Magazine style aggregation of social networks

A recent discussion on LinkedIn named Flipboard as one of the must have iPad apps for marcom people. In case you are not familiar with it, Flipboard pulls together popular content from your own social networks and the web automatically and presents it in a pleasing well laid out fashion.

I mention this here because it heralds one possible future. There tends to be a division of battle lines currently in the world of technology PR and marketing communications between those who believe social media as ‘the future’ and that other, traditional formats will wither and die; and the opposing camp who think most social media channels are fluff and best left to the B2Consumer companies. Both may be mistaken.

Too much information

Social media flows from Twitter, Facebook and the like are immediate, fluid and responsive. They are also truncated, repetitive, and – even when corralled via tools such as HootSuite – often confusing due to the sheer volume of data. In other words, they are much like real life. To use an analogy, if you want to find out what a crowd thinks, the best way is to walk among it speaking to as many people as possible (this is the social media bit in case you’d lost the thread); but most of us can’t or don’t want to invest the time to do this and would rather someone else gave us a (perhaps less than perfect) snapshot of the opinion of the crowd – this person is often a journalist.

Coming back to Flipboard, if you followed the link above or are already familiar with it you probably know where we are headed. It “pulls together popular content…and presents it in a pleasing, well-laid-out fashion” – sound familiar? That’s a magazine. And it does indeed look like an up-market glossy magazine; except it generates itself, without the help of an editor, primarily from Twitter streams.

Social media that feeds in a consumer friendly format

So, if this is one possible future, people will increasing consume information on their tablets from Flipboard-like digital magazines whose content is sourced via personally selected social media. But what does this mean to technology companies who want to communicate with real people in other businesses? They probably have no truck with the celeb-dominated whimsy of Twitter and don’t believe that engineers use social media for their work but the realisation will soon start to dawn: Twitter and Facebook are not the end product, they are the new pipe. It doesn’t matter if your target customers never actively follow Twitter streams, before long much of the information they read will be transmitted in this way.

And if you are not communicating via these channels, you won’t be seen or heard.