New technologies are great, they allow people to do things quicker and faster, to communicate with people at the other side of the world for free, to explore, investigate and research. As human beings we have access to more information than ever before and as a result our expectations have changed irreversibly – we want something and we want it now!
When we read about new technologies it is usually the announcement of a new gadget, most recently the latest iPhone(s), but what is often missing from these reports is the benefit to these tools. What do they do? What can they achieve? How do they impact on the everyday life of the person using them?
As PR professionals we can get lost in the business of these technologies. How can they be used for brands, how will they add value to a campaign and what return on investment will they deliver for the client? Will they go viral, be shared and raise the profile of a product? Will they result in an award winning stunt that will hit the headlines for all the right reasons?
Whilst having a conversation with a colleague who works with the Girl Guiding Association in Warwickshire, we got onto the subject of new technologies and social media forums and how they impact on young people. We were simply discussing the immediacy of everything and the need for people to think before they commit to communicating with the world.
We then digressed and started to discuss our own hobbies and what we like doing. In a complete contrast to anything that would have appealed to the ‘teenage me’ I mentioned that I had taken up knitting and crochet. Now before you fall over yourself laughing I will explain. I find it very hard to switch off – my brain doesn’t have an off button and my mind is constantly active. I think about new business ideas, plans for campaigns, what I need to do next week, what I have to discuss tomorrow, how many weeks it is until Christmas (*groan*) and so forth, it’s a never ending cycle and I don’t mind admitting it’s tiring.
I decided therefore to give crochet and knitting a go. I used to knit when I was really young and haven’t considered or really thought about it since. My colleague Emma then mentioned a group at The Ridings Shopping Centre who have a Knit and Natter session – what an amazing idea!
Although I don’t have chance to go to the group, I did think that there must be something in the idea of taking some time out and creating a scarf, some gloves, a tea cosy or simply just weaving together row upon row of beautiful coloured yarn. And so I tried it and I’m hooked!
Getting back to the conversation, I was explaining to the lady in question that I had started knitting and doing crochet and she asked me if I had learnt from a relative or if I was self taught. It then struck me that new technologies aren’t all about young people, they aren’t all about communicating in real time and they aren’t all about immediacy – you see I am using YouTube to learn crochet and it’s great.
By simply logging on to the many, many sites that exist, I am able to follow the instructions and see exactly what is going on. I find the steps difficult to follow in books as I can’t see exactly what is happening but using YouTube I can literally follow and ‘rewind’, follow and ‘rewind’.
Later that very same night I was catching up with some old school friends that I hadn’t seen for years on Facebook and noticed that someone I used to go to college with had uploaded an image of a crochet scarf – a very good one I have to admit. I commented and ‘liked’ her work, sharing on my feed. Her response; “I’ve only just started to crochet – I’m learning everything I can from YouTube.”
The moral of this story – new mediums aren’t just for business, they can be for pleasure too. For those of you, who like me, often think about how a social tool can be used to best practice for a brand, perhaps it’s time we thought more about the user experience – what would we want to get out of a technology?
Not everything is about speed. Sometimes we need to take a step back and think about how something can add value, even in the strangest of circumstances. If someone had told me three years ago that I would be using YouTube for crochet I would have laughed but I now have a relaxing hobby that I love and I don’t mind admitting my next tutorial is for a flower with layered petals!