Social Media: The New is the Old, People are People
Posted by Bob Warfield on December 11, 2008
Reading John Jantsch’s post that Social media is a tool not a religion reminded of a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while now. The essence is that Social Media is about Social interaction between people, and however new Social Media tools may seem, people are still just people. They interact in much the same ways. Social media changes that a little, but not a lot. If you’re having a hard time grasping what to do with some piece of Social Media technology, or in some Social Media situation, find the real world (i.e. not-virtual) analog and ask yourself how it would work there. There is a real world analog for most any Social Media.
For example, consider blogs such as this one. Blogs are completely analogous to giving a talk to a group. I give my talk (e.g. write and post), and then I take questions in the form of comments and trackbacks at the end of the talk. It’s pretty straightforward. We talk about the rule of 10’s in social media like it’s a profound revelation. To refresh your memory, the rule of 10’s says roughly that if you have a community of 100 people, 1 will create new posts, 10 will comment on that post, and the rest will just watch silently. If you’ve given a talk you know the rule of 10’s is alive and well in the real world too! You also know it can be changed through familiarity. When you give a talk at the office to your coworkers, there is much livelier discourse.
Hey wait a minute, if we’re talking to friends and coworkers, can that be like a Social Network? Sure it can.
What about Twitter? What real world situation only lets me speak in 140 character chunks? There is no restriction, but isn’t Twitter a bit like a conversation? Isn’t it rude to embark on a long monolog when you’re having a casual conversation. Don’t you make brief statements and wait for the other participants to get their words in edgewise? Feels right to me.
There are many more similarities that can inform us. Take forums. These are group conversations where someone comes to a group to ask a question or tell them something and then there’s a lot of interaction afterwards. We’ve all done this. Maybe we tell a story at a cocktail party, a reception, or a lunch and that kicks off a lively discussion.
The next time you’re pondering some seemingly alien Social Media experience, ask yourself what real world Social experience it comes closest to. If you’re wondering what to do, or whether to do something online, ask what you’d do in the real world analog?
You’ll be surprised at how much thinking about the real world helps your understanding of what’s going on in the virtual world.