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November 8, 2008

The Communications Flood

On Election Day I didn’t have access to a television so I couldn’t see things as they were happening. So at some time during the day I tuned in to Twitter to see what people were saying about it.
What I saw made the hairs stand up on my arms and bought home to me the changes that we are seeing in how people communicate. Twitter was going crazy. And 90 – 95% of the tweets that I saw were all about the election.

I’m sure that there were other chat rooms, discussion forums and direct messages that were blazing away on this same theme at the same time.

What a phenomena – people all over the world – feverishly discussing just one central theme.

It was possibly the largest one theme, real-time, conversation that has ever occurred, in history. Ever!!!

It really caught my attention, and nobody seems to be talking about it.

Communication is changing enormously. It used to be strictly one-to-one. Letters, telegrams, Morse code and signaling was always to convey a message from one person to another – often so it could be disseminated further.

Later, we went to one to many with radio and television. But the source was strictly controlled and the entry fee was high.

When we started to use the internet our default method was one-to-one. Email, messengers and direct messaging programs are where this has ended up; but increasingly we are starting to break out of this mode of communication.

The internet has made it possible for you to find anybody that you want to, on just about any area of interest that you could have.

So when I write my Blog, it is read by a group of people who are interested in what I write about. When I send out The Consultant newsletter – it is only received by that group of people who are interested in receiving it.

So we have a one-to-many conversation that is going on between a smaller but interested group. This is vastly different from the early models of one-to-many conversations.

YouTube is another example of the one-to-many phenomena in communications. We post a video, people see it, if it captures their attention and they like it, then they might forward it to others. If they don’t – it dies on the vine.

But there’s more…

Twitter is not necessarily one-to-one, although it can be, and it is not necessarily one-to-many, although again it can be.

Twitter is essentially a many-to-many conversation. It has many people, sending in their tweets, which are seen by many other people, who are also watching a separate group of people.

In a many-to-many conversation others will follow you only if you are of interest to them. And even then they may never interact with you, and if your tweets suddenly lose their value – then you are going to get un-followed.

What does this mean for communications?

It has become a coping mechanism for us to deal with the increasing demands on our time, and the increasingly competitive nature of the world we live in.
  • It means that you had better be authentic, because if you don’t we will easily find out.
  • It means that you had better be extra-ordinary, because if you aren't we will tune out.
  • It means that if we get good value from you, we might refer you to others, but if you aren't, if you are just ordinary, then we will never think of you again. We can get ordinary any day.
Lastly, it means that if you are extra ordinary and you are talking about something that others are interested in then you can draw a crowd of people to talk to.

People who are intrigued by what you are talking about, who have been looking for something like this, and you provide them with value. This is important, because they are more likely to respond to your call to action. 

By consuming your Blog, tweets, videos or whatever, they are already self-selected. They are already interested.

In an era of many-to-many communications we need to dramatically change the way we get attention. Before it was okay to be where they were and keep going until they saw your ad enough times that they just gave in.

Today, instead of trying to be where they are, we need to be what they are looking for and to provide astounding value when they find you!

If you can do that what could you do…?

  • Replace the marketing of your company’s products and services through conversation rather than interruption?
  • Generate a core group of like minded people who will support your charitable cause or give cash to the issues that you are promoting?
  • Win an election…………? Change the world…?
The possibilities are endless, and this is only the beginning!

What are you doing to engage a many-to-many world? How are you becoming extra-ordinary?