Review by Linda VandeVrede
Now that Twitter and Facebook have been around for several years, the ability to communicate with strangers and mobilize crowds seems an accepted form of crowd communication. Younger generations who are extremely good at texting have emerged as so-called “thumb tribes.” Yet as these voices continue to emerge, some corporations are still fearful of these public conversations and their implications.
Angelo Fernando’s new book, “Chat Republic,” provides an overview of social media, including how it has evolved and continues to be a work in progress. It acknowledges that social media poses a threat to those who once controlled the conversations that took place within and without an organization. It acknowledges that social media has challenged traditional ingrained ideas about marketing and management, with some taking to it with abandon, some approaching it with a measurement of decorum, and some sniping from the sidelines without partaking. Angelo reminds us to consider communities in terms of what gets shared, not how. He points out that conversations between humans are inherent in our society; even FDR had “fireside chats” that made listeners feel as if they were participating, even through a one-way radio medium.
This citizen journalism scenario is messy but informed. This is not a bad payoff, Angelo observes. The hoi polloi, rather than a filter, decides on which media they will believe. Citizen journalism isn’t merely reactive now. It is becoming more proactive, where people proactively seek stories that interest them and share them with others.
Chat Republic is full of examples of times through world history when people have networked around monolithic authorities in small clusters, from homeless groups decades ago to the Middle East most recently. Still, there is a discrepancy in how people view social media. “There are those who see social media…as a transparency filter to let the sunlight in. There are also those who decry it as a lever that unlocks the floodgates to an unwanted stream of information and/or trouble.” The positives are that it improves trust and reputation. This is the new face of PR, crisis management and advocacy.
One of Angelo’s interviewees observes that people’s habit for deep reading has eroded: “Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a jet ski.”
If you ever wanted a view of how social media has changed us for good, this is the book. Best of all, the data presented is multi-cultural, a welcome change from the American-centric view of social media that dominates most books. Angelo’s book is full of tips and case studies about how these concepts have been implemented effectively. I’ve always been impressed with his ability to pull in examples from all walks of life, and analyze the hoi polloi response to social media.
(Disclosure – Angelo was part of the group blog Valley PR Blog, with whom I blogged from 2007-2010, and I am one of the many people interviewed for and quoted in the book).
Picture Copyright: Adam Nollmeyer