Wanted: A TRP-like barometer of social media traction

When you start composing poetic stanzas on Twitter after being one of its most powerful critics, and to be fair, not without cause, it’s a symptom of the influence of the medium. As the Internet penetration under the now ‘proselytised’ Kapil Sibal gets deeper, here’s how the social media is set to change the way we operate in the new year and beyond.

Breaking News: Reporters of most news organisations will increasingly prefer the social media as their first target audience. Not only because it’s faster. A tweet doesn’t have to be vetted. Tweeting is the new synonym for thinking aloud. It’s minus the filter. Minus the Editor. You are the Editor. And there lies the rub. As users, if we can twiddle our thumbs on our phones with a simple hashtag and discover every nugget of information about everything happening in the world, and it’s free, ‘Yeh Dil Nahin Maange More’.

The Press Conference: What’s that? Journalism students of the future may have this covered in their History lessons. Say what you have to with a simple tweet, or perhaps do a short video message and post the link, and your job is done without having to answer irrelevant or uncomfortable questions. ‘No Comments’ can be banished to the museum. In a couple of years, the press conference will become redundant.

Election Campaigns: Canvassing and promises, attacks and rebuttals will be crafted on Twitter and Facebook. It’s a different form of crowdsourcing at play as opposed to only the biriyani and booze and cash incentives to show up at rallies. And if voters are bribed through envelopes ensconced with the morning newspapers, how hard will online cash transfers be? But candidates will still have miles to go after they tweet.

Investigations & Media Trials: Well before, during and after ‘the nation wants to know’ inquisitions on super prime time shows, the ‘aam admi’ will tear into the character of persons accused of crimes, dissect responses, if any, and fast track pronouncements of guilt too. You can’t bribe this medium. Neither can you control it, influence it, reason with it or condemn it. Got an expose? Put it out on the social media and watch it mutate and spread like a forest fire.

Movie Reviews: The preview theatres may still host select journalists but those star ratings will no longer influence the average movie goer. My gut feel is that the ‘see it for myself’ (whether first day, first show or later) inspired reviews of the common fan are what filmmakers and actors will be more concerned about. A running commentary or casual criticism during the intermission may be more damaging.

Product & Services Feedback: 360-degree internal assessments will be passé. For products and services, the assessors will be invisible, unsparing and vocal. And it will all be in the public domain. A happy customer’s word will carry more weight than parroted tag lines of a celebrity brand ambassador.

Social Activism: There will be no need for ads appealing for help for that unaffordable heart surgery or text messages for this or that blood group or placards and marches championing a cause. Tweet it, ask handles with those blue tick marks to retweet and you will get the word out faster and with a punch.

Public Grievances: Petitions, long queues at grievance meets and personal interaction with officials will gradually be phased out. Complaints and suggestions through tweets and posts will be acted upon hopefully with more alacrity.

Brand Building: No corporate communication team is now without social media experts. While advertising budgets may not take a hit just yet, we are getting there as you can’t compete forever with free publicity. Like TRPs for channels and ABC circulation data for newspapers, an industry acceptable barometer of social media traction will soon emerge.

Hiring, Firing & Resigning: Skype and Google Hangouts will slowly become an alternative or additional campus placement tool. Ditto for the unpleasant task of letting people go.

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