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If you're not part of the dialogue, then get out of the way, because the mainstream media that support a $260 billion ad business are slowly giving way to a market of conversations.
Social media explosion
Consider the chatter: Technorati is tracking 40 million blogs and 1.2 billion posts a day. MySpace, a social network unheard of three years ago, is the eighth-biggest site on the Web and growing by 240,000 members a day-that means the population of Buffalo, N.Y., joins MySpace every day, for those keeping score.
For most of my working life I've been a PR guy, but two years ago I started a blog called Micro Persuasion, which tracks the advent of social media. By actively participating in the conversation, I now advise companies how to plot a course through this new landscape -- and hope to do the same with this weekly online column I'll be writing for Ad Age Digital.
People refer to emerging digital media as "a whole new world." But I say digital tools have shaped a new social-media universe. It was born in a big bang, when social and technological forces collided in the first half of the decade. Trust in institutions waned as scandal struck nearly every source of authority. Search technology, social networking and "uploading" help us find peers. The cost of bandwidth, storage and online distribution fell to zero. Mobile was born. Consumers tuned out marketers-and into each other.
Social media elements
Like the physical one, the social-media universe consists of celestial bodies:
Galaxies: centers of gravity pulling together like-minded individuals, such as YouTube, Digg, Flickr and Second Life.
Stars: online celebs, such as Microsoft blogger Robert Scoble, Flickr fiend Thomas Hawk and YouTube addict Nornna.
Planets: individuals who follow the stars, influential in their own right.
Shooting stars: insta-celebs that create neat videos and then fade away.
Comets: recurring themes, such as transparency, veracity and entitlement.
Asteroids: desolate, lifeless places with negative energy -- think spam blogs.
In the weeks and months ahead, I will guide you through this new universe offering examples of how marketers are successfully -- and unsuccessfully -- interacting with the bodies. Buckle up. It's time to blast off.
CLARIFICATION: The original version of this column did not disclose that Technorati is a partner and MySpace is a client of Mr. Rubel's employer, Edelman