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Shel Israel – He’s Been There and Done It!

Shel Israel was there at the begin­ning and he’s got some inter­est­ing views on where social is going to go.

Writer, com­mu­ni­ca­tions expert, blog­ger and social media pro Shel has been help­ing busi­ness­es tell their sto­ries for more than 30 years –start­ing as a print reporter before mov­ing into tech PR in Sil­i­con Val­ley. Once the web had land­ed he moved into rep­re­sent­ing online start ups and helped more than 100 launch. If you’re inter­est­ed in media jobs you could learn a thing or two from Shel.

Born in 1944, Shel attend­ed both Boston and North­east­ern Uni­ver­si­ties, before mov­ing into print jour­nal­ism. Before long the lure of Sil­i­con Val­ley proved too much to resist and in the mid 1980s Shel found­ed SIPR, a com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pa­ny spe­cial­iz­ing in tech­nol­o­gy start ups. How­ev­er, Shel always has his eye on the next big thing and he rec­og­nized the poten­tial of the World Wide Web, when it arrived. He quick­ly shift­ed SIPR’s atten­tions to online start ups and rep­re­sent­ed some of the biggest pio­neers in cyber­space, includ­ing Sun Microsys­tems, Dell, CNET and Intel.

What’s Shel Isre­al About?

Shel is all about giv­ing com­pa­nies a voice with­in the social media land­scape. He believes that too many oper­a­tions stride into the social melee and act like they’ve got a vir­tu­al mega­phone, post­ing every­where and any­where, blog­ging like it’s going out of fash­ion and tweet­ing until they just can’t tweet any more, but that’s not the way for­ward accord­ing to Israel, who prefers a more con­sid­ered approach.

“Social media was about con­ver­sa­tions,” said Shel. “And that risks being lost amidst cor­po­ra­tions’ push to use it as a mega­phone. Make sure it’s [con­tent] inter­est­ing and use­ful to the audi­ence, and that you’re pas­sion­ate about what­ev­er you’re creating.”

He’s a big advo­cate of blogs too and even has his own – Glob­al Neigh­bor­hoods – but he feels that the medi­um that has been derid­ed by mar­keters is in dan­ger of get­ting out of con­trol, mak­ing it impos­si­ble for audi­ences to find the gems hid­den among the trash.

“Mar­keters orig­i­nal­ly dis­dained blogs,” he said. “They were too row­dy, too anti-estab­lish­ment. Now they’ve got­ten with the social media pro­gram and are try­ing to embrace and con­trol it.

“Right now,” he says, “blogs are over­whelm­ing­ly in dan­ger of becom­ing crap. As with any mass medi­um, the sheer quan­ti­ty is mak­ing it hard to locate the qual­i­ty purveyors.”

What Does He Propose?

As a social com­men­ta­tor Shel has no short­age of sug­ges­tions on the way he thinks social will go.

“We live in a Face­book era,” he states. “You can’t be social if you don’t go where the peo­ple are. How­ev­er, that may change over time.

He describes it as ‘Moore’s Law in reverse’:  “The peri­od of any one company’s dom­i­nance is shrink­ing. The half-life keeps short­en­ing. IBM had it for 40 years, Microsoft for 20 years, Google for 10 years, and now it’s the era of Facebook.”

He firm­ly believes that at some point a net­work will come along that will under­mine Face­book. The social behe­moth will see peo­ple leave, not in huge num­bers, but in a slow trickle.

“At some point, there will be a social net­work bet­ter enough so that peo­ple will leave Face­book not in droves, but a lit­tle bit at a time…” he declares con­fi­dent­ly. “It’ll slow­ly get small­er, ad rev­enues will slow­ly go down, and the new one will fig­ure out how to make mon­ey on mobile, which Face­book hasn’t yet done. It will hap­pen soon­er than most peo­ple think.”

But what of his beloved blogging?

“It goes back to sto­ry­telling,” he says. “We live by sto­ries and you can’t tell a sto­ry in 140 char­ac­ter spoonfuls.”

“Blog­ging may become a niche phe­nom­e­non, but it’s still impor­tant. A new medi­um comes along and sucks atten­tion, the way TV sucked atten­tion away from radio, but radio con­tin­ued, adapt­ed, and changed.”

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