom line is that social media is
population and 74.4 percent of North when it comes to online big business and getting bigger all the
Americans have access to the Internet
Industry pundits generally acknowledge
stats.htm [accessed July 28, 2009]). Ev- that the magic formula for monetizing all
eryone and anyone who has access to these services has not yet been arrived at.
the Internet and/or wireless telephony Other Advantages. According to one Also, it is generally agreed that it is only
services also has access to some form of online social media consultant, the a matter of time before a solution via
social media communication. According advantages of using social media tools trial and error presents itself. Meanwhile,
to a March 2009 report by A.C. Neilson, are “democratization of media; relation- competition for market share of the social
online member communities (social net- ships and conversation; creativity and media pie is increasingly intense.
works and blogging sites) are the fourth re-mix culture; embracing your passion
most popular activity on the Internet, and identity; community, sharing, and According to a March 2009 report on
behind (1) search engines, (2) general connecting; and increased transpar- social networking by A.C. Nielson,
interest portals and communities, and ency in government and organizations” Messaging within advertising should
(3) PC software applications. Between (http://compassioninpolitics.wordpress. come from a more authentic, candid, and
December 2007 and December 2008, com/2008/02/01/advantages-and- humble perspective. Social media has, once
“the amount of time spent on member- disadvantages-of-social-media/[accessed again, brought word of mouth to the fore
community sites rose by 63 percent,” July 28, 2009]). There are no doubt as the ultimate form of advertising at a
indicating that “social networks and many additional benefits that could time when traditional advertising is suf-
blogs are eating into the share of time be listed, depending on the user’s par- fering from a major lack of trust. Nielsen’s
held by other sectors.” As interest grows ticular needs. Much of the hype about analysis of social media conversations
in participation in online communities, social media revolves around buzzwords in 2007 and again in December 2008
they are expanding their infrastructure like democratization and monetization, showed that “false” was the term most
to accommodate the demand. which can be confusing. In the end, the closely associated with “advertising.”
Because of their tremendous reach, value of social media communities is (A.C. Nielsen 2009)
social media tools cannot be ignored as a judged by the individual or company that Apparently, sincerity means something
mass media outlet. These tools also have chooses to participate. when it comes to online advertising.
application for small work groups that do
Fair & Equitable • September 2009 7
One of the buzzwords in social media high-end Blendtek grinding, chopping, eo. Entries are commonly displayed in re-
is viral marketing. The concept of viral, or and blending such items as marbles, verse chronological order [i.e., the most
word-of-mouth, marketing is tremendously diamonds, cell phones, lighters, and glo- recent entry is last]. Blog can also be used
appealing, because personal testimony sticks. The videos have not only attracted as a verb, meaning to maintain or add
about products is a powerful way to build attention but also improved the bottom content to a blog” (Wikipedia contribu-
credibility for a brand or product. In some line for the company. tors, “Blog,” Wikipedia, The Free Ency-
instances, particularly in the entertain- That is the good news. The bad news clopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/
ment industry, it has worked exactly the is that viral marketing does not always index.php?title=Blog&oldid=297295574
way it is purported to work. Think of the work. Some topics simply don’t carry [accessed June 19, 2009]).
excitement generated in online media for enough emotional excitement to be
big-budget fantasy and action films like
Harry Potter and the Halfblood Prince, Iron
sustained through a viral campaign. The The content discussed
subject of a viral marketing campaign
Man, and Transformers—this is the power
of viral marketing. A few well-placed trail-
either has to have broad appeal and built- in blogs is limited only
in fascination or needs to be approached
ers have generated an enormous amount in such an outrageous way that it attracts by the imagination of
of publicity and discussion on social me- attention based on presentation.
dia sites. The record-breaking box office the blog originator and
receipts speak for themselves. Viral marketing can also be a double-
There are similar success stories for
edged sword when a product, brand or covers anything from
service is being promoting. If a market-
small businesses that have hit a resonant ing campaign is perceived as deceptive chicken farms to deep
chord with online communities. My fa- or dishonest, or the product is not up to
vorite success story for viral marketing expectations, the power of social media to space exploration.
