Chasing the elusive connectivity click ... or, what can social media do for the Arts?

Individuals started it. Media moguls saw the opportunity and started buying-up the platforms. And now, organisations smell an untapped market & people are trying to make money out of it. Making money by restricting access. Making money by selling user applications. Making money by telling people how they can use it to make money.
What am I talking about? I'm talking about the proliferation of social media platforms that have burst into our lives in recent years. But now its got to this money-making juncture, and social media platforms are trying to elevate themselves to the serious business-building category, might this just be where things start to unravel and the social media bubble actually bursts?

The fundamental premise of social networking is not about making money - its always been about trying to connect. And connecting is about tapping into a very basic human need to relate & share experiences (or, in the worst ego instances, drawing attention to oneself by being shocking or extreme).Whatever it is, making a connection and making connectivity 'click' with your audience, public or followers is the much-prized, elusive goal of individual artists & artistic organisations alike. If social media can deliver that for us, then should'nt we at least try to understand what the real opportunity is before its too late. Money-making or otherwise, we should ask ourselves, objectively, in what way is social media good news for the arts?

Looking around for an answer, there doesn't seem to be much consensus out there at the moment...
Some say arts organisations should set about copying the success stories of companies like Innocent Drinks who engage over 130,000 members of their public to help it evolve as an organisation and to contribute to its brand development.Others say the opportunity for the arts is simply about helping social media find its place in the more traditional marketing mix. (A case in point is that of the Obama campaign. Praised widely as an example of digital media being responsible for picking-up large-scale, grass-roots support, its campaign director has freely admitted recently that although digital media played a role, it was only one part of a story where much older web technologies and traditional tv advertising were chiefly responsible for the victory).The digital sceptics out there go even further, saying that the much-promised internet revolution for the arts hasn't really happened (yet?) and the only things having any success on the web currently are to do with celebrity, sex, retail & search.

In the end, I suppose, whether you are optimistic or pessimistic about social media & the arts is irrelevant. Its also less about what the technology-bods can enable us to do and more, perhaps, about finding out what the public ultimately value in web-based activity from the creative industries. Is creativity & connectivity actually any different whether online or offline, or do digital platforms really have the power to transform connections between ourselves and our public? For me, so far, the jury is out ...

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Comment by Deborah Powell on August 16, 2009 at 0:47
An interesting perspective on micro-blogging site Twitter

'It is culturally cutting edge and its potentials have still to unfold.'
Comment by Deborah Powell on August 10, 2009 at 1:32
I agree. There is a lot of chatter around the whole Do Teens Tweet? issue at the moment... it seems one of the more pronounced challenges in leveraging social media is to think of people less by age and more by attitude or interests.
Comment by Catherine Paskell on August 7, 2009 at 5:03
"The older generation has long known that the surest way to kill a youth trend is to adopt it as its own. The cyberworld, it seems, is no exception" says this Guardian article, which reveals that online social networking is falling in popularity amongst 15-24 year olds.

Social networking may be a trend that has already peaked; it could still have a way to grow. As you say Deborah, as social media platforms are trying to elevate themselves to the serious business-building category, might this just be where things start to unravel and the social media bubble actually bursts? Maybe this trend suggests exactly that, as the most discerning users (ie young people) move away from it now that over-24-year-old-farts like me are using social networking when I had no interest in this over 6 months ago and businesses are using it as cynical marketing tools...

Where are all these uber-cool young things going and can I come too?

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