Learning about social media from an old fart

Now this story might appear a bit crude, but it really happened, and inadvertently provided a wonderful metaphor for understanding new developments in communications, particularly social media.
Picture the scene: my colleague Andy Green is in a busy Edinburgh pub, crowded with delegates from the CIPR Local Public Services Annual Conference, where he was a speaker.
At the end of the evening, Andy and some acquaintances were still talking shop at the bar, with one delegate airing his view that he ‘really didn’t see the significance of this social media thing.’
One senior delegate patiently sought to explain how social media was not just another channel for communication, but required a different mindset. And then, without announcement, surreptitiously, slipped away from the bar.
His new found friend at the conference, an Irish guy then declared in his Dublin brogue: "Someone has farted - and it’s not me!"
Andy reassured him that it genuinely wasn’t him either. The absent friend seemed prime suspect.
The episode instantly provided Andy with a metaphor: "This is how social media is different. You see, normal communications is telling the world what you want to say. Social media, is picking up conversations which may be about you, and may, in many instances not be instigated about you. So, you would not issue a press release for the equivalent of ‘You have just farted’. The fart, however, is a reality for those out there. And is more likely to be picked up as a conversation piece, regardless of your embarrassment.”
He added: "If you’re not out there listening, and appropriately responding you are in danger of living in an artificial, You-Centric world, and not being part of the real conversation. That’s the real difference with this social media thing.”
The metaphor seemed to work in making his new friend understand the different mindset of social media. It’s funny, how an ill-wind can bring new insight.

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