Dr. Mariann Hardey

Digitally on.

Speaker, Writer, Academic.

Durham University Lecturer.

I do stuff for the BBC.

Feminist & lovely.

Slanguage of social media

BBC social media summit

June 2010

This post starts with my tweet: @mazrred


Social media? Updates & reporting, it's no big deal. It's all about context, isn't it... Isn't it?...working up my academic take :-) #bbcsms

Sat 21st May 16 minutes ago Favourite Reply Delete

Social media? Updates & reporting, it's no big deal...

Here are the highlights, first I should raise my hand and admit that I am an ‘academic'; I am not a reporter, I do not work in broadcasting - although I do ‘do' some broadcast appearances and sound-bites, sometimes even for the BBC. It was somewhat a relief that Claire Wardle announced the 'BBC social media summit' was a ‘joke' tag; equally this served us as the social media hungry crowd well for the day in terms of the expectation for what would happen.

Although I feel that I am on safe ground as an academic and not a reporter in the field, I won't come under firing from Raju Narisetti of the Washing post for not being appropriately ‘fluent' on Twitter, I am also aware that a discussion piece that starts ‘Social media?' (question mark emphasised) can expect some blunt responses.

Incidentally for all those tweeting that Raju said ‘he will not hire journalists who don't have Twitter & Facebook accounts'; this is only a part truth. Given the context of the conversation, what Raju reall said was that it was unlikely that you were going to be a successful journalist if you didn't have a Twitter and/or Facebook profile.

And by profile I refer to an astute use and lively dialogue through such medium, rather than a page with a profile picture on it. One is ‘social media', the other is just an attempt at the social side of things.

Back to that question mark...

I would encourage the BBC to host another summit. This, being the first, was as insightful as the reliability of the technology was loosely shambolic. I'm not terribly good in situations where the frission of audience conversation is as good as what's on stage. It's hard to know what to focus on.

Particularly good was an overheard exchange between two well-established, and instantly recognisable faces, whose exclaim and dismiss of ‘twitter reporting as just gossip mongering', prompted the obvious thought of, well yes this is precisely the level of reporting as hosted by the likes of Andy Carvin (NPR). Missing from this conversation was something Esra Dogramaci (Al Jazeera) and the smooth chairmanship by Nic Newman (Reuters) had mentioned, which is that it is the audience that has power. And it is the audiences choice whether they want to pay attention to gossip or not.

In short, social media is all about context. This is why we can sit back and chew on the latest real time updates. Osama was breaking news on Twitter before mainstream media, and this morning a certain footballer (who shall continue to be named on Twitter, and might be @RyanGiggs) is attempting to hide behind his £s and his lawyer. It's hard to gauge how seriously major media houses are taking social media. But they are doing it in various forms and formats.

In academic circles there's always a sharp intake of breath around buzz-words and of-the-moment developments. But that's precisely why the words are there. For Liz Heron of the New York Times social media represents a whole new market potential and revenue stream: One that is not as aggressive as The Times behind its walled garden of content, but equally ambitious.

To build on the day I have motivation to push forward research agenda on social media and audience engagement. There are few opportunities to work with the brights across the media industry, perhaps the emphasis on the social from this event will encourage such actions...

For those who want to continue the conversation I am at Durham University, interested in audience engagement, live updates and real time dialogues: mariann.hardey@durham.ac.uk. I'll also be presenting at ThinkingDigital2011 next week when it will be my turn to take the hot seat.