Cranes Today recently launched a LinkedIn group, as part of our new, active and engaged, approach to social media. We’re also building tools on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and other networks. We’ve got a decent initial core of members including crane operators and fleet owners, executives and regulatory experts. I hope this will allow us to engage with readers in a new way.

I started out as a journalist as the web was entering mainstream consciousness. It was then viewed as just an extra way to publish the same material you put out in print. That’s a mistake that still gets made often online and in social media.

But, whatever your business, whether you’re reaching your audience in a magazine or a sales brochure, the internet offers a lot more than just a way to do the same as you were doing in print. Rather than a monologue or soliloquy, it allows you to engage in a conversation.

Sometimes it can be a bit lonely being a journalist. I don’t want to beg too much sympathy or paint a picture of us as film noir hacks, bitterly hammering our typewriters in a solitary cloud of whisky fumes and cynicism (if you’ve met us, you know we’re friendly and pretty cheerful). But often we write articles, send them out or put them online, and don’t find out what anyone else thinks.

We have the same problem when we plan articles or develop our feature list for the year. We have conversations with our contacts and colleagues about what we cover, but we’ll be lucky to talk to a dozen people about what they think.

Figuring out the best way to hold that conversation — how to dedicate resources to it, what tools to use, what to speak about — is difficult. I think we’ve now got a model that will work. We won’t be focussing on social media just as a new way to share what we do in print or on our website, but as a way to build conversations with and between our readers, and to use that as a way to inform what we write.

We’ll be creating spaces for conversation with these tools, but we very much want to make them available to our community of readers and contacts. We’d like to give you ways to connect with your peers, to discuss the industry, to share pictures and videos of the work you’re doing. Zak and I will be inviting comment on our news stories, opinion pieces, and feature articles, and curating interesting material from around the web.

I hope this will generate the same open, frank, interesting discussions we see at trade shows and conferences. When we see something we’d like to share with our readers in print, we’ll ask if that’s OK.

Will North Editor