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Month: March 2011

Poetry of the Week: Robin Yassin-Kassab

growlights at work by MissMessie via Flickr“Are you are going to respond warmly to the universe, or not?”

 

the road from DAMASCUS

“Everyone is warm to something, their team or teddy bear or pint glass.” (p. 97)

“But you could feel warmly towards not just one piece, not only sentimentally and a little sarcastically, but towards all of it, towards all reality.” (p. 97)

Robin Yassin-Kassab

 

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Sociology of Google, Facebook and Twitter’s success – and what’s next

molehills by h3_six via FlickrOur utilities have changed beyond recognition

In the last five or is it six or seven years, our lives have been transformed.  In a year or two, we might count banking crises and revolutions and seismic activity in the change.  Right now, I am talking about Google, Facebook and Twitter who have crept into contemporary live as assuredly as TV, running water and phones.

The ubiquity of new internet services and their ready availability to everyone – rich or poor, powerful or disposed – gives them the status of institutions. Google is now a verb.  “Google it!” Facebook is a noun.  “I am a bad Facebooker.”  Twitter has its own vocabulary. “RT” = “retweet”.

The very ubiquity of internet services worry us. They seem to have taken over our lives.

The characteristics of new institutions

But of course, they have taken over our lives.  New utilities scare us because they reflect deep changes in society and our status relative to each other.  That is the point.

New institutions have three characteristics.

  • They bring us together in a forum – in a talking shop – on a massive scale.
  • They provide a “complete world” where everyone and every interest is invited.
  • They allow us to take part in history – indeed they allow us to make history.

Are we about to see even more new institutions emerge?

I have a deep sense that we are going to see changes in these central apps – not necessarily in technology but in whom they serve.

If we want to foresee change, indeed if we want the heady experience of being part of history, we have to  look at the world historically and socially with a keen eye.  Who is included in the “complete world” as of today?  And who is on the sidelines waiting to join in?

When we add a wider range of pressing interests to the mix, where will we see new institutions germinating and sprouting because people are looking for a forum where they can connect ever more widely to make history.

It is not the disaffected that matter so much in the emergence of institutions.  It is who wants to connect more widely.  Who wants to connect where they couldn’t connect before?  Who is genuinely interested in listening to other people who aren’t part of their current existence?

Further reading on the birth of institutions

Barbara Czarniawska.  (2009). Emerging Institutions: Pyramids or Anthills.  Organization Studies 30(4). pp 423-441. (History of the London School of Economics) [Download the full paper following link highlighted in yellow in the middle column]

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Don’t confuse social media for organizing with social media for marketing

Pop appearing from nowhere ny thievingjoker via FlickrPut aside the “one size fits all” view of social media.

I have a proposition –

Social media for marketing is not the same as social media for organizing.

The social media we use in marketing is simply not the same as the social media that we use for organizing a commercial enterprise or, for that matter, a political movement.  It’s time for us to put aside the “one size fits all” view of social media.

First beginnings in social media

As people encounter social media, obviously, they begin at the beginning and they ask:

  • What is social media?
  • How do I get started?

As they progress, they discover Analytics and ask more sophisticated questions.

  • How do I monitor my traffic?
  • How can I gauge my relationship with my customers (or my audience)?

And then, some, but still only some, discover split testing and they ask:

  • How many ways could we lay out this page and which do our customers prefer?

We’d be very pleased if all our projects were running A/B or split tests and if we made our content decisions on the basis of data.

Tailor  social media for business

But, social media does not end with split-testing.  There is another peak and I think it is time social media commentators got together to draw a better map of our terrain.

What assumptions did we make when we asked our questions about social media?

We have more questions to ask.

  • What did we assume when we asked, “How effective are we?”
  • Did we assume, without saying so explicitly, that we want to use social media to sway people to our point-of-view?
  • Did we assume, without saying so explicitly, that we wanted to get as many people as possible to pursue the same call-to-action?

The thinking behind social media and marketing

I’ll put it to you that marketers tend to a view of engaging minimally with people.

Customers, by definition, are “out there” and their main role in our lives is to exchange their money for our goods and services.

Most of the time, though not all of the time, marketers set up quite simple transactions.  Two for a pound, etc.

The thinking behind social media and organizing

Inside the organization, our assumptions are a little different.

In organizations, we come together for a purpose and we create structures that are similar to a computer game.  Newbies are free to join in and level their way up through progressively harder quests.

In commerce, the levels are supposed to be fun and engaging.  But, levels aren’t put there for our amusement.  We have levels to allow people of varying competences to contribute.  We have levels to allow us to recruit and organize a wide variety of skills and experience so that able to achieve a common goal together.

I am not talking about simple gamification here.  A simple game is bingo – exciting to some but an essentially simply structure that has as its role light entertainment.  Marketers can use simple games very well.

Numbers make sense in marketing; they destroy value in organizing

But, when we want to go to the moon, or even sell lollipops, we need a little more.  We don’t need everyone to respond to one call-to-action.  Indeed, when more people than we need respond to a call-to-action, we waste resources.

To give you an example, it is stupid to have a call-to-action that results in 70 people responding to one job advertisement.  Ten will do.  Five qualified responses would be fine.

To give you another example, when I have a problem with coding, I don’t want to read through 50 answers.  I want to go to one place and find the answer within a few searches at the most.

To give you yet another example, when I am working in my office, I don’t want every noobe asking me basic questions.

We need levels.  We need order.  And, we need ways to organize our communications so that people can join in and find their way without a lot of support.

Our task is different from marketing.  They want volume.  It is their job to go outside the organization and extract money from people. It makes sense to do the same simple transaction over and over again. Indeed this is the very essence of commodified businesses.

At best, we are like the high end of marketing where there are customized sales and wide margins. But we are not even that because our output is common purpose.  The efforts of all our participants have to mesh.  They may not understand the whole picture but they won’t stay if the whole picture is not health because we won’t have the resources to keep them leveling up and taking out of the system what they want.

We are not marketers.  We are organizers.

If our social structures are different, it follows our social media will be different.  I think it is time for us to know the difference and to explain the difference to our clients.

We are not marketers.  We are organizers.  And our social media is different.  Marketers need volume.  Organizers need small numbers of people to do different things at the right time in the right order to achieve a common goal.

I think it is time for us to know the difference and to explain the difference to our clients.

 

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