I heard some sad news last night. Tom Walkinshaw, the former Jaguar sportscar boss and manager of the Benetton, Ligier and Arrows F1 teams, died of cancer. He was 64.
I heard this news through a number of my racing contacts posting status updates on Facebook. As soon as I read the “RIP” messages I immediately went on to the BBC F1 site to find out more information. Nothing. I then went on to ESPN F1. Nothing. ITV. Nothing. The official Formula 1 site. Nothing.
I then decided to turn to trusty old Google. The only thing that came up offering any information was the rolling Twitter feed. The only website that had been updated was Wikipedia. It was several hours before any official news sources were published.
Now, I know the late Mr Walkinshaw was hardly the most well-known person in the world and I’m sure that if it has been somebody like the Queen, the entire world would have come to a standstill in minutes.
Still, the fact that it was only social networking sites that picked this up just goes to show the potential power they have now and the speed at which they can deliver messages globally through viral means.
I can just imagine the poor grieving Mrs Walkinshaw holding her husband’s hand in the hospital whilst updating her Facebook status with the other. And changing her relationship status from “Married” to “It’s complicated”.
It also highlights how big these sites have become in everyday life. Rather than picking up the phone or writing a long winded email, people are just picking up their iPhone, logging on to Facebook or Twitter and posting short messages (under 140 characters obviously). So the key is, if you want to get your message out there fast, Tweet it.
And finally, I am aware that my last two Datapartners blogs have involved people dying so to cheer things up a bit I’d like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!