Jan 19, 2011  |  Today's News

Note: A free webinar is available tomorrow, Thursday the 20th at 10:30am central time, to anyone interested in learning more about social media. To participate, you’ll need a computer connected to the internet and a telephone line to listen to the audio. Go to to register.

Ask an internet holdout why he or she isn’t using social media yet and you’ll probably get a slew of answers. Talk about it long enough, though, and the conversation will undoubtedly turn to what’s presumed as a fact: people that use the internet and social media are really social morons in real life.

Stop the presses. A recent survey proves that just the opposite is true. There is a correlation between internet (including social media) usage and community engagement. As it turns out, the more active you are in online conversations, the more likely you are to be active in “real life” conversations.


Four out of five Internet users participate in some kind of group in the “real” world, compared with just 56 percent of those who don’t use the Internet regularly, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project. Those figures rise to 82 percent for users of social networks, and to 85 percent for users of Twitter — in other words, being social online makes it more likely you will be social offline as well.

The report also indicates that those who are members of groups and associations say the Internet has had a major impact on their ability to communicate with and stay connected to other members of those groups, and to stay informed about the group’s activities. (That is certainly the case for you, Mr/Ms Reader, since you received this communication from an association via the oldest version of social media: email.)

As I wrote recently in an editorial for Pioneer’s Growing Point magazine:

“Although observers have touted farmers as rapid adopters of technology, their adoption of social media has lagged behind the curve for many reasons. But at what price? It’s difficult to put a dollar figure on the costs or benefits of individual farmers participating in social media. But the absence of a voice from the farm is conspicuous, given that many conversations about you are going on without you.

There are discussions about atrazine, organic farming, ethanol, vegetarian lifestyles, farm subsidies... you name it, the conversation is taking place. In too many cases, there’s no farmer providing a farm perspective.

The conclusions of these conversations are predictable, but we may not realize their potential impacts are far-reaching. These same conversations move to the Facebook pages of elected officials. Hollywood stars tweet their vegan lifestyle. Cable news makes a reporter out of whoever posted the latest video on YouTube.”

Bottom line? You can’t afford to ignore new ways of sharing information, having conversations, and impacting decisions. The cost is your eventual irrelevance.