October 11, 2010

This weekend I’ve spent quite a bit of time interacting on various social media networks and watching a bit of sport of the telly. During one particular event it really struck me as astounding how much social media is changing the way we interact with the world around us.

For all those petrol heads out there, this weekend was the ultimate phone-is-off-the-hook-I’m-not-taking-any-calls weekend – the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 weekend.  And what has that got to do with Social Media? Well due to the timing of the school holidays I was busy driving my sons back home when the race was due to start.  So how to keep up?  Yup, that’s right… Twitter.  V8 Supercars has an official twitter feed going during races which means while you don’t get to see the action, you sure don’t miss out on much.  So sign up for SMS updates, get your co-driver to read them out as they arrive in your inbox and Bob’s your uncle.

Imagine if someone told you ten years ago that you could get live sports updates to your phone?  I mean, none of this is any huge revelation these days – as a show of hands for those who have been using Twitter like this already will show.  But what happens when Australia’s domestic broadcaster, Channel 7 starts throwing ads into their broadcast while also going for the rather new-age techo approach of “live pausing” their live coverage?  The petrol heads that are on Twitter trying to follow what’s going on while watching said “live” coverage suddenly realise what you’re up to and they start in with some serious road(less) rage.  By the time we here in NZ (and other countries) finished watching the race, Channel 7 was twenty minutes behind in their coverage.  The small cross-section of geeks/V8 petrol heads tweeting up a storm already knew who had won and from what I read, they were mad! Knowing who wins a race ahead of time kind of defeats the purpose of watching the last ten laps – and when they’ve just invested 7 hours in watching one race I can see their point!

One thing people in business are fast realising is how important Twitter is to interfacing directly with their customers and end users.  It’s quite a surprise then to find that Channel 7 is unlikely to listen to any of those fans stomping their feet via Twitter because their official Twitter feed hasn’t been updated in over five months.  (Perhaps they should be attending a Mogul Social Media workshop?)  When you’re upsetting thousands of people all at once, you want to make sure you have an open channel of communication to receive feedback.  In this case, 7 already have one but it’s clearly under utilised.  For V8 fans it would be like walking up to a blind person and miming your displeasure at their seeing-eye dog digging up your garden.  Okay, so petrol heads don’t have gardens, but you get the point, right?

It doesn’t really end there.  The Kiwi petrol heads got in their usual tantrum mode when TV3 crossed to the news at 6pm, 20 laps out from the finish.  Thankfully, TV3 cut it back to only 15 minutes so the last 10 laps were shown live.  They’d even scheduled coverage to finish up at 7:30pm which meant for a change we’d actually get to see the podium presentations.  Enter a rage like no other when reruns of the Simpsons kicked in at 7pm, well before the podium.  Luckily for TV3, their Twitter feeds (note the plural) are well manned at @tv3nz and @3sport. (The less said about @3news though, the better)

I was quite surprised to see that #bathurst never made it into the international trending topics this weekend.  Apparently Rage Against the Machine were doing something quite spectacular.  Mind you when trending is a numbers game, that cross-section of Petrol-headed geeks I referred to earlier probably is quite small.

But the point I’m trying to make? In this day and age, more and more of our everyday lives are being influenced by social media, and in business there’s no way that any of us can afford to ignore the role the social web is playing in helping shape society.