SmoothSpan Blog

For Executives, Entrepreneurs, and other Digerati who need to know about SaaS and Web 2.0.

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.

2 Responses to “Social Media: The New is the Old, People are People”

  1. […] was reading a blog post written by ‘smoothspan’ called Social Media: The New is the Old, People are People. This post talks about if you have a new piece of social media technology that you find might […]

  2. smoothspan said

    That trackback “People Aren’t Just People” is a great post BTW, be sure to click through. Wolf21’s concern is that people don’t act like people with Social Media. They have far less inhibitions. I’ve copied my comment (posted on his blog) below:

    You’re right about the inhibition, but what do you want to do about it?

    My advice that people are people still holds. Disinhibition, as you call it, gets more people into trouble than anything. If those overly dis-inhibited people had taken my advice and thought about the Internet as being equivalent to a conversation, they would’ve avoided posting that seriously career-limiting memo.

    Companies, moreover, would be even more advised to treat their online social interactions in this way. You’re writing about marketing solutions on this blog. Would you advise your marketers to act without inhibition, or to treat people as people no matter the medium? Put another way, what do you think Seth Godin would do?

    The disinhibition comes about when people allow themselves to forget that there is a person at the other end of whatever artificial meeting they’re communicating with, and it is often a mistake to allow yourself to go too far down that path.

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