is the Blendtek “Will it Blend” series of denounce it is as powerful as the ability to
videos on YouTube. The videos show the promote. If viral marketing can be trans-
lated into increased sales, growth in mem- Blogs are not new—they have been
bership, enhanced brand recognition, or around as long as the Internet. They are
some other tangible economic indicator, one of the first and most lasting forms
it can be counted as successful. of communication on the Internet. The
content discussed in blogs is limited only
by the imagination of the blog originator
and covers anything from chicken farms
The Blogosphere is discussed here as a
to deep space exploration. Yes, even
subset of social media. Blogs are not new,
property taxes are discussed.
but in the current recessionary economy,
there is renewed interest in them because Blog hosting services are available, usu-
they are an attractive and affordable way ally for a nominal fee. Developer-hosted
to extend traditional print media. Blogs platforms such as Blogger, MySpace, and
can provide value-enhanced content Wordpress.com take “tech” out of the
to supplement other communications picture and allow the blog originator to
channels. focus on content rather than delivery
“Blogosphere is a collective term encom-
software [accessed July 18, 2009]).
passing all blogs and their interconnec-
tions. It is the perception that blogs exist Free blog software, such as TypePad,
together as a connected community (or Wordpress, or Blogger, is also available if
as a collection of connected communi- the originator has a Web server and the
ties) or as a social network” (Wikipedia technical savvy to set it up. Blog software
contributors, “Blogosphere,” Wikipe- typically provides utilities to support
dia, The Free Encyclopedia, http:// the authoring, editing, and publishing
en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Bl of blog posts and comments (http://
ogosphere&oldid=298562800 [accessed en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weblog_software
June 25, 2009]). [accessed July 18, 2009]).
“A blog (a contraction of the term Web The blogosphere is evolving into a mix
IAAO videos, produced by the Membership log) is a type of Web site, usually main- of traditional text-based Web logs and a
Department, are examples of creative and tained by an individual who regularly en- vast array of other social media and net-
entertaining viral marketing campaigns that ters commentary, descriptions of events, working tools. As such, it is not so much
attract positive attention. (http://www.iaao. or other material such as graphics or vid- a defined space as an ever-changing
8 Fair & Equitable • September 2009
milieu of Internet communication tools. Unlike the blogosphere or branded The primary use of text messaging is
Of the aforementioned communication social media sites, texting is a much more person-to-person communication, but
tools, Twitter and similar microblogging personal and private form of communi- many other potential applications exist.
services tend to fall within the realm of cation. Based on text message volume, SMS can be used to monitor security
the blogosphere. Facebook, friendfeed, its role as a social communication tool system status, stock market price points,
Plaxo, MySpace, LinkedIn, YouTube, cannot be ignored. home mortgage rate thresholds, or
and delicious tend to fall more into the Text messaging, or texting, is the send- computer server status, or for any other
general realm of social media. Individual ing of short (160 characters or less) mes- purpose where remote notification of
blogs are increasingly being evaluated sages from wireless mobile devices using current status is desired. It can also be
by Web analysis tools, such as Technorati the Short Message Service (SMS) proto- used to push marketing messages to tar-
(http://technorati.com/ [accessed July col. It is available on most digital mobile geted audiences. Services such as jingle
15, 2009]), BlogPulse, Tailrank, and phones and personal digital assistants (http://www.jingleblast.com/), Twitter
Blogscope. Social media services are with on-board wireless telecommunica- (http://www.twitter.com), and hip-
also being evaluated by these sites even tions. The individual messages are called cricket (http://www.hipcricket.com) can
though they tend to fall outside tradi- text messages or, more colloquially, texts be used to reach both mass audiences
tional blog boundaries. These trends or SMS. SMS is just one of the supported and dedicated audiences for defined
continue to blur the lines even more. features on digital cellular technology business needs. This technology can be
networks. Other features of digital cel- used for brand awareness, personal and
Text Messaging corporate PR messages, opinion polls,
Another communication tool that flirts lular technology networks are voice and
data communications. event promotions, product giveaways,
with the boundaries of social media is and other marketing campaigns. Texting
text messaging. It can be viewed as a form can also be a conduit to other informa-
of blogging on a more personal level. tion resources, such as Web sites, phone
It is one of today’s hottest technologies numbers, or autoresponders that provide
and has spawned a culture of shorthand requested information on demand.
