Social Media Communication Tools Chris Bennett

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                                                    Social Media Communication Tools
                                                                                                     Chris Bennett




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.



T
        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
 Cover Story
 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. [2009], 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
 [2009], 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/
                                                                                                      showSongProfile.do?rid=1447635&uid=8540
                                                     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
                                                  personal injury, and even death. In Febru- terms of use to no longer allow users to de-
                                                  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
world.
                                             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
biggest-danger-on-social-networks-isnt-
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
                                                                                                                                 site
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
 Cover Story
 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
                                                                                              •	 http://www.flickr.com/photos/
 ties such as nonprofit associations and        the hope that some of the better ideas
                                                                                                 whitehouse
 government offices with limited budgets        will naturally float to the top.
                                                                                              •	 http://www.youtube.com/whitehouse
 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
(http://www.internetworldstats.com/
                                               advertising.                                     time.
                                                                                                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
 Cover Story
    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
                                                 The Blogosphere
                                                                                                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
                                                                                                (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weblog_
                                                    “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
 org/sitePages.cfm?Page=120)


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
 Cover Story
 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.



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                                                                                                                          Fair & Equitable • September 2009   11