In 2008, if you didn’t have plenty of Facebook friends your opinion wasn’t worth listening to. “Just putting that out there…”
In 2008 I first started looking into the possibilities of regaining control of Flying Nun Records, later some of the first new recordings that I began to fall in love with were that which were to become the basis of Die! Die! Die!’s album FORM. It took a bit of wrangling, and half a year after re-purchasing the label, to get the record out but the desire to release an album of genuine and unique merit became a major factor in the push to make Flying Nun a proper functioning label again.- Roger Shepherd
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Track of the Year by Records
Social Media. Most New Zealanders were engaging with it in 2008, many without knowing it. To most of us, this just meant talking to each other online through sites like Bebo, Facebook, Twitter, blog comments and on forums. Often we weren’t even considering these conversations public – and certainly not influential. Sometimes we ended up wishing they weren’t public – other times we were amazed to recognize our growing power as Kiwi consumers.
2008 was the year that our habit of nattering with other New Zealanders online was given a name. We’d been enjoying the way the Internet eradicates distance and enables us to find like-minds to communicate with since 1998, but until the mid ‘00s no one had bothered to single it out by giving it a name.
By the end of 2008, we’d not only know the term ‘Social Media’, but we’d also have a legion of locals calling themselves ‘Social Media gurus’ or ‘experts’ on social network sites such as Twitter. In mid-2008, the site was the 605th most popular among Kiwis, by early 2009 it was 39th.
This massive growth in popularity was fueled both by the (self) promotion of these tools by (self-ascribed) experts and by the growing use of Twitter by real celebrities. Launched in 2006, Twitter had grown like any successful social network site – in a snowball fashion, from early adopters in the USA down to New Zealand and from geeks to everyday folk. Where once the top Twitter user was a Silicon Valley techie, by the end of 2008 it was a Hollywood celeb.
Twitter was far from being the first Social Media tool. It was merely the first to be used as often for talking about itself as for talking about anything else. Love it or hate it, there was no denying the power of Social Media in some arenas by the end of the year.
There were two elections that Kiwis followed closely online in 2008 – our own and the US Presidential race. In 2008, both were predictably digital affairs with substantial coverage by both traditional online media and citizen journalists.
More interesting than the use of the Internet for coverage, was the influence the Internet had on the outcome of at least one of these. Obama stormed the Whitehouse claiming it was time for ‘change’. It was also apparently the time for Social Media to be harnessed to help realise this change.
Obama’s campaign stood out a digital mile from his opponents for its use of online marketing. Nothing technologically fancy, just the use of the right tools to put the right people in contact. In fact, Obama’s website was downright low-fi in many respects and pushed people to get off the Internet and canvas on the phone and, in many cases, in person. A stand-out feature allowed supporters to download a ‘phone tree’ list. This ensured that people weren’t contacted twice, supplying helpful tips on what to say – but keeping contact via the more personal phone call rather than asking friends to spam friends on Obama’s behalf.
In New Zealand, candidates were testing the Social Media waters but not to the same degree. Media outlets such as the NZ Herald let us follow them on Twitter for updates and candidates blogged away, but despite the election, the Internet was not the agent of transformation when Labour’s nine-year reign came to an end.
It was however transforming local businesses. Or at least giving them a kick in the pants.
While it seemed that many of us had learnt the term ‘Social Media’ by the end of 2008, or at least were feeling that the balance of power was tilting more towards us as consumers, some businesses hadn’t got the message.
Waiwera Water asked a slightly controversial question of its followers on Facebook, “Please tell me why you, or anyone you know, would buy a bottle of [competitor X]” and were surprised that the responses weren’t entirely in their favour. To one particularly unfavorable response, they replied, “Do you think that if you made more constructive comments on Facebook fan pages that you might, perhaps, have more than one Facebook friend? Just putting it out there...”. If only they had stopped there it wouldn’t have turned into the kind of epic Social Media fail that bloggers and eventually mainstream media would love to report on.
With incidents like this starting to become more common, Kiwis were seeing that our tweets, blogs, comments and likes were adding up to an influence over brands and businesses that we hadn’t experienced before. Which promptly gave rise to the Social Media Expert or Guru (SMEG) who, if you followed them on Twitter, would be happy to tell you how your business could make a success, not a mess, of Social Media in only 140 characters (x50 a day).
Cisco’s Connected Consumer survey finds that Kiwi broadband users spend an average of 22 hours a week online, compared to 14 hours watching TV.
Social Media didn’t have a large influence on who was elected to Government in 2008, but for those in the Government’s Civil Service, it was the year that the questions of how they should communicate through these channels was being more actively experimented with – and controlled. The State Services Commission launched an E-Govt blog that came with guidelines for how civil servants should behave online. As is their nature, they complied.
While civil servants were getting the message about what state affairs they could and could not talk about online, some members of the public were still ignorant or flaunting the laws in 2008. As early as 2000, when an American billionaire was caught bringing marijuana into New Zealand and had his name suppressed, the Internet had been the go-to place to find out who was behind the asterixes.
In 2008, in the case of a murdered 14-year old boy, the Judge issued an Internet-only suppression order – fearing that jurors would be able to ‘Google’ the case. Television and print media were still allowed to carry the details as they were seen to be less easily searched and less likely to permanently impact on an innocent accused’s reputation. A compliment dressed in failure for the Internet.
At the same time as many businesses were learning about social media - our children were beginning to learn through social media as teachers began to incorporate it into their lesson plans to keep the digital natives attentive.
2007 through to today, would see an increasing number of local business conferences focusing on Social Media. By 2010, this buzz would peak with the formation of chapters of the international Social Media Club, first in Auckland and then in Wellington.
In the intervening years, the iPhone – launched officially through Vodafone in 2008 – would be the defining device for the move of Social Media from the desktop out into the places where we actually lived. Soon, nowhere was to be safe from the irate tweet of a disgruntled customer.
Tomorrow: Who stormed the grounds of Parliament in 2009 and what were they demanding?