The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in the relations between human beings, and in the end the communicator will be confronted with the old problem, of what to say and how to say it. - Edward R. Murrow
Social Media isn't a silver bullet. Social media isn't your mom. Social Media isn't Warren Buffet. And Social Media has never read a book by Jack Welch.
Nothing fixes everything. Communication is very difficult.
As we move forward, we are apparently increasing in speed and complexity. Social Media tools allow us to add context to the information we are providing. Context takes a mind boggling number of forms. But it is always in context. Information is very rarely in context and when it is always in context it is usually a truism.
The problem with communication ... is the illusion that it has been accomplished. - George Bernard Shaw
Moving from illusion to illumination:
Illusion #1: Social Media is Self Perpetuating
The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate. - Joseph Priestly
Social media is often thought to be self perpetuating. But like the mythical perpetual motion engine, this illusion fails to take into account entropy. Social media is thought to be self-perpetuating because network effects seem to dictate this.
Anyone who tracks a meme on the internet can see that even truly good and original memes have a very short play time in the tennis court of public opinion. We whack the idea back and forth a few times and then let it bounce off into the corner.
Our forms of communication are highly elaborate. Rather than relying on social media to communicate for us, we need to make sure that these enhancements allow us to communicate more. This means that we need to watch the social media spaces we create and participate actively in them.
Make sure that they remain relevant. Make sure that new information is interesting and old information remains findable for future reference. We do this, the software does not.
Illusion #2: Load it and Leave it
The price of greatness is responsibility. - Churchill
You will find these illusions to be mutually supportive. This is often the way it is with illusions. They never come alone and they always have helper illusions to add weight to their infamy.
Illusion #2 is based on a few things that are true about social media. One is that social media tends to create microcultures in which leaders (known as superusers) seem to naturally emerge. The second is that often social media facilitates uses the founders never imagined.
Both of these facts often leads people to the illusion that social media tools can be launched and largely ignored by those that launch them. The community, it is thought, will self manage and the system will grow in bliss.
Anytime you deal with the word "social" you deal with people and their interactions. This is complicated stuff, just ask President Bush.
You are responsible for your social media environment. You need to make sure the culture remains consistent with your original intentions - or that you are comfortable with its meandering. You need to keep up on various turf wars that may develop within the community. You need to make sure the community can mete out justice in the event of injustice. You need to make sure that any systems of reward you have set up remain valid and not hoarded or controlled by a few.
You need to be responsible for your creation.
Illusion #3: Build it and They Will Come
Annie Kinsella: If you build what, who will come?
Ray Kinsella: He didn't say.
- Field of Dreams
We all want to build something great. A network effects command success, don't they?
Network effects occur when a product becomes more valuable as it is used more widely. Telephones are a classic example, where a single phone is useless but every phone added to the network can call every other phone and the number of possible conversations increases exponentially as phones are added. The larger the network grows, the more valuable it becomes.
The thing about network effects is that they create a winner takes all proposition. A larger network is exponentially more valuable than a smaller network, and even a modest difference in size can lead to a great difference in value. Customers buy the computer that has the most software, yet developers write software for the platform that has the most potential customers. -- Motley Fool
Network Effects are the gold rush of the 2000s. We all want to toss out a net, catch a few well connected Scobles, and watch our application go absolutely crazy when all 20 zillion people that the emeshed Scobles bring along show up.
The problem with illusion #3 isn't the tag line. Any more if you build it, they probably will come.
You know what they do next? Yes, they leave.
Why do they leave. Because of the difference between building "it" and building something of value.
Like Ray Kinsella in Field of Dreams, you need to figure out what to build, and then you have to build it right. Yeah, you'll have superusers come out of the corn to try it out. But they actually have to play on your field to get people to stick around.
Your social application needs to be well thought out to provide value and that value needs to be hearty. It needs to stick around for a while. Most social web sites have no enduring value to their customers. They are not "sticky".
What's the best way to be sticky? One, give users tools that will remain relevant for quite some time. Two, constantly improve your site. And three, see Illusion #2.
Illusion #4: Social Media Can Serve any Community Out of the Box
Illusion #5: Social Media is Mature Technology
After growing wildly for years, the field of computing appears to be reaching its infancy. ~John Pierce
If computers were humans, they'd likely be standing, but still holding onto someone's pants leg. Social Media does not come ready to do anything at all, let alone be universally applicable.
Your community is being created, presumably, for a purpose. This purpose gives the community context. If you create a system using generic tools, you will get a generic community which will have no context. No context, no life.
Does this make it sound daunting to start an on-line community or employ social media? Good!
It's all new technology. You'll need to sculpt it to meet your needs.
Blogged at a Blenz Coffee in Yaletown, Vancouver, BC, Canada Using Windows Live Writer