Yesterday I mentioned Michael Jackson’s untimely death last week, pointing out how – for once – the daily newspapers got a chance to be the place where many people first found out about the story. But did the web cover itself in glory on this one? Well, the story was broken on a website, it’s true. But for most people, the web is the search engines (especially Google), and as Search Engine Journal illustrates in Microsoft Bing FAILS in Coverage, Twitter and Facebook Break News, the search engines were all but useless on the night. The first I heard about the story was on Twitter (the first time that’s happened for me, and not the last, I’m sure), and I’d read dozens of people “tweeting” about it before even going to the web. Even then, I headed for a news website directly, rather than through a search engine, because I assumed there’d be nothing there (correctly, as we now see).
You may be thinking: “What’s all this got to do with us, Chris?” Well, it’s another step on the trend which has moved us from waiting to be told the news (print), to going to find it out ourselves (web), and now to telling each other. You might think “social media” is of no help to your attempts to sell blue widgets, and it probably isn’t. But increasingly I’m thinking it will be. Do you wish you’d set up a customer email newsletter in 1994 (even if there were only a few readers out there), so that you had your own 50,000 circulation, fifteen years on? Maybe those 10 people following your company’s blog on Twitter are the 2009 equivalent.