Understanding social media

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Social theory 101 for social media marketers and designers

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  • We have two instances here of the intersection between social media and companies. First is the Honda Accord Crossover Facebook fan page. Note that there are a ton of positive comments on the page, but there are also negative ones, like this one, that calls the car “cheap looking.” Then we have a story from Ottawa here about Farm Boy grocery store firing some of its workers for postings they made on Facebook. These are both examples of when social media results in unintended consequences. How do we make sense of these incidients? How do we understand social media?First, let’s start with what is social media.
  • A lot of times we think of social media as a collection of specific tools or communication channels. I want to point out that the essence of all of these tools and channels is THE SOCIAL. So to make sense of social media, we need to understand how people act in groups. We need to know what kinds of patterned behaviour occurs in groups. We need to know groups form and collapse, how they organize themselves and why. And we can start doing that by looking at the frameworks from many many years of study of the social. We can understand people in groups ONLINE by learning first what happens OFFLINE. The good news is that there are wonderful frameworks for understanding the social.
  • Most people understand social media as a bunch of tactics. We have Facebook campaigns, regular advertising campaigns, Web sites, microsites…the list could go on with every little tactic that there is. The two prior steps are neglected. The first and most basic step that sociologists take is VERSTEHEN, which means “understanding.” But it’s more than understanding. It’s really really really really understanding something. Let’s take play dates for example. Do you know when it’s okay to ask another parent for a play date? Do you know what’s the most egregiously rude thing you could do on a playdate? Do you know what’s the appropriate thing to do during and after a playdate? If the answer to any of these things is “no,” then you do not have Verstehen of playdates. Why do you need Verstehen? Because you need to create a conceptual framework for your social media tactics that does not cross any of those invisible boundaries. You want to avoid being tone deaf. You need to organize your verstehen into digestible summaries of what it’s all about. So in this stage you have things like mental models, personas, design concepts and metaphors.It’s only then that you go onto execution.
  • Today I’m going to show you two metaphors, two frameworks, two theories, if you will, of how sociologists have thought about social interaction in the off-line world. I’m going to then show you how you can apply these understandings to the online world.
  • The social network. Long before there was facebook, there were social networks – collections of people who know each other in particular ways. The social network has long been a subject of study for sociologists. Here is a screenshot of my Facebook social network. This kind of visualization is not new. In fact, this is exactly the kind of visualization that social network sociologists would create after surveying people and, painstakingly, piecing together who knows whom and how well. Can we leverage this research to understand, say, Facebook? LinkedIn? Yes, absolutely we can.
  • One way to think about the social is to think about it as capital. As money. As something you can exchange for something else. Pierre Bourdieu, among others, thought that your social network was a source of capital. In fact, he popularized the phrase “social capital.” Bourdieu argued that social capital is part of what keeps the rich getting richer. Not only do they know how to act rich, but they have all sorts of rich friends that can help them stay rich. Your social network is something that can give you WEALTH. It might give you connections to a job. It might give you a reference letter to law school. It might give you insider trading tips.
  • And that’s exactly what Mark Granovetter found in his famous article “the strength of weak ties.” Granovetter looked at what role people’s social connections played in their getting jobs. What he found may surprise you. It’s not the “strong ties,” like close friends and family, that lead to more informaiton about jobs. It was actually the weak ties of acquaintances and business associates.Of the people who got a job through contacts, 16.7% said they saw the contact often. 55.6% saw their contact occasionally. And 27.8% said they say them rarely. What Granovetter is telling us, then, is that your personal social network, your company’s social network – these are sources of advantage that can actually lead to material wealth. What social capital does your organization have? What social capital do you have? What wealth is it providing you?
  • But we also know there is something about social media that occasionally gives us cringe-worthy episodes. We’ve all been there; we’ve all wished we didn’t friend that person at work, or maybe that fellow parent at daycare. There are unfortunate moments where we cross the streams. Take the wonderful amazing riveting site: Facebook Fail. It’s where people copy and paste your embarrassing moments and save them for posterity. This cringe-worthy moment is a guy named Mark who trumpets his “ending his dry spell” as a status update. What happens? His Mom “likes” it. Mark is mortified. We can almost feel his discomfort. Mark’s friend Melissa gets to have a laugh at it. You even wonder if Melissa had anything to do with ending the dry spell.
  • If you understand the social as theatre, then you basically must employ the principle of audience segregation. Your customers need to control what “self” they present to the world. Unfortunately in the digital world, our interaction designs have often lumped multiple audiences together, making people play multiple roles at the same time. Each one of the success assumptions assumes that you empower your end user to control who sees what and when.
  • This is a screenshot from Facebook’s ill-fated ad platform, Beacon. Remember Beacon? It would broadcast your surfing and online shopping habits to all your facebook friends. This one is rather innocuous, but there were other examples of Facebook “ruining Christmas” by people learning what friends and family had recently purchased online. You could imagine the embarrassment if your work colleague bought, say, a full-body wax online.This is too much information. This is what Goffman was saying when he talked about embarrassment.
  • Delicious allows people to hide their bookmarks. It’s a tiny design feature, but one that matters.
  • John Fluevog shoes has a huge community of advocates. Look at its twitter page – 4700 followers and over 10,000 facebook fans. How did they build this? They didn’t just hang out a shingle and wait for people to show up. They actively engage their community through projects like “Open Source Footwear.” They ask their customers to come up with a design for shoes. They judge the results and the winners actually get made. Their social network is full of wealth, of capital, because their customers actually GET something out of the relationship. And if you look closely, I’m actually wearing these shoes! They are winning design by a customer!
  • Women with children differ than women without children. They use Facebook differently.
  • Understanding social media