“cool-speak” that beckons like the sirens
calling Ulysses. Text messaging can be used in real
estate to provide property information
R u w/me? on demand. Real estate agents use it to
I c u r d 1 to txt w/me. post property information and photos so
Pls. they are accessible to mobile device users
LOL. U tlkn 2 me? and to collect contact information from
xit. gbfn :) interested customers. A taxing jurisdic-
The rough translation into English tion could enhance customer service by
reads: accepting text requests for information
routinely provided through other chan-
Hello my dear friend. I have not heard from nels. Information that can be made
you in a while and I am wondering if you accessible through this communication
are around? I hope it is not anything I said? medium includes Web address, contact
I would be greatly pleased if you would en- information, directions to the office,
gage in an SMS texting session with me. It and even appraised property values for
would be most pleasant and entertaining. individual properties or listings of com-
It makes me laugh out loud when parable properties.
I think of the good times we have
had together. I sincerely hope that As the technology matures, new cre-
we will be talking (texting) soon. ative services are being developed on
It is time for me to go. Good bye for now. an almost daily basis. Texting is a major
I will think only good thoughts for you source of income for wireless service
until we next converse. providers, and it has built-in mechanisms
for purchasing text services and prod-
It is the ultimate in chic to be able to
ucts using reverse billing. This feature
speak the language and be one of the tex-
provides an economic incentive for both
ting Literati. It is also a well-documented
service providers and developers of text
method of communication with the The iPhone (top) is an example of a device
products. Profit is a powerful motivator
younger generation. When my son gets up supporting SMS services via a touch screen.
when it comes to the development and
in the morning, he sends a text message The LG phone (bottom) features a QWERTY
application of technology.
to let me know he is awake. He is usually keyboard to facilitate texting plus touch screen
only 20 feet away when he does it. capabilities.
Fair & Equitable • September 2009 9
Twitter were released to TechCrunch (http:// and within Iran itself about election
With the escalating popularity of texting, www.techcrunch.com/2009/07/16/ results and the riots there. It speaks to
it was inevitable that a system would be twitters-internal-strategy-laid-bare-to-be- the power of Twitter as a real-time com-
developed to expand SMS technology the-pulse-of-the-planet/ [accessed July munication tool (http://industry.bnet.
and reach the mass audiences of social 15, 2009]), which released some of the com/media/10002704/twitter-users-
networking. Twitter is the system, and it financial projections. In the documents, put-cnn-to-shame-on-iran-riot-coverage/
is also one of the most rapidly growing Twitter has projected $400,000 in in- [accessed June 10, 2009]). When the
segments of the social media mix. Twitter come in the third quarter of 2009 and world-famous singer/entertainer Mi-
has expanded beyond the boundaries $4 million in the fourth quarter. The chael Jackson died in June 2009, it was
of texting and propelled itself to promi- company also projects 25 million users reported within hours on Twitter and
nence in mainstream social media. by the end of 2009, 100 million users in other real-time media sources.
2010, and 350 million users in 2011. The Unfortunately, this form of communi-
Online communication accuracy of those projections is question- cation, like other online communication
able, but clearly Twitter has big plans for tools, is vulnerable to false reports and
tools are rapidly growth and profit (http://bits.blogs.ny- hoaxes and has the potential to spread
times.com/2009/07/15/hacker-exposes- misinformation at an alarming rate. The
becoming an essential p r i v a t e - t w i t t e r- d o c u m e n t s / ? r e f = same week that Michael Jackson died,
technology [accessed July 15, 2009]). it was incorrectly reported through on-
commodity, but the A compelling feature of Twitter is that it line media that film star Jeff Goldblum
social media world is still allows users to develop a following of indi- (among others) had suffered a fatal fall
viduals that voluntarily sign up to read the from a cliff while filming in New Zealand.
a work in progress and user’s tweets. In other words, a user can The rumor was quashed when Mr. Gold-
build an audience prequalified as wanting blum appeared on the late-night Comedy
models for successful to read what he or she has to say. This can Central show, “The Colbert Report.”
provide a tremendous boost to individual
implementation are still self-confidence if, for example, the user is
Shaquille O’Neal, the famous basketball
maturing. star. O’Neal has developed a cadre of
more than 1 million followers who read
Launched in August 2006, Twitter his daily “Shaqtastic” tweets (http://twit-
is the hot new social networking and ter.com/THE_REAL_SHAQ/). It can
microblogging SMS-based service that also be somewhat deflating if there are
allows users to post real-time updates only one or two people following a user’s
about their activities and subscribe to tweets—your mother and an unknown
other users’ updates, otherwise known as stalker. Twitter, like other services tied
tweets. Tweets are text-based SMS posts to social networking, is a window into a
of up to 140 characters. The service is user’s world. Be careful what you post—
currently free to end users, which distin- remember, your mother and the stalker
guishes it from fee-based SMS marketing may be reading everything you post.
