In the course of Beers & Innovation 6 Meg Pickard elaborated a little on the motivations to create social media.
Staking a claim, and staking out your territory, in other words expressing, defining and developing your identity, are the principal spurs for younger people, Meg said. But these needs are not so prevalent for older people, because they (mostly) reckon they know enough people and have enough friends (with the exception of the Linked In professionals’ network).
But once you’ve amassed all your friends and acquaintances on your digital social network, then what? What follows that, and the reason social media excerpts an ongoing pull, is what Meg termed as “web craic”.
Right across Ireland, where I’m from, craic is a malleable term that means, fun, excitement, good times, but also stories, news, the latest gossip, the general state of affairs.
“What’s the craic with her?” means what’s the story / context with the girl/woman in question. “The craic was great” translates as “it was brilliant”. Its meaning can also be as general (as in “what’s the craic?”) as “what’s happening?” or “how are you?”
But enough digression for one post. It’s not my fault that the Irish have the best version of the English language going ;-)
“Web craic” (broader than just chat or banter, as we’ve established) is what enervates and gives legs to the likes of MySpace, Bebo and Flickr, Meg stressed.
Social by accident – context is king
Topic-based social networks, in turn, revolve around social experiences. Here, the person isn’t at the front. The topic is the important thing; sharing stuff is the way that you create relationships. Hence it’s popularity with older people, Meg continued.
She went onto explain that the topic – photos with Flickr, music with Last.fm – provides the context to get together and talk about everything and anything. Context is king, and the users bring and make their own content through the context of the topic (whether that’s sneaky, collaborative or selfishly motivated).
Hence with delicious, its incidental that making my bookmarking tasks easier has a community impact. So it’s social by stealth, and that’s common across the board – whether via ratings, what’s hot or interestingness permutations.
The recent Financial Times profile of Danah Boyd gives a good introduction to research into and analysis of social networks that was broadly referenced in the course of the event. But John Hagel’s 29th October post on social networks and urbanization raises a bunch more interesting questions, specifically his view that:
“Social network sites are more often a supplement to physical space relationships.”
“A lot of forces are at work on a global scale that increase the need for us to both broaden and deepen our network of social relationships.”
[I’ll revisit this later]
Given the proliferation of social media sites in every niche: social bookmarking, communities, to do-lists, web analytics, news aggregation, social shopping (see also, Stylehive, Kaboodle and others – ref: Pete Cashmore – as well as speaker Philip Wilkinson’s own Crowdstorm), video storage sites, calendars and more, who has time, Philip reflected, to register and look at all these regularly? Will it turn into a Darwinian survival of the fittest contest, he wondered.
I listed Philip’s tips on how to get attention in this crowded sphere in my last post and he’s recapped his talk here.
Attention, presence & data portability
The potential of Second Life to supersede the likes of MySpace and Bebo was queried by Meg on the grounds that Bebo et al thrive on asynchronous communication. Second Life hasn’t cracked that yet, but presence is something that we are going to see a lot more of in our world.
Philip agreed insofar as we will see data follow us around via web widgets etc, so if things go pear-shaped and you want to take all your data out, data portability is the answer.
Responding to the observation that this will make the content and value of social networks ephemeral, one woman in the audience commented that emphemerality is a good thing, because when I leave Bebo and joined My Space I don’t want my Bebo profile be associated with my Myspace profile anymore.
This dovetailed perfectly with the thoughts of 18-yer-old Dot and 19-year-old Rory in the Invisible Culture session at Content 2.0 in June 2006. They in turn embody what Gary McClarnan said about digital natives at NMK’s In The City Interactive conference in June 2005:
communities are migrating across platforms which are not “mass” as such. What’s missing here is the technology to support the taste makers, he reckoned. The music industry has done this for years with street teams and suchlike. “Now we need to allow people to migrate around their blogs and communities.”
Among the many opinions and questions coming from the floor, Alan Patrick wondered is the social network hit-based or long-tailed? Rob McKinnon has summarised his question about the role of social media in socially-motivated public actions with more observations here, and Meg’s responses about using social media for mobilisation are here.
Jamie Kantrowitz of Myspace highlighted the mobilisation potential towards the end of the Marketing 2.0 forum at Content 2.0. But even simple text message and email-based networks fulfil this function, in the form of flashmobbing.
Is tagging worth the time, wondered Sue Thomas from De Montfort University. For a comprehensive update on developments (but not statistics) checkout Niall Kennedy’s 27th October post on bookmarking and social sharing trends.
Media’s ingrained campaign mindset
I asked about the campaign mentality of brands who are launching themselves into the social networks sphere in increasing numbers if not always with a long term perspective. The issue of (Mint Digital created) Islandoo’s future after the next series of Shipwrecked is populated with participants (the initial rationale of the network) and then broadcast (they have to keep it going at least that long) is very much apropos of this issue.
Is it any wonder consumer trust is declining and their attention turning to P2P networks for recommendations when brands treat them as campaign fodder and ultimately disposable?
Clashing with structural barriers
It’s something that not only confronts the challenging idea of brands and corporations truly adopting policies of engagement and valuing attention and feedback (ie. rather than cost-per-click, cost-per-conversation) that Meg noted.
It also betokens a structural barrier in media planning and buying which Nicolas Roope of Poke (and Hulger) noted, in economic terms, underwrites the short-term campaign format that typifies marketing and advertising today and is deeply embedded. James Cherkoff is also on the case with this infrastructural stumbling block.
This latter territory is ripe for discussion at the next Beers & Innovation in January. See you there [and my first post on Beers Innovation 6 here].