Social Web Speeds Ahead Despite Slowing Economy

Steve Rubel on Digital Communications

By Published on .

As if you don't have enough to worry about with the slowing economy, just wait. The social web is actually heading in the opposite direction: It's getting a lot faster. This will throw digital marketers another major curve to contend with.

Here's an example. Last Thursday, just before the final presidential debate, FriendFeed added a small feature that bloggers and fans went nuts for. The social-network aggregator turned on real-time updating.

With the change, if FriendFeed is left running in a browser window, friends' comments, posts, statuses, photos and videos automatically appear without having to reload the page. Watching my friends' social stream during the debate was like riding the Maid of the Mist to the base of Niagara Falls.

Steve Rubel
Photo: JC Bourcart
Steve Rubel is a marketing strategist and blogger. He is senior VP-director of insights at Edelman Digital.
FriendFeed isn't alone. In August Facebook added a similar feature, Live Feed, to its home page. Hardcore Twitter addicts have long adored a number of applications that bring live microblogged conversations to the desktop. These include TweetDeck and Twhirl for Windows and Twitterific for Macs. Google's RSS reader has live updating, and blog aggregators such as Techmeme surely will follow suit.

As it speeds, the social web is transforming into a giant, 24/7 global chat- room distributed across hundreds of sites. Unlike the chat rooms of old, these are a lot more influential. In this era more people are engaged and everything is being indexed in Google, and in real-time.

Journalists are already adapting by embracing the live web. Many reporters are active on FriendFeed and Twitter. Last month CNN launched a new show with Rick Sanchez that features the anchor interacting with Twitter users live on the air. Sanchez has since added 10,000 followers and is now the 14th-most-followed personality on the site.

But what about brands? How will they fare in this new, faster age? That will depend on how they adapt.

Digital marketers who continue to plan campaigns months in advance and then unleash them will lose relevance. The more-successful programs going forward must feature real human beings. They will need to be dynamic, adaptable and able to turn on a dime depending on where the live conversation goes. That's no easy feat and it will require brands and agencies to rewire themselves for speed. Get ready to race.
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