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Social media and The Age of Conversation

The internet has changed everything in the marketing world. After some initial missteps, largely caused by applying the old rules to a new game, we have emerged into an exciting era of possibilities. What seemed a futuristic forecast at best only a short time ago in now coming to fruition.

Where the advertiser had full control with traditional media, consumers now interact with content. It’s now all about choice and control. And to be chosen, you must be innovative and interactive. “The internet represents 20% of weekly media usage, but marketers currently spend only 6% of their ad budget on it,” says Hunter Madsen, former Marketing Director Yahoo Canada, and now VP Digital Media, Canwest Publishing. Forrester Research estimates North Americans spend 20-30% of their media consumption time in digital channels, yet they estimate that ad agencies on average spend 12% of budgets on digital media. That imbalance is changing, and nowhere is this more evident than through social media. Social media is simply content that people connect to and want to pass along to their friends. When you truly connect with people by inspiring them, making them laugh or cry, or think about things differently, an amazing thing happens – readers take on the role of marketers and spread the word. Trusting a friends recommendation or creating a buzz are all things marketers have aimed for in the past, but now we have new tools at our disposal. Enter The Age of Conversation.

One of the best books I have read to get a clear understanding of possibility from the front lines of social media is The Age of Conversation, and most recently the November 2008 release of The Age of Conversation 2. In 2007, what began as a half dare, the editors, Gavin Heaton and Drew McLellan challenged bloggers around the world to contribute one page — 400 words — on the topic of “conversation”. The resulting book, The Age of Conversation, brought together over 100 of the world’s leading marketers, writers, thinkers and creative innovators in a ground-breaking and unusual publication.

Now, in 2008, the effort has been re-doubled with the publishing of The Age of Conversation 2. Asking the hard question – why don’t they get it? – 237 authors respond to the changing marketing landscape.  They explain that gone are the top-down, command and control messages that held sway through the 20th Century. In are a raft of new techniques that start with listening, responding and action that set the scene for a continuing and evolving dialog about brands, experience, business and community. This is an insiders view from leading bloggers worldwide.

And in the spirit of conversation, you can follow-up and extend your interest in the topics covered in the book at the Age of Conversation blog — www.ageofconversation.com.

All the proceeds from the sale of the book (less printing and shipping) go to Variety, the Children’s Charity. You can order it online (through a print on demand system) http://stores.lulu.com/ageofconversation which in my case, with the basic shipping option arrived by FedEx in 8 days (5 business days) from North Carolina, to Vancouver, BC. They warn it could take a lot longer, but I was too cheap to go with the more expensive delivery options offered, and in the end was pleasantly surprised at how quickly it arrived. You can also download a digital copy for less and have it immediately. It is not available in stores.

The book itself, a cause based collaborative effort from authors all over the globe, utilizing      digital on demand printing, online sales, and advertised only through online social media is at its essence indicative of how much the internet and social media have caused change. Check it out.

Mary Charleson

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