May 26 2009
Companies and organizations have a real hard time understanding why the traditional message doesn’t seem to work in online social environments. Yet, if you think about the way we as human beings relate to one another it really shouldn’t be that much of a mystery.
The above social profile chart highlights just the tip of the human interest iceberg. It demonstrates a multifaceted level of online interests and representations. If you consider that people parse themselves into communities using these and other interlocked personality attributes, it becomes easier to understand what motivates any given individual. We identify ourselves online in several ways, including:
That’s why you see so many subject matter specific forms of social media. From community groups and blogs to loosely knit Twitter “echo chambers” and subject-matter specific social networks, there’s interest/lifestyle, geography specific topics discussed everywhere. Any given individual can participate in a wide variety of these media, cross-pollinating across diverse mesh-like groups of communities. The human conversation is a rich, complex one that varies from person to person.
The failure for traditional communicators occurs when they try to deliver an unsolicited simple message in this diverse conversation. In essence, an organization probably plays a very small role in this picture. Yet most organizations fail to realize that. Instead they try to insert themselves into the dialogue as the center point of the conversation.
By providing one dimensional approaches — i.e. traditional messaging — organizations fail to compel most people to participate. In essence, they are like the bull in the China shop, and because the message is so controlled and obvious no one wants to engage.
Smart social media empowers conversations beyond the message. It embraces human nature and the strange mesh-like conversations that occur between us and our collective interests. That’s why a strong social media effort understands there’s more to the stakeholder than a simple purchase interest. Instead of talking “inner tubes” a bicycle tire company may facilitate or participate in a larger conversation about rigorous outdoor exercising, including bicycle rides.
When an organization successfully participates they engage beyond just a linear hit with a stakeholder within an interest group. Instead, they compel that stakeholder to engage and talk, usually in a public social media environment. If favorable, this creates more momentum within and beyond that person’s vertical topic area, touching several of the individual’s social network interest areas.
Consider how if I became a successfully engaged stakeholder my conversation could impact several interest areas across my social network. In fact, using the above “clean energy” example, you can see many areas could be touched as denoted by shades of green. It’s not as simple as just touching my social cause friends. In fact, the only area where it could be met with lukewarm results would be the larger communications network I participate in.
Command and control messaging just doesn’t work as well in social worlds. What does work is an engaging approach towards developing relationships and fostering community action. That requires a more sophisticated approach that starts with talking with people, and the need to listen and understand their motivations.
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