Social Media is… well, Social

I have a lot of blog thoughts going through my head right now, and I think the theme that will tie them together into a relatively cogent post is that, at least for me, meaningful social media focuses on the social, not the media.

  1. Being social leads to the exchange of ideas and information.
  2. Ideas and information lead to friendships, alliances, and action.
  3. Using social media lets you be social with more people in a way that’s literally linked to the great information resource that is the world wide web.

You might have noticed that I linked to a Dinosaur Comic a line or two ago.  I did it because I have a soft spot in my heart for T-Rex, and also to make a point about the ideas and information we exchange: let’s not pretend that it’s all formal.  Not to say that it’s all informal either.  Some value I derive from social networking is directly, clearly work-related.  See?  I just helped advertise to a Twitter-based blood drive in Texas.  Way to forward a cause with social media, Emily.

But a lot of the value comes from less formal, more purely social interactions.  People don’t just swap lists of 10 ways to improve your website or strategy-of-the-day for saving money.  They swap thanks, compliments, and moral support, and in doing so build a sense that we’re on the same team.  I think of it as the cheerleader phenomenon.  On Twitter I mentioned I’d had sort of a rough day yesterday, and several people took a moment out of their days to offer a quick show of support.  Morgan, who I’ve never met, left the nicest comment ever on my blog last week and it totally made my day.  Last year my family made a Christmas wiki, which was useful and extremely fun to put jokes in.  And let’s not even get into how Twitter, blogs, email and IM let you stay in contact with friends and family you’re far away from.  So yes, social media is dead useful, but I find that what keeps me coming back is the human element.

I also really like how it supplements “normal” interactions.  For example, I commented on a coworker’s blog earlier today, a conversation that might have quick taken place in the office kitchen if we’d happened to be there at the same time.  I’m glad I heard what she had to say even though our paths didn’t physically cross today, and I hope to continue the conversation.  And see what I did just there?  I linked to her, the equivalent of meeting you in some other kitchen and bringing up the linked conversation.  I’m doing things I’d do anyway, just in a different way.

So I guess that the real, true draw of social media for me is that it gives us another way to be human to each other.

(For more about the “Why” of social media for nonprofits on a more organizational level, see the great project Beth Kanter has going.)

Ironically for a post all about being social, I don’t have a billion comment-prompting questions to put out there.  Nonetheless, comments, questions, and vaguely related thoughts are welcome.

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