    1. 1. Understanding the “social” in social media<br />Ottawa Social Media Breakfast<br />April 21, 2010<br />
    2. 2. Copernicus Consulting is a social research company that specializes in uncovering social insights, creating design and marketing strategies, and aligning organizations to realize those strategies.<br />
    3. 3. Making sense of social media<br />
    4. 4. What is social media anyway?<br />MySpace User-generated ContentAdvertising Fan Pages social networkingbuzz Social Media YouTube viralTwitter LinkedIn Friendster Social bookmarking FolksonomyWidgets WordpressMicrobloggingWeb 2.0 Facebook Marketing Word-of-Mouth<br />
    5. 5. The hidden “social experts”<br />
    6. 6. How do you understand social media?<br />
    7. 7. Understanding “the social” in social media<br />The social as a resource. The social as theatre.<br />
    8. 8.
    9. 9. The social as capital<br />The “volume of the social capital possessed by a given agent thus depends on the size of the network of connections” – Bourdieu<br />Bourdieu, P. 1986. “The forms of capital.” P. 241-258. Handbook of Theory And Research For The Sociology of Education. Richardson, J. G. (ed). New York: Greenwood. p., 248<br />
    10. 10. Social capital pay offs<br />“It is remarkable that people receive crucial information from individuals whose very existence they have forgotten.” – Granovetter<br />Granovetter, M. (1973). The Strength of Weak Ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78(6). p. 1371<br />
    11. 11. Leveraging social capital<br />MySpace User-generated ContentAdvertising Fan Pages social networkingbuzz Social MediaYouTube viralTwitter LinkedIn Friendster Social bookmarking FolksonomyWidgets WordpressMicrobloggingWeb 2.0 FacebookMarketing Word-of-Mouth<br />
    12. 12. Leveraging social capital<br />MySpace User-generated ContentAdvertising Fan Pages social networkingbuzz Social MediaYouTube viralTwitter LinkedIn Friendster Social bookmarking FolksonomyWidgets WordpressMicrobloggingWeb 2.0 FacebookMarketing Word-of-Mouth<br />
    13. 13.
    14. 14. The social as theatre<br />“Embarrassment, then, leads us to the matter of ‘role segregation.’ Each individual has more than one role but he is saved from the role dilemma by ‘audience segregation’….however, there are times and places where audience segregation regularly breaks down…” – Goffman.<br />Goffman, E. 1967. Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behaviour. New York: Pantheon Books. P. 108<br />
    15. 15. Leveraging social theatre<br />MySpace User-generated ContentAdvertising Fan Pages social networkingbuzz Social Media YouTube viralTwitter LinkedIn Friendster Social bookmarking FolksonomyWidgets WordpressMicrobloggingWeb 2.0 FacebookMarketing Word-of-Mouth<br />
    16. 16. Leveraging social theatre<br />MySpace User-generated ContentAdvertising Fan Pages social networkingbuzz Social Media YouTube viralTwitter LinkedIn Friendster Social bookmarking FolksonomyWidgets WordpressMicrobloggingWeb 2.0 FacebookMarketing Word-of-Mouth<br />
    17. 17. Facebook writing the wrong script<br />
    18. 18. Delicious supports audience segregation<br />
    19. 19. Social capital in action<br />
    20. 20. Case study: Why are women using Facebook?<br />I need help raising my kids.<br />I want to stay connected to my friends and acquaintances.<br />
    21. 21. Resources and Theatre: both together<br />Remember that social networks can be a source of wealth – and expect to have to give back<br />Social media can cause embarrassment if people are forced to play multiple roles at once<br />
    22. 22. Sam Ladner, PhD<br />@sladner<br />sladner@copernicusconsulting.net<br />http://copernicusconsulting.net<br />

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