Thursday, November 15, 2007

Content No Longer King

A hundred years ago cotton was king. Last year content was king. Now social networking is king. This brief little survey of cultural norms brought to you by an internet marketer. (That would be me.) In a nutshell we've moved from a world focused on the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing, to a world that is connecting globally via the internet. Recent articles that have been appearing in my inbox, now indicate that social networking is the best way to market online. That's really good news for a small company like ours that doesn't have a huge advertising budget.
Let me explain a little, going back a little further than you probably want to. In the '90s, I worked in journalism, and we had a visionary editor who brought in a consultant who had been working on a little known project called the internet. It was being developed by brainiacs at universities across the world. Oddly enough, much of the information available was sparse, mostly erroneous and included things like how to make a bomb. I guess the brainiacs were keeping all the good stuff to themselves. The point was the internet was originally known as the information highway. Shortly thereafter, we got interoffice email, allowing us to sit at our desks even more so that we'd have to spend more time at the gym. It both connected and disconnected us, but ultimately made us more work efficient.

The idea of individual computers linked electronically was conceptually grasped by writers such S. Roxanne Hiltz and Murray Turoff (Addison-Wesley, 1978, 1993) who wrote The Network Nation. It wasn't long before retailers began seeing the merits of online marketing. But content was still king because the internet was developed by brainiacs, and Google and other search engines were set up on the premise that the internet was an "information highway." So, SEO, or Search Engine Optimization was born and the idea that if you wanted to attract traffic to you site, you needed to have lots of juicy content that would organically attract search engines.
According to Wikipedia, the world's first socially network based encyclopedia, early social networking websites included: "Classmates.com (1995), focusing on ties with former school mates, and SixDegrees.com (1997), focusing on indirect ties. Two different models of social networking that came about in 1999 were trust-based, developed by Epinions.com, and friendship-based, such as those developed by Jonathan Bishop and used on some regional UK sites between 1999 and 2001.[Innovations included not only showing who is "friends" with whom, but giving users more control over content and connectivity. By 2005, one social networking service MySpace, was reportedly getting more page views than Google, with Facebook, a competitor, rapidly growing in size. In 2007, Facebook began allowing externally-developed add-on applications, and some applications enabled the graphing of a user's own social network -- thus linking social networks and social networking.
Social networking began to flourish as a component of business internet strategy at around March 2005 when
Yahoo launched Yahoo! 360°. In July 2005 News Corporation bought MySpace, followed by ITV (UK) buying Friends Reunited in December 2005." Wikipedia estimates there are now over 200 social networking sites.
So, as a small entrepreneur, social networks provide a non-advertising venue to reach potential customers with goods and services. One such website called thisnext.com has a "Watch People Shop" page. Click on it, its fascinating. It is a real time log of people buying things listed on thisnext.com.
Gee, I can remember when I thought blogging was for bored teenagers who needed to "get a life." Now I see it as a way to share and receive information from all corners of the world. We are still very much into providing quality content in addition to the fabulous art created by artists from around the world. I share this masterfully produced watercolor painting with you now. Let us hear from you!--Ruth Mitchell

White Iris - Laurin McCracken

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