Real-time Internet Is More Than a Fad, Says Yomego

With "real-time Internet" becoming the latest industry buzz, social media agency Yomego argues that this is more than just a passing fad and that organisations of all types should be alive to the new risks and opportunities the trend is creating.

Real-time internet is defined as material that is literally published in real time using social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed, Yauba and jabber, meaning there is virtually no delay between the material being composed and then published online.

Between the major platforms, it is estimated that between three and four hundred million people currently use some aspect of the real time Internet. Some companies have already realised the huge opportunity this audience offers to turn participation in the real time Internet into genuine financial gain.

Steve Richards, Managing Director of Yomego, explains: "US computer maker Dell is a perfect example. In 2007, Dell set up @DellOutlet on Twitter, offering followers a mixture of exclusive news and money off promotions. The money off promotions are always time specific. From the Point Dell Tweet an offer, followers will usually have at most a few hours to make a purchase. The account has been a huge success and, between October 2008 and June 2009, Dell generated in excess of $3 million in revenue."

But the real-time Internet is also helping to democratise information and as a result seriously damaging those political regimes who want to control their populations. Steve Richards cites demonstrations in Iran in the wake of the recent Iranian elections as a case in point: "Until recently, the Iranian authorities have been able to exercise tight control over traditional media inside Iran. But with platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube offering users the opportunity to upload and transmit information instantaneously, we've seen the authorities in Iran losing control. The real time nature of these platforms has allowed protestors to circumvent state control and to arrange meetings, share information and get the word out to the outside world."

Real-time Internet can also do real damage to the commercial prospects of certain organisations if they get a bad write-up. Steve Richards points to cinema releases, where opening weekends can make or break a film, as a prime example: "'Bruno', the latest film from Sacha Baron Cohen for instance did really well on its opening day at the US box office, grossing $14.4 million and prompting Universal Pictures to predict that the film should reach $50 million in sales over its opening weekend. But the following day's sales dropped by almost 40%. The reason? Some of the film's content set the Twitterverse alight on the Friday evening, with large groups of the first night audience, including gay and lesbian groups, being less than positive about it. The mass review on Twitter persuaded a huge number of cinemagoers not to go and see the film."

Steve Richards argues that this particular example of the huge impact the so-called "Twitter effect" can have should serve as a salutary lesson: "If organisations aren't already paying close attention to how they should be engaging with the real-time Internet, they need to start doing so and quickly. Otherwise, it could cost them money, credibility or even their brand."

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