We all want to belong to something. We want to associate with people who are like us and we want them to accept us. We want the identity we get by being “in”.
Last week, I talked about Community. Community is when people with similar interests are given opportunity to talk. Belonging is one step further. Belonging is when those people begin to have both a group identity, and the individuals in the group consider that group an extension of themselves.
It happens so quickly and naturally. When boarding and airplane, if you are in Seating Group 3, suddenly you are nodding to others in Group 3 who have to wait with you. Those people in Seating Group 2 are probably think they are special and you are just glad that you are not of of “those people” who are in Seating Group 4. A casual label becomes and identity very quickly.
“Tribes” (as Seth Godin calls them) form given the slightest opportunity. If we have a cause or mission or product, we need to be intentional… we need to architect our social media presence in a way that makes it easy for people to belong with us. Social media provides us with an opportunity for creating this sense of belonging in ways that our society has been starving for.
Is that belonging good or bad or even effective? That can be debated, but that drag towards grouping and belonging is there. If we are creating an online presence, we need to be aware of it.
Mashable crunched some numbers on the results of using a Facebook “Like” button embedded on your website (like the one I have on the right).
It looks like people are seeing as much as 500 percent increase in traffic after putting it on their site.
For me, this stat illustrates that massive change we have seen in the past few years… that the internet has become more relational than informational. We are here to talk to each other… to share with each other… more than we are to get facts.
This massive tool… the internet… is changing under us. I believe we have crossed the line to where it is now primarily about connecting people to people, not people to information.
Do you see it that way? Do you spend more time on the internet getting information or connecting to people?
In case you didn't hear, Apple is now bigger than Microsoft. For a while, it became the second largest stock out there.
I wonder what this will do to all those fans that have been against the big corporation and for the little guy for so long.
Don't get me wrong, Apple has been amazing. But some of us will have to deal with the new world where we are now going with the mainstream big corporation that is in power.
Maybe we should all install IE9. You know… just to support the little guy.
Malcolm Gladwell is a brilliant author and writer. He posted this article recently arguing that real revolutionary change doesn't happen through social networks like Twitter and Facebook.
His basic argument is that social networks facilitate soft or casual connections, but don't have the depth and leadership to create real change.
I disagree. Not just in theory, but in what I have witnessed.
What I have seen is that the massive network of acquaintances and the ability to find those with like mind give birth to the depth and leadership that is needed in the right places.
I have watched deep, true relationship rise out of online community. I have watched as those casual connections become best friends and marriages. I have seen key friendships build that become new non-profits helping the world.
Will a status update to 1000 Facebook friends change the world through just those 1000 friends? Probably not, but the key friendships will rise and spread and make a difference.
Community is the relational architecture element I am most passionate about.
In the past 50 years, we have become an increasingly isolated society. We hardly know our neighbors. We strive for financial independence. We have insurance to make sure we don't need each other in emergencies. We are going to church less and less. The expectation and pressure is to be fully independent and for the most part, we are.... and we are starving.
We are starving for each other, but our generation cannot figure out how be community again.
This new era of social media is allowing us to connect again. Through the internet, stay at home moms blog and talk with each other. There are groups connecting on living with someone with BPD. I found a group of people who want to learn and share about making bread. There are communties happening again. It is water in a dry land.
If you are an organization with a mission, you need to make a place for your people to talk. Just let them gather and talk... not just to you, but to each other. Hungry people will start contributing. Amazing things will happen.
What communities have you found online that are doing community well? Who is hosting them? Do you trust them?
We know that social media can spread news fast... faster than radio or TV now. What if we used it to help in the case of national or international emergencies?
That is what X24 is about and it is happening today and tomorrow (September 24 and 25). They are using a mass of volunteers to test the "Emergency Broadcast System" of the internet.
(Search on Twitter #x24 right now and see all the chatter about the virtual disasters going on.)
Through social media technology, we are connected in ways like we never imagined. This change scares us... overwhelms us sometimes... but there are also new hopes being born. In this case... we may actually save lives.
