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Entering the exciting era of ‘masspersonal’ communications

OK, I’ve turned into a complete geek. Got a few hours of rare free time — and I’m reading a lengthy white paper called Who Says What to Whom on Twitter by a team of researchers from Yahoo!

Beyond talking about Twitter, authors Shaomei Wu, Wingter A. Mason, Jake M. Holman and Duncan J. Watts do a great job of explaining how technology is transforming mass and interpersonal communication.

They point out how mass communication has proliferated with new channels such as cable TV, satellite radio, specialist book and magazine publishers, blogs, online communities and social news sites. Meanwhile, the traditional mass audience which relied on limited info sources such as network TV “has fragmented into many smaller audiences, each of which increasingly selects the information to which it is exposed, and in some cases generates the information itself.”

“In the opposite direction, interpersonal communication has become increasingly amplified through personal blogs, email lists, and social networking sites to afford individuals ever-larger audiences,” the researchers write. “Together, these two trends have greatly obscured the historical distinction between mass and interpersonal communication, leading some scholars to refer instead to ‘masspersonal’ communications.”

The white paper’s introduction goes on to state that Twitter exemplifies this change. The Top 10 most-followed on Twitter are individuals, not corporations or media organizations. After that comes bloggers, authors, journalists, subject-matter experts… Then, corporations, media organizations, governmental entities…

“And finally, Twitter is primarily made up of many millions of users who seem to be ordinary individuals communicating with their friends and acquaintances in a manner largely consistent with traditional notions of interpersonal communications,” they write.

Bottom line for me: There is tremendous opportunity for those of us in public relations and communications to make a huge difference for our employers and the causes we support. We can connect like never before to make a positive difference. Even if we are a bit of a geek at times!

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  1. April 4, 2011 at 6:11 am

    Good stuff, Mike! It’s a great thing that we all now have more individualized access to people and businesses than ever before. And, I love that it’s permission-based; we still get to choose whom we want to follow.

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