So is social media social, a waste of time, or what?

Social Media Fatigue

Earlier this week, Umair Haque wrote of his growing despondency with social media. It’s not an uncommon sentiment.  People are learning that social media is a tool that allows us to work and organize in novel ways.  It is not a panacea for all societal ills.  Indeed, like all tools, social media amplifies evil as easily as it amplifies good.

What is social media exactly?

Adrian Chan of Gravity7 sums up the issues better than I can and in suitably formal language.

Social media  “facilitates asynchronous communication between people whose mutual connectedness online can make them present to one another in a fashion that transcends the limitations of physical co-presence. And which, for its capture and storage of that communication in the form of a digital textual artifact, renders this communication in a way that, within the medium only, lends it some persistence and durability. All of which leaves behind content for later use, re-use, recontextualization, and what have you. That’s what it’s good at: mediated communication and interaction.”

In plain language, this means.
  • Social media allows us to talk more easily to more people than we can by phone, email or in person.
  • Our connection online allows us to work on projects together.
  • Social media keeps record of our communication with little effort on our part.
  • We can remix our communication for other purposes.
Social media is just a tool of communication that allows us to interact through digital media.  No more or less.

Why I am fascinated by social media

It’s what we do with social media that is interesting.  And for me, anyway, it is the possibility of ‘pull’ models that is interesting.

But just because we can do interesting things doesn’t mean to say that we do.  Nor does the presence of boring things stop us doing interesting things ~ well not so far.   It is not like work where you can be forced to do dull, useless things all day long.

That is why I am interested – the potential of organization structures that are vigorous and successful yet do not require people to do dull useless things all day long.

How, of course, are organizations that require us to do dull useless things profitable, we might ask.  Dull we know about.  Jobs were divided into small parts and done repeatedly to produce uniform products at speed.  We get MacDonalds.  Not all bad, but not fine food either.

Useless comes when the food value of a hamburger is no longer food.  How does that come about?  By what is known as “rents”.  The system allows people with vested interests to impose exploitative relationships.  Social media won’t make that stop.  We would all like to impose rents.  We plan to.  We aim to.

But social media make it possible to create new business models that don’t have to pay those rents.  That’s why so many institutions are coming under pressure.

Who will win or lose remains to be seen.  That’s the entertainment of the teen years of the 21st century.  What undermines ‘rents’?  How do ‘rent-seekers’ respond when their rents are undermined?  How does the battle play out?

The rent-seekers can still win.  This is an open-ended story.  We have to wait to the end to find out.

My customers come to me to interact with other customers. Yes they do!

The Dummies’ Guide to Social Interaction Design (SxD)

A few months ago, Adrian Chan of Gravity 7 explain Social Interaction Design in simple terms.  Here it is again. But even simpler.  Gen X and Baby Boomers like to begin with an overview. Once we have got the outline, we can drill down to the finer technical details.  This is for view.

Hopefully, Adrian will correct what I have got wrong.  When you have an outline, head over to Adrian for details.

1.  Who is the user?

Basic Idea: Don’t think about your product or your website, your mission or your purpose: simply describe your user.

Basic Technique: It’s tough to write a persona. You want to say what the user looks like, where they’ve come from, and most importantly, what they are looking for when the arrive with you. Think socially. Who were they hoping to talk to and why?

Advanced Techniques: Each user arrives with skills, social competencies and understandings about the way things will be done (variously called scripts and frames). What are people able to do easily when they first arrive? What do they expect?

We want to be predictable and make it easy for them to find their place on our territory

More Stuff You’ll Add After You Have Answered The Other Questions: Personas for other users: rich descriptions of various users in they many shapes and forms.

2.Who are the other users?

Basic Idea: Your visitor didn’t arrive to be lonely. Or to talk to you! Who else will they meet here? And what will they do together? And what about the reverse -who are they trying to get away from?

Basic Techniques: More personas, concentrating on how different everyone is not how much the same they are. Forget averages and typical. Think diversity and difference.

Advanced Techniques: Now describe how the users interact with each other. What do they say? How do they respond to each other? How do they encourage each other? How do they learn from each other? What scenarios are taken for granted by the locals that are not at all obvious to an outsider? When we are locals describing our own space, it is hard to describe what we take for granted. Ask what annoys people? What makes them contemptuous of other people? That’s a sure-fire indication of a norm being broken.

More Stuff You’ll Add After You Have Answered The Last Question: What is the difference between a gathering of users that is successful and one that is a flop? What is the feeling that people have when they say a gathering is fabulous?

3.   What social outcomes happen because the users are interacting with each other?

Basic Idea: Our actions come together to create something over and above our own wishes and desires, intentions and actions.

Basic Technique: What happens that cannot happen by one person alone? For example, we can sit at home and talk to ourselves about Coca-cola. That’s interesting. It probably prompts us to put Coca-cola on the shopping list. But so too is it interesting when one user talks to another user about Coca-cola. The conversation about a brand, and any downstream effects, becomes possible because of the interaction. If you get stuck, list all the interactions that people fear and turn these on their head.

Advanced Techniques: What are memes, tropes, fashions, fads, myths, and beliefs that seems to prevail among your users when they are together? How do they pick up on these norms? How quickly do the norms change and how do they change?

More Stuff That You Will Add After You Have Answered The Last Question: How many interactions happen before this new sense emerges? How can we prompt people to ask questions and to listen to each other? How can we prompt them to reflect their outside world in our world? How can we encourage an attention to positive processes? How can we learn to interpret the less positive interactions in the positive sense of seasons?

How do we add value to businesses, communities and organizations?

~ Trust, belonging & confidence are the foundation of action & initiative

4.  Beginning with Question 3, we have some understanding of the social outcomes that emerge from interaction. These are phenomena like belonging, trust and confidence. Hard-headed business men and women might scoff at these but the scoffing, the negativity, demonstrates the point. There is something they are looking for in the interaction must happen before the abandon their skepticism and react with trust and enthusiasm. What is it the business people need so badly before they will trust other people? When we can put our finger on that bruise, we may have identified the essence of our business.

~ We love our differences and riff them like mad

5. Question 2. We have some understanding of how people interact with each other in our community, in related communities, and in whichever context is our specialty. We learn fast about interaction because we pay attention to interaction. We are never ‘foreigners’ for long and even if we are marked out as different by our physical characteristics, accent or professional qualifications, we understand how people expect to behave and how they expect others to behave. We mix and match those expectations to help them ‘mod’ and ‘riff’ and have fun with each other.

~ We love our guests and find it easy to be kind

6. Question 1. We understand the diversity of people who arrive and the range of their social competence. What do they find easy to do? How can we help them find their feet in a gathering? How can we help them settle down, yet meet more people, and expand their horizons. How quickly do our wall flowers and the rambling roses become a magical bouquet?

Ready now for more details? Head over to Adrian Chan at Gravity 7. He’s the expert!