Last week I was at an Engagement Alliance event, What My Space means, which took place at a rather cool location, the Charlotte street hotel’s screening room (as in private cinema) - from 2 to 6pm. There was an excellent and varied line up of speakers (yes, yes, I was speaking) and I thoroughly enjoyed the event. There vibe was different, somehow more intimate and relaxed. Congratulations to Jackie for organising it all.
I spoke about social networking and My Space in that context. I have been travelling and only had a chance to post my notes now.
Social networking and concept of community, powerful enough for corporations and businesses to notice.
I define community as a network with a purpose, theme, topic and with specific motivations behind individuals participation. Not just a fuzzy notion of a collective space, this may sustain the community but not kick-start it. So we have music, dogs (Dogster), teenage angst (MySpace) dating and socialising.
The blogosphere was the original social network, open and mutating. Several times the landscape shifted – political blogging, metablogging, business, marketing, PR, academic blogs etc.
I talked about three aspects of social networks – the physical or ‘geographical’ aspect; the human aspect and the business dimension.
- The sheer scale of the social networking phenomenon is has taken us by surprise. Online has been bridging physical locations. Technology makes it easier to do certain things – connect & publish and communicate on an unprecedented scale. This scale may be changing certain human and social behaviour – we have increased capacity to maintain large social networks. It is said that a human mind cannot handle more than 150 people as contacts at a given time. Social networking online may be increasing this limit or helping to reach this limit faster for more individuals. Similar to mobile phone – we are able to do more, have more meetings and conversations, managing to squeeze in more as ad hoc become a modus operandi.
- Human aspect – social networks are a very non-commercial and non-rational space. Emotional and oddly intimate – aspect of human psyche usually capture and catered for by families, tribes and religions. Another thing that is changing within this space is the nature of authority. Quote about checking out peoples MySpace pages to find out more about them. Teenagers are able to create their identity; they understand the discrepancy between the image and reality – learning out to filter out. Credibility and authority emerging differently, not through ‘certification’ by a third party.
- Business dimension – this fundamentally non-commercial space in contrast with the manner it is done (i.e. emotional and social) is fulfilling a market function when it comes to communication and information. As a place for conversations, it is where the demand side is supplying itself (Doc Searls), the media and marketing are not the sole sources of information. Also, the distinction between consumers – producers – distributors/agents/publicists is blurred. “Artists have become their own agents, musicians their own record labels, and video makers their own broadcasters. And everyone on Bebo and MySpace and Facebook has become their own publicist, shouting Me Me Me.
Finally, disruption is never expected/anticipated and cannot be prepared for in detail/specifics and using the old models to monetise social networking may be counterproductive. This is because the internet and online treats any control or censorship as damage and re-routes around it.