At this point i can almost hear the industry going: "We have millions of pounds of research, focus groups and marketing telling us how to functionalitize this socmed thing!" And yes, hypothetical suit guys, you do, and that's why you've got no idea how to deal with it. And also, is 'functionalitize' even a word?
So, here is an example of what i'm talking about:
The gap between the story about a religious group and it's plan to advertise its 'gay cure' message on london buses appearing on Twitter, and Transport for London announcing via their official twitter that the ads would be pulled, was less than two hours. Twitter broke the story (via links to the Guardian website among others), allowed an instant response from the LGBT community, and was the medium which TFL used to announce the situation's resolution.
How's that for consumer feedback engagement?
On the internet, and on Twitter especially (other social media services are available), you don't need focus groups, you just need to be following the right keywords, #tags, and the right people. The focus groups create themselves, and they're free to utilise.
Activists use Twitter because it doesn't just democratise their voice, it anarchises it. They are the thought leaders, and they are the people the industry and governing bodies need to emulate if they're going to engage with social media properly. The beauty is, they're already there, engaging with each other and anyone else who wants to join the conversation.
I am Not A Proper Journalist and therefore can't speculate on how many newsdesks called Mayor Boris Johnson on thursday afternoon asking for a statement, but that's the point. I don't need to be, i just watched the story scroll down my screen as it happened on Twitter. Once i read about it in the newspapers the next morning, it really was yesterday's news.