Twenty-first century media is global, social, ubiquitous and cheap and has transferred to an amateur media environment where the ‘audience’ are now full participants (Clay Shirky, 2010). What Shirky is describing is a move away from traditional media and communications practice, that was structured around the principle of control.

Traditionally, key corporate messages were distributed from business via accepted channels (ie: fax, telephone, Beta tapes and more recently email) staffed by professional communicators and media production specialists towards a new media reality where the focus is on convening groups of supporters, not controlling them with a single crafted corporate message ‘pushed’ through the mainstream corporate media entities of print, broadcast and online.

While these professional journalism, media structures and corporate hierarchies still exist and prosper, thanks to technological advances in computers, mobile telephony and new media, they also exist alongside not only each other but new social media platforms which enable an entirely new style of conversation, consumption and participation.

According to Outlook, Australian’s were the highest consumers of social media globally in 2009.
Neilsen‘s global media report released in July 2010, also reported Australian’s had the highest global average of social media engagement at seven (7) hours per month, visiting communities of interest ie:sport and parenting sites.

So how do Australian’s engage with social media in these communities?

I am currently researching both corporate, player and fan engagement in the online rugby community.

What I have discovered so far:

  • ARU uses Facebook and Twitter as a sales and PR space. Fan engagement is juvenille although it incorporates into the design other platforms such as Youtube and yfrog.
  • Of the state unions, the ACT Brumbies seem to be the only ones to understand the two-way (dialogic) and interactive nature of social media.
  • Only a handful of high profile athletes Tweet (although every now and then a new one sneaks tentatively online and calls out for help – which is GREAT to see – because that’s exactly what the social media platform is about: engagement. Although they tend to talk to each other or other high profile sporting professionals across the sports (league and swimming), rather than directly with fans.
  • Hardly any players utilise facebook for individual ‘brand me’ or ‘me inc’ development
  • Current management are not engaged, although past Australian coaches and management have / are developing strong online expert profiles and embracing the new and social media technologies.

By Tiffanny Junee

Tiffanny has a background in strategic integrated marketing and media communications. Her most recent projects include: Digital Media Academy - a 24/7 personal digital mentor @home @work @school @play Our School Online - a social justice start up embedding equity into the new NSW curriculum. Tiffanny lectures in Social Marketing, Crisis Communications, Social Issues Marketing and Leadership Communications @SydneyUni. A former editor and rugby union journalist, Tiffanny is always writing. Her current multi-platform projects include Australian-based generational thriller 'The Point' (think Thorn birds meets Mission Impossible).