Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Personal Media vs Social Media

On Twitter, "Beyond Social Media", a post by pioneer blogger and tech guru Doc Searls is getting lots of RTs (retweets). After reading it, I thought a good sub-title would be "Personal Media vs. Social Media".

Doc Searls, one of the first bloggers in the blogosphere, and one of its most brilliant and tireless theoreticians, states that when Social Media is controlled by companies, and cannot evolve apart from them, they are not really empowering the personal.


Later questions in the survey assume is that social media is something that happens on private platforms, Twitter in particular. This is a legitimate assumption, of course, and that’s why I have a problem with it. That tweeting it is a private breed of microblogging verges on irrelevance.

Twitter is now as necessary to tweeting as Google is to search. It’s a public activity under private control.

Missing in action is credit to what goes below private platforms like Twitter, MySpace and Facebook — namely the Net, the Web, and the growing portfolio of standards that comprise the deep infrastructure, the geology, that makes social media (and everything else they support) possible.


Tweeting today is in many ways like instant messaging was when the only way you could do it was with AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple and ICQ. All were silos, with little if any interoperabiity. Some still are. Check out this list of instant messaging protocols. It’s a mess. That’s because so many of the commonly-used platforms of ten years ago are still, in 2009, private silos.


Computers are personal now. So are phones. So, fundamentally, is everything each of us does. It took decades to pry computing out of central control and make it personal. We’re in the middle of doing the same with telephony — and everything else we can do on a hand-held device.

Personal and social go hand-in-hand, but the latter builds on the former.

Today in the digital world we still have very few personal tools that work only for us, are under personal control, are NEA, and are not provided as a grace of some company or other. (If you can only get it from somebody site, it ain’t personal.)

That’s why I bring up email, blogging, podcasting and instant messaging. Yes, there are plenty of impersonal services involved in all of them, but those services don’t own the category. We can swap them out. They are, as the economists say, substitutable.

But we’re not looking at the personal frontier because the social one gets all the attention — and the investment money as well.

Markets are built on the individuals we call customers. They’re where the ideas, the conversations, the intentions (to buy, to converse, to relate) and the money all start. Each of us, as individuals, are the natural points of integration of our own data — and of origination about what gets done with it.

Individually-empowered customers are the ultimate greenfield for business and culture. Starting with the social keeps us from working on empowering individuals natively. That most of the social action is in silos and pipes of hot and/or giant companies slows things down even more. They may look impressive now, but they are a drag on the future.


The key phrase from Doc Searls is "Starting with the social keeps us from working on empowering individuals natively".

My interpretation of this aligns with the Sitting Duck Theory of Social Media Marketing.

Many businesses think of social media participants as easy targets for sales hype, investment opportunities, and PR. Malware promoters try to trick Twitter users into clicking on links in DMs (direct messages). Spammers use deceptive tactics like kitty tweets (inspirational quotes and fake personal trivia) to seduce people into thinking they're normal, average users.

Few companies recognize that social media is where they can provide customer service. Instead of pushing products, they should be handling complaints, responding to questions, sharing insights, linking to relevant web pages unassociated with their company -- in short, being non-productively altruistic.

That's how good will can be generated, which will ultimately increase sales, but in a nice way.

Social media as "not empowering the personal"?

This concept leads me to another tangent: what happens to the sociability of social media participants when they step away from their computers? How sociable will we be if the internet went down forever, and we had to go back to social interactions via direct contact with real physical persons?

My comment posted at the Doc Searls post:

Wonderful analysis, by a pioneer blogger, on Personal Media vs. Social Media.

I also think that Social Media, if there really is a deep socializing element in it, should make all participants more friendly, compassionate, and extroverted in the real world.

If all "social" interaction is happening on the social media sites, but we're surly, sour, and asocial in our daily offline affairs, then Social Media is a Grand Illusion.

In blogocombat, my primary technique is to respond with text to text. I don't make it personal. I fight bad ideas with good ideas, hopefully. But in blogocaring, I try to connect my heart with the hearts of the people who seem to reside behind or beyond the text.

I've noticed that I indeed have become more sociable in the offline world, as a result of intense social media interaction, as typified by RTs, @s, :^) and sincere kindness to those who ask questions or provide me with comfort and support.

But to many, social media may be just another video game where points accumulated are Followers numbers and now Listings.

And, back to your point, if social media platforms are controlled by companies, then we are only slightly empowered personally.


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