2007: Social media goes mainstream (except for business and politics)

Gaping Void cartoon: If you talked to people the way advertising talked to people, they’d punch you in the face.

If 2006 was the year of Web 2.0 then 2007 is the year of social media. For individuals anyway. Australian businesses and politicians generally don’t “get it”.

Social media is mainstream. Two million Australians have Facebook pages and 3.5 million read blogs. MSN Messenger has 7 million users here, and even Ja’mie King says “I’ll MSN u 2nite” without explanation.

But few businesses use social media. Why? I suspect there’s two reasons, apart from an endemic inability to adapt and change. One is about the tools, the other is about business culture.

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Behind the pace

I’ve just finished writing an article for Crikey on how businesses are well behind the pace in using social media. Then I called a new client asking where to email their invoice. “We don’t really have email,” they said. How can a retail business which has to coordinate four shops (plus who knows how many suppliers) possibly operate competitively with last-century technology?

How can Microsoft stop us hating them?

Microsoft: Change the world or go home

So what do you think of Microsoft, eh? No, really. I want to know.

I have to admit I’m not exactly a fan. I’ll explain why momentarily. But Microsoft is changing, or at least wants to change, and I’m finding it hard to shed old impressions.

The Blue Monster cartoon is part of this changing Microsoft. Its creator, Hugh MacLeod, intended it as a conversation-starter — what he calls a social object. Steve Clayton from Microsoft UK says they use it to help Microsoft start talking about its own process of re-birth.

I’m cynical when software companies claim grand goals like “changing the world”. That over-the-top rhetoric was central to the first dot-com bubble. Usually, the bigger the rhetoric the crappier the product. Still, I’m willing to listen.

Another sign of a changing Microsoft is my friend Nick Hodge, who sold me my first Mac back in 1985. Nick now works for the Blue Monster as an “enthusiast evangelist”, and represents how Microsoft is embracing blogging and a new culture of openness — and actually having conversations with people instead of talking at them.

But can Microsoft really change and, more importantly, convince us to believe them?

Continue reading “How can Microsoft stop us hating them?”