What ways can you imagine changing the world for the better now that the whole world can talk so easily?
[By the way... I added a blog subscription to the site on the right. Would love for you to subscribe.]
There as been more talk recently about the web suicide machine.
I am wondering if anybody tried it.
[cue crickets chirping]
When we both speak and listen, it is dialogue.
I know that sounds simple, but on large scales we have forgotten how to do that. We need to be reminded as we architect our online presence that we need talk with people.
Interacting with a machine ("Say or press one") is not dialogue. Interacting with a person trained to be a machine isn't dialogue. ("Thank you for calling <insert name>"). These simulated forms of dialogue, while seaming to be interaction back and forth, miss the point... relationship.
[I have a friend who says the F word any time he gets to a voice recognition system on a phone. Turns out many of them are programmed to get you to a person if you cuss at them.]
Dialogue is where we listen to and respond personally to the people in front of us.
This blog is just about me speaking... until you post on it. Then we get a dialogue.
Twitter can be a listening tool to find out what people are talking about. But when we respond to someone on Twitter, we have dialogue.
Facebook is a good one to think though... It is really a bad speaking tool. People will ignore your organization's Facebook page if you just post ads. (Even thought they liked you in the first place). You will find a Facebook page much more effective if you understand that it is more a dialogue tool than a speaking tool. Ask them what they want you to do and listen.
Does dialogue take up too much time? Not really. It seems people are afraid of that (that is why we build machines to simulate dialogue). But with today's tools, it really is a manageable task and necessary if we are going to have real social media.
People talk about "real life" as a contrast to online relationships, but that isn't a good breakdown. Online relationships are different than face to face, but just as real.
In the Civil War, many soldiers wrote their last words to their wives and kept it with them in case they died. Many did die. When their wives received their letters, was that real? I would argue that it was very real, even though it was relationship through a different medium.
Before I was married, I was dating long distance. We would talk late into the night on the phone. It wasn't the same as face to face, but in some ways, it was more intimate. We sometimes miss those long conversations where the limits of distance pushed us into a deep conversational intimacy.
On Facebook, I see pictures of my niece and talk to my sister about how she has grown. I comment with understanding on the status of a friend caught in the same airport I was in last week. I share my thoughts in a blog. I hear that a friend across the States is hurting and I buy a ticket to go see him.
All these ways of interacting... face to face, paper, phone, the internet.... they have limits. The limits of each force us to engage differently... and that is okay.
They all (even face to face) allow for us to hide or present a false front in different ways.
They all (even face to face) allow for us to be impersonal, insincere, or distant.
They all (again... even face to face) allow us to call people friends that we hardly know and pretend we are closer than we are.
It is okay to be frustrated with the limits of online relationships, but they are no less real than face to face.
In the 80's there were not many Chief Information Officers (CIO's). Instead, there were accounting departments. Accounting departments were the computer departments because computers were mostly number crunching accounting tools. It took a while before we realized that computers and networks had outgrown accounting and needed their own management team. Slowly, we unentangled the two and now we have computer departments separate from accounting.
Social media is bringing about a similar change. Our social media is currently attached to our web or computer departments. (Some organizations are putting it under marketing.) But what it really needs is to break off and become its own thing like IT did in the 80's.
Managing relationships is not simply an extension of the website. It isn't just a marketing tool. It is a new force that is permeating every aspect of business.... Human Resources, Customer Service, Public Relations, Employee Relations. And not only that, it is viable on its own as a whole new thing... Community around your ideas.
Instead of shoving relationship under a department, I think a day is soon coming where we have a CRO (Chief Relational Officer) who oversees and manages our presence across the organization. Are you still letting a computer tech, web designer, or marketing manager control your entire relational presence? Does your organization need a CRO?
- Here is how you measure social media
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- How do you handle troublemakers on a forum?
- You are making people talk the way they are talking
- Should original posters be allowed to delete their threads in a forum?
- Harder and Harder to Keep a Secret
- The 11th Graders Problem Solving Sequence