Digital divide 2.0

I’m just putting the finishing touches on the new social hub for Fairtrade London before we share it with a group of campaigners for a spot of UAT. I’ve spoken to campaigners at every step of the way, and their thoughts have fed directly into what I’ve been working on in partnership with Carve Consulting. We’re pretty damn pleased with the result: a clean, fresh looking site combining a nice balance of “traditional” feel with some static content and simple navigation with plenty of search engine friendly user generated content. What’s slightly stopped me in my social media tracks, though, was the initial feedback from a wider group during a discussion on integrating it with other marketing strategies. (There was even a brief mention of social inclusion, not something I’ve heard in the context of a digital campaign for a good few years).

It got me thinking that all of us hanging about in cyber-space all day are maybe taking it for granted that now that over 70% of households have internet access (80% of Londoners), and almost every public space seemingly Wi-Fi’d up, that naturally everyone wants to get online at every opportunity. They’d love to blog if they knew how. They’d love to post up videos on a branded YouTube channel if we set them some challenges. They’d love chat in forums if we only pointed them in the direction of the right one for them. Build it and they will participate.

Then, you know how it is, I keep spotting articles and hearing comments that make you remember it’s just not that simple. In the Observer on Sunday, an article on newspapers getting the online space right, the large number of online businesses advertising in print and on TV was mentioned (apparently when asked the majority of the public seem to think the TV is where the best brands advertise). A Google Alert this morning pointed me in the direction of a blog post on ZDNet about how companies increasingly insist on turning their staff into brand evangelists, with the infamous example of Best Buy asking for 250 Twitter followers on as a criteria on a job ad. As the blog points out, what about those who are not extroverts, not naturally inclined to virtually network, not keen to share their thoughts with relative strangers? What if companies use such trackable activity as part of their assessment criteria for promotions and pay rises as well as recruitment?

With all the emphasis on social media in all areas of business, are we running the risk of alienating core segments of the population, as was heavily debated in the late 90s/early Noughties in the first wave of the dot com boom? Or are we just at the start of a new media wave that is penetrating into mainstream at a rip roaring rate?

Other people’s thoughts at:

eWeek Blog: How Social Media May Be Hurting Careers.

ZDNet Blog: Using social media to turn all staff into customer service reps.

TechCrunch blog: How free Social Media beat the recruitment consultants to death.

And if you’re feeling flush (and work with/in HR) there’s a new piece of research by Adrienne Corn, founder of Ventus and PhD student, has just published a Human Resources and Social Media Survey. (I’ve read the executive summary, and it looks like an interesting, robust piece of research so worth saving up for.)

(This was originally posted on my old site).

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