By Matt Howes, Director of Technology, Media Matters for America
Remember when the webmaster did everything from graphic design to information architecture and content writing? Those days are long gone: Creating a website, which used to be a weekend project by the president’s niece, has become a large endeavor involving various vendors and consultants. I believe that we will soon see a class of web 2.0 and social networking experts emerge and offer their services as these new tools gain prominence.
Wikipedia is one place where consultants could shortly play a supporting role for issue organizations. It has become a great resource and many people are flocking to it on a daily basis. However if you, as a well-meaning representative of an organization, try to inject your side into the debate, your edits might be summarily deleted and you may be accused of violating Wikipedia rules in quite harsh terms. Instead of spending the months necessary to build credibility and then inserting yourself into the debate, why not hire an expert Wikipedian to fight the battles for you? As Wikipedia becomes more mainstream as a reference source, there might be substantial benefits from helping ensure it frames the debate in a truly balanced manner (and presents your organization’s critical information, of course).
How about Digg? I thought one organization I was working with was getting great traffic from Digg, in part due to highly placed users who seemed to really like our stuff. But then we were approached by a high profile Digg user and asked to work out a reward for future links (i.e. he wanted to get paid for linking to us). We deferred since it violates Diggs terms of service, but our opponents might not be so ethical.
With the rise of MySpace and Facebook, it will only be a matter of time before there are Facebook consultants who can develop and implement a comprehensive Facebook strategy for organizations and campaigns. Will there be conferences for Orkut experts to exchange best practices?
In systems where expert users have significant knowledge or control in comparison to newcomers, I guess it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that these amateur experts might want to get some money out of it by becoming consultants. The good side of this transition is that we will be able to hire experts to take on new campaigns instead of learning it all ourselves and making newbie mistakes. The downside is that it will be another cost to worry about, another consultant/vendor to evaluate.
Oh well. For now I’m having fun learning the ropes and hope to hold off on sending out an RFP for a MySpace campaign for as long as I can. And I’ll keep my eye out for a good Second Life consultant....
Matt Howes is Director of Technology at Media Matters for America, a progessive media monitoring organization with more than 50,000 website visitors a day. This article represents his personal thoughts, not a Media Matters position. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.