For folks who don’t know, there aren’t a lot of earthquakes in Roanoke.
Back in 2009, Access enjoyed 15 minutes of fame when we launched RoanokeEarthquakeRelief.com. The website (which is live again) paid tribute to a local 3.0 shaker on the Richter scale which caused no damage whatsoever. REQ.com, (programmed by Erica Mason and Gary Gilmore) was featured on a bevy of television and radio programs and was even mentioned by noted columnist and author Dave Barry. People went to the site and then joined the Facebook group, which eventually grew to more than 3000 fans.
Like all good things (and most bad ones, for that matter), the topic eventually played out…the Facebook numbers dwindled…for a time the site went dormant. Then on Friday July 16, 2011 another small earthquake hit the Valley. If you want to get technical, it was actually centered a little more than a hundred miles away, but we got a little jostle here. Overnight, we had more than 900 new members to our Facebook page filling it with content, pictures, and stories. We did not need to program a web page, our Facebook presence had in effect BECOME our web presence. While it was very actively used for a few days, it quickly quieted down.
So what can we learn from all this? Let’s be bold enough to make a few blanket assumptions based on some anecdotal evidence, although they are validated by some of the current thought and studies on the matter.
First of all, social media is more than its name – it IS media. The online world (particularly Facebook in many instances) is how people communicate and is the channel of choice, at least for the time being, for many events.
Secondly, people, now more than ever, crave a two-way conversation that traditional media has had a hard time pulling off. People don’t just want to find out what happened, they want to share their experiences and feelings. In the past, writing a letter and sending it to a newspaper and waiting a week or so for it to come out was the only way to make that happen. Now it can be done instantly.
Thirdly, while people still care about what has always been the gold standard of media…trust…they now care just as much (and in some cases, more) about immediacy.
Like traditional media has always proposed, attention spans are short. I think they are getting shorter as we have all been willing participants in a multi-tasking culture that has wrought a communal ADD. That’s neither good nor bad, but it is something as marketers we had best pay heed to.
What will the conversation be like when the next earthquake comes along? Most likely the conversation will be the same…but where will it take place? That’s the real question.