services (Twitter Inc.’s stated intention is Some interesting statistics about Twit-
to eventually charge for select services). ter are as follows:
Another feature that distinguishes Twit-
ter from other SMS-based services is its • The average Twitter user has about 10
ability to accept messages from the Web followers and 10 users.
as well as from SMS, mobile Web, instant • 60 percent of Twitter’s Web-based
messaging, and other sources. This strat- traffic comes from outside the United
egy has allowed Twitter to proliferate and States.
establish a massive user base in a short
time. Even other SMS-based services use • The top ten non-U.S. countries using
Twitter to provide links to their own ser- Twitter on the Web, in descending or-
vices (http://twitter.com/about#about der, are Japan, Spain, United Kingdom,
[accessed July 15, 2009]). Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy,
Netherlands, and Taiwan (http://blog.
In May 2009 a French hacker claims to twitter.com/search/label/stats [ac-
have broken into Twitter and gained access cessed June 10, 2009]). Paul is dead and Elvis lives. It is important
to confidential documents that outline In Iran in June 2009, Twitter was used to check facts when accessing information on
plans for Twitter’s growth. The documents to communicate with the outside world social media sites.
10 Fair & Equitable • September 2009
During the show he confirmed via tweet Conclusion dat/Global%20Faces%20and%20
that he was in fact alive and well in Los Online communication tools are rapidly Networked%20Places%20-%20
Angeles. Remember the late 1960s ur- becoming an essential commodity, but A%20Nielsen%20Report%20on%20
ban myth, “Paul is dead?” Beatles hoax? the social media world is still a work Social%20Networkings%20New%20
And by the way—Elvis is still alive! Some in progress and models for successful Global%20Footprint.pdf (accessed July
things never change. Users beware— implementation are still maturing. 15, 2009).
verification is still an important part of Fisher, W. 2009 (April 2). Forging a new
credible mainstream media. Furthermore, as ways to measure
online communication develop and ma- trail with a Web 2.0 compass. PowerPoint
A simple reporting tool, tweetVOLUME ture, there will almost certainly be more presentation at Allen Press Survival
(http://www.tweetvolume.com/, pro- sophisticated targeting of messages to Guide Seminar, Washington, D.C.
duced by http://www.wowzamade.com/ audiences most likely to be receptive to McKee, M. 2009. MySpace musings
[accessed June 10, 2009]), shows how them. Sometimes, the audience will be aren’t private, appeals court rules.
often words or phrases have appeared on willing. Other times they may be viewed The Recorder, April 6. http://www.
Twitter since its inception in 2006. as victims of unscrupulous manipulation reuters.com/article/domesticNews/
A June 28, 2009, tweetVOLUME of modern technologies. It is hoped that idUSN2424879820070724?feed
search showed 9,910,000 occurrences for tools to selectively block unwanted mes- Type=RSS&rpc=22&sp=true (accessed
the name Michael Jackson. In contrast, sages will advance at the same rate as the July 18, 2009).
the search term property tax was men- ability to send them.
tioned only 4,320 times. Apparently, the Chris Bennett is the IAAO Director
property tax has a long way to go before References of Publications & Marketing and staff
it becomes a hot topic in social media. A.C. Nielsen. 2009. Global Faces and Net- liaison to the Communications and
The International Association of Assess- worked Places: A Nielsen Report on Social Technical Standards Committees. He
Networking’s New Global Footprint. http:// can be found on Facebook, LinkedIn,
ing Officers had five mentions—so it
Plaxo, and Twitter (http://twitter.
seems unlikely that IAAO will become a en-us.nielsen.com/etc/medialib/
com/twitmecmb). He is still trying to
mainstream Twitter topic, although you nielsen_dotcom/en_us/documents/ figure out how to make time for all the
never can tell. p d f / w h i t e _ p a p e r s . P a r. 8 8 9 1 . F i l e . other social media sites.
CALL FOR ARTICLES
A tag cloud (or word cloud) view of article topics being
sought for publication
Do you have an appraisal or assessment topic that would be of interest to IAAO members? Share your
ideas with other members and get published. Visit www.iaao.org, go to the Publications menu, and
download the author guidelines today. Send articles to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Include “Call for Articles”
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Fair & Equitable • September 2009 11