Weekly Blog #4: Today’s Online Abundance

Most people would agree that life can be stressful from time to time. For me, I juggle a demanding job (although one that I love), graduate school, my relationship, maintaining our apartment, dealing with family and friends, and a million other things. Mostly, it’s an ongoing balancing act. But regardless of things that can weigh on my mind on a daily basis, I am still a firm believer in the mantra, “work hard, play hard.” One of my favorite things to do to play is to explore and enjoy the city I love, the city I live in: Washington, DC. In particular, I love to try out the new (and even the not so new!) restaurants that the city has to offer.

Luckily for me, the DC restaurant scene has a large online/social media presence and following, as well as experts to provide advice about everything under the sun. I’m going to talk about a few of my favorite websites and online communities (and newly discovered ones as well!) for DC restaurants in a minute, but first let’s talk about what these online communities that are tailored to a specific audience actually are: the first thesis of the Cluetrain Manifesto: niche markets that are… drumroll… conversations! And, according to Chris Anderson, Editor of Wired Magazine, these niche online markets and the quickness in which they are able reach target demographics with never ending material are a big part of what he calls the “long tail.”
 
One of the ways that Anderson describes the concept of the long tail in his book, The Long Tail, that really resonated with me was the idea of “yesterday’s limited choice vs. today’s abundance.” For me, “today’s abundance” can be both a blessing and a curse. For example, before the niche online market existed for people interested in trying out new restaurants in Washington DC, they had a limited choice of traditional reading materials about each, such as the Zagat Survey, the DC City Paper, the Washington Post and Washingtonian Magazine.

In short, making decisions about whether to eat at the new Greek cafe or the new posh (yet traditional) diner in town was simpler because there were only a few outlets providing consumers like me with info on the market at hand. Now, while it is helpful that I can find more information than I would ever need online about the market at hand, sometimes the abundance of info available is overwhelming, occasionally making it difficult to decide what sites to read, what social forums to join, what blogs to follow, what e-newsletters to sign up for and ultimately, which online outlets to most trust as the most credible sources of advice and information (especially when some forums are based on other restaurant goer opinions).

Even in the midst of the information overload, however, I find the online community for my DC restaurant hobby to be fairly helpful (and also fun). Some of my favorite social media/online forums that I visit regularly to help guide me right off the bat are the Washingtonian online (Food and Dining section/Best Bites Blog); Yelp.com, the Washington Restaurant Week website, and Opentable.com. Most, if not all, of these forums are popular on Twitter and Facebook as well. (And Facebook is a prime example of how the the long tail works…)

When I Googled “DC Restaurants,” I was delighted (and also a little dismayed) to discover even more online resources to help fuel my hobby. The abundance continues, but to be honest, I will probably take a look at  least a few of these the next time I am in the mood for a new and improved pasta primavera or toasted marshmallow milkshake: Zagat Buzz, DC Edition; Washington Post Restaurant/Going Out Guide; Washington Menu Pages; DC Foodies Blog and Urban Spoon/Capital Spice Blog. The DC Foodies Blog seems to be one the most well-known voices for the DC Restaurant scene, so I am definitely glad to have found that one.

As for the others, we’ll see if I definitely check them out. The Zagat Buzz piques my interest upon first glance, but I don’t want my hobby to become a PART of my stressful life because there is too much info online to consider! Yes, it appears the tail is longer than ever in my niche market.

So , anyway, as it goes with the other aspects of life I am juggling every day, I suppose I will have to find a balance for this one too.

Until next week –
J

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About Jessie Gillman

This blog was created for my social media class as part of my graduate program in PR and communications at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. In addition to being a grad student, I am a PR/comm professional at Environics Communications where I focus on clean energy/environmental issues, education and women's health. I am also a huge book lover, an avid traveler, a big Philly sports fanatic, and I love Yoga.
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