Embracing Today’s Technology: Social Media

Automatic Telegraph Reciever patented by Samuel F. B. Morse, 1837

Automatic Telegraph Receiver patented by Samuel F. B. Morse, 1837 (Creative Commons cliff1066™’s)

“This telephone has too many shortcomings to be considered as a means of communication.  The device is of inherently no value to us.” ~ Western Union internal memo, 1876

Whenever any new technology hits the scene there are always two groups of people:  early adopters and nay-sayers.  And it’s amazing when you read some of the quotes from top industry moguls, especially those to whom the “new” technology poses extinction to their own.

Girl Listening to Radio

Young girl listening to the radio during the Great Depression. 1938 – 1945

“The radio craze will die out in time.” ~ Thomas Edison, American inventor, 1922
“Television won’t last because people will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” ~ Darryl Zanuck, movie producer, 20th Century Fox, 1946

Whether it was skepticism from the telegraph folks over this new “wireless” device (the radio), or nay-saying from the radio and movie folks about the television, or ludicrous claims from IBM et al that computers and fax machines would hold no practical value, the early adopters lead the way to prove them all wrong.  Early adopters are usually very passionate and enthusiastic.  They are great sources to watch and see if this technology is worth the time or cost associated with its use.


Dilbert Strip: 12-10-09

My first job in my new college town was in 1991 at a trucking company.  It was a huge investment for my employer to buy a plain-paper fax machine.  No more curled-up, weird-feeling paper whose image would fade quickly.  This new gadget would even copy another page.  The whole office was in an uproar standing next to it to see how it would print a fax.  Less than twenty years later, as addressed satirically in the Dilbert strip above, the fax machine is considered antiquated.

“Transmission of documents via telephone wires is possible in principle, but the apparatus required is so expensive that it will never become a practical proposition.”
Dennis Gabor, British physicist and author of Inventing the Future, 1962

During that same period of time (1991-1994) one of my co-workers had one of the first “portable” cellular phones, luggage-sized battery shoulder bag and all. (I think his monthly bill was $400.)  To go to Fry’s Electronics and purchase 4MB of RAM (at $100 per MB) and install it into your computer doubled the RAM from 4MB to 8MB was an expensive undertaking with speedy results.

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”
Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

Now those examples today with I-don’t-even-know-how-many-gigabites of RAM in our computers, hand-held computers that also make phone calls, and email seem as humorous as when Barney from Mission Impossible would hide in a computer during one of their infamous heists.

What were the reasons to invest and embrace these new technologies?  It’s simple:  ease of communication.

Now most of them are still in existence and in use, depending upon the venue or audience.  Just as we accept radio waves, televisions, computers, emails, bluetooth file sharing, and video-conferencing as normal means of communication, I think that we should stop listening to the nay-sayers and embrace social media for what it is:  another communication device.

Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter are all ways to reach out to your peers as well as your current and potential clients.  Wherever you have an audience, you should take advantage of its benefits.  What are those?  Meeting new peers in your industry, developing relationships and strengthening existing ones, and learning.  We build relationships, exchange ideas, peer review work, engage in customer service, and laugh a little.  It’s an electronic think-tank.

Think about this:  what company doesn’t have a web page?  It’s rare these days to find one.  It may not be the coolest, flashiest site, but there’s usually some sort of static page that gives the minimum amount of contact information.  We are living in an era where the brand name “Google” has become a verb, both widely accepted and widely used.

When social media sites like Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter are free vehicles for your message, why wouldn’t you use it?

8 thoughts on “Embracing Today’s Technology: Social Media

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