This is a guest blog post by Ari Adler, someone I reached out to on Twitter many moons ago for no reason other than he shared my first name.
I also find it ironic that he asked me to write about social media when I only know Ari because of social media and I was such a skeptic about social media to begin with.
For the longest time, I was adamant that I did not understand and never would understand how people could live their lives online for the whole world to see. What was the point of MySpace and Facebook except to cause you trouble later in life?
Who knows; maybe I was right and people will find it was a mistake. But I realize how important it is to stay fresh on technology. I have to be able to keep up with what my students are doing, what my colleagues are up to and what my opponents are working on.
I started my career as a journalist, delving into new and exciting things. I remember the awe and wonder I barely contained when I dialed a phone number on my modem and hooked into a thing called “the Internet” with a free trial program to see what companies like CompuServe and America On Line were all about.
Later, I got involved in public relations and taught at Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, my alma mater.
Within the past year, I dove headfirst into the Web 2.0 universe, created a Facebook page, connected with folks on LinkedIn, set up a blog, and became a tweeter. I talk about Twitter a lot with people because it seems to be the most social of social media right now.
I read a news article about Twitter online somewhere and I became interested in the concept at first because it seemed so absurd. I couldn’t believe people would want to post to the service and found it more unlikely that anyone would care to read the posts. But when it started getting mentioned by younger people on staff at a previous job I had, I knew I needed to check it out and get a handle on it, even if I didn’t really use it much myself.
The only way to stay on top of things in the PR business is to tackle them as they appear. I think of it as a mountain–if I wait until other folks check out the summit, it could be that by the time I get there, they’ll be headed back down so they can climb the next mountain. Let that happen too many times and eventually you can never catch up.
So there I am, on Twitter as @aribadler, with a green peanut M&M as my avatar–a little guy that has become somewhat of a trademark for me in the online world. And I think I’m staying in that world. I’ve had mostly positive experiences and I can see a lot of uses for this thing called social media.
In another twist of fate, I’ve become the company champion for social media at Delta Dental of Michigan where I help oversee public and media relations activities. We don’t have much of an online presence yet. Still, I’ve been given some leeway to use my powers as a green peanut M&M to further the cause of dental care and promote the importance of good oral health.
Some day, I hope to see the official Delta Dental online presence expand, but you often need to walk before you can run. For now, I’m comfortable with the company taking some baby steps.
When asking me to write this blog post, Ari wanted to know how I defined social media. I think the best way to define it is as a collection of souls seeking answers in a universe where only more questions can be found. Is that too deep, philosophically? Too bad.
Trying to put a definition on social media is a trap that many supposed “experts” fall into. Social media is social, and it is media, but that old saying about something being worth more than the sum of its parts is very appropriate here.
We have not even the slightest chance of fathoming the infinitesimal opportunities that will arise as Web 2.0 grows and expands to version 3.0, 4.0, and beyond.
All we can do is embrace what we have now, try to keep up with what’s coming in the near future, and never turn down a dare to imagine even more in the distant future.
Barack Obama was elected on a campaign filled with “change” and “hope.” Nobody really defined what either of those meant for the candidate, his campaign, or the country he was seeking to lead.
Now, as our president, Obama has an unprecedented opportunity to put social media and the Internet to use in amazing ways. Providing true social interaction between voters and the White House could provide our new president with a glimpse of what Americans are thinking. He may not like what he sees, but he will be richer for the experience, as will those of us involved if we open our minds to him and to all the other souls seeking answers.
This testament to our first president’s grand leadership contains several quotes from the father of our country emblazoned on Plexiglass. One, in particular, caught my eye because it seems George was one who dared to dream.
“My first wish…is to see the whole world in peace, and the Inhabitants of it as one band of brothers, striving who should contribute most to the happiness of mankind.”
What if Washington was alive today? Do you think he would be pleased at what we have done with the tools at our disposal? Would he shake his head in wonder, unable to comprehend how we have let slip the wondrous opportunities provided by technology? Would he scoff at how we have let slip past us the ability to contribute more to the happiness of mankind than he could ever have imagined?
I’d really like to know. After all, Washington couldn’t tell a lie and we could all use a little truth right about now.
Photo credits: shashchatter and Ari Adler
Do you have any questions for Ari? Please toss him an M&M comment below, or tweet him at @aribadler.