Who out there wouldn’t want to be the next Oprah Winfrey? She’s turned her long-running television show into a media empire. And when Oprah speaks, people of all ages, races, cultures, and religions listen. She knows how to connect with people in ways that moves them to laugh, cry, march, vote, and buy stuff. In fact, her book club has made bestsellers out of just about every book she recommends on her show. So you might think someone like her wouldn’t need to use social media to reach people. And with millions of people watching her daily I’d guess she probably doesn’t. But that didn’t stop her from doing just that.
I have to admit I haven’t caught Oprah’s show much in recent years, but I know the book club is very successful. So I was surprised to receive an e-mail on Oprah’s behalf from the folks at Skype, an eBay company that makes software allowing you to use your Internet connection to make calls to anyone in the world. The e-mail invited me (and hundreds of thousands of others no doubt) to join Oprah and author Eckhart Tolle as they teach a 10-week online interactive course based on Oprah’s latest book club selection, Tolle’s A New Earth. But after thinking it over, this move makes a great deal of sense and provides some great lessons to anyone trying to understand the impact the Web can have on how we communicate with each other.
Although she’s capable of reaching millions of people every day with her show, it’s still only one-way communication. And only a small number of people can sit in the audience, where there’s a possibility of limited interactions with Oprah and her guests. But it appears that Oprah really wanted to connect with her audience in a more intimate, meaningful way in sharing her passion for Tolle’s book. So instead of her usual approach, she will be holding these interactive sessions on her Website, using Skype’s technology to allow attendees to send in questions via Skype’s video call functionality. She’s also encouraging attendees to collaborate with each other to get ready for the upcoming week’s lesson.
What’s great about this is how Oprah is teaching us all how important it is to use the Web to go beyond our usual way of communicating. To embrace technology that helps us share information and experiences, where everyone involved is actively participating in the conversation. And you don’t have to be Oprah to do this, as individuals and small businesses can use Skype and other inexpensive services to reach a wider audience in a more collaborative way to really connect with those they wish to build relationships with.
Even if you don’t read the book, Oprah’s lesson in using social media to meaningfully reach greater numbers of people is worth checking out. After all, she does know a thing or two about the media.
Brent Leary’s column on business technology appears weekly at BlackEnterprise.com. His blog can be