Although Parts 1 and 2 of the SMinOrgs Social Media Primer have stood the test of time fairly well (in "social media time," 9 months is an eternity!), I thought it’d be worthwhile to update and expand some of the ideas to lay an even stronger foundation for novices to understand social media, put it in historical context, and grasp its potential organizational applications.
Part 1 of the Primer (What is this Fire of Which You Speak?) has been the most popular by far – and the fact that it continues to be accessed and read almost daily indicates that many people are still trying to wrap their brains around what social media is. Part 1a (What is Your SMQ (Social Media Quotient)?) is also extremely popular, and the SMQ Quiz is the most viewed/downloaded document on the SMinOrgs SlideShare channel. As a featured post on Social Media Today, Part 2 (The Juggernaut is Bigger than You Think) garnered a lot of attention when it was first published and also continues to be read regularly.
The popularity of these foundational pieces is reinforced by my interactions with professionals from all kinds of organizations and disciplines who still consider social media a foreign concept and don’t get what all the fuss is all about. So in spite of all the media hype and passionate advocacy from early adopters – or perhaps because of it – the need for education continues…
Eventually I will rewrite Parts 1 and 2 of the Primer to integrate the ideas here, but for now it seems more appropriate to treat them as supplemental. If you have not already read Parts 1 and 2, I suggest doing that first (see links above) and then returning to this post, which provides:
- An updated conceptual hierarchy that includes online communities and enterprise 2.0
- More examples of “social media through the ages”
- Visual aids for understanding why - and how - the “juggernaut is bigger than you think”
NOTE: Clicking on each image below will open a new window with a larger version of the slide. If you want to follow the hyperlinks within a slide, you will will need to access the SlideShare version
UPDATE: Book Coming Soon...
Rather than continuing to develop the Primer in parts, I've decided to concentrate my efforts on creating a book (click here for details). In addition to writing new material, I plan to consolidate and edit the existing Primer parts, as well as other related posts (e.g., this piece on Twitter “worst practices” and this piece on Social Screening). To stay current about the book’s development and release later this year, please join SMinOrgs on one of its platforms (see links in the left column), subscribe to the blog, and/or add your name to the mailing list (see links in the right column).
UPDATED CONCEPTUAL HIERARCHY
The initial conceptual hierarchy was missing two important Web 2.0 applications: online communities and enterprise 2.0. Here is a revised diagram, as well as definitions and examples for each of these applications. As with the other definitions in Part 1, I used Wikipedia (a 2.0 platform) to identify the key characteristics of each.
Because there seems to be perennial confusion between social media and social networking in particular, I also reviewed the Wikipedia entries for these concepts to see if they had been updated to reflect the fact that many people (erroneously in my view) use the terms interchangeably. While I found that the distinctions I promote are still evident, the social media definition could be updated to soften the contrasts between social media and “traditional” media, for two reasons. First, as I discuss below, there should be greater recognition of the fact that the historical precursors to modern corporate media were inspired and characterized by many social media elements. In addition, today's corporate media is being transformed by social media, both in terms of incorporating more 2.0 elements and in terms of leveraging various social media platforms to communicate and engage with their “audiences.”
MORE SOCIAL MEDIA THROUGH THE AGES
As I just noted, it’s important to remember that much of what we consider “traditional” media was once “new,” and that based on the technology of its time, it was a form of social media. Though governments produced bulletins and other publications, many of the early newspapers were started by private citizens who hired other private citizens to research and write pieces. In addition, letters to the editors (precursors to today’s blog comments) have been a common feature of news publications virtually since their inception.
Another form of social media is graffiti, which has also been around since ancient times. And even though graffiti artists have graduated from knives and chisels to spray paint, they’re still motivated by the same basic desire to make a mark on the world and express themselves.
A couple of months ago Malcolm Gladwell created a cyber-firestorm when he argued in a New Yorker piece that “the revolution will not be tweeted.” A detailed discussion of the merits of his ideas and the responses they prompted is beyond the scope of the Primer, but the notion that social media is irrelevant to social change is easily contradicted by historical fact. Many of the leaders of various revolutions have leveraged currently-available communication tools and technologies to promote their causes and gain supporters. Examples include Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” during the American Revolution, Mahatma Ghandi’s use of various self-published newspapers to draw attention to specific issues and educate people during India’s fight to emancipate itself from great Britain, and the Reverend Martin Luther King’s use of television and other media during the US Civil Rights Movement.
And though it is a light-hearted take on the issue, the cartoon below makes an important point: had the tools been available, there’s almost no doubt that the Founders of the United States would have leveraged digital social media to both develop their ideas and spread the word.
NOW ABOUT THAT JUGGERNAUT...
When I give social media presentations, I find it’s important to get people to move away from thinking about social media in terms of specific platforms – particularly LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook – and remind them to focus on the features and functions that underlie them. Though the list in the left-hand column of the chart below may not be exhaustive, it represents the different ways organizations can leverage 2.0 technologies for a variety of purposes.
It’s also important to break people of the mindset that the primary (and some think exclusive) applications of social media are external. As I discuss in Part 2 of the Primer, those applications are important, but they’re just the tip of a very large iceberg. Organizational leaders also need to think about how the tools and technologies can be used inside organizations, as well as on the boundary between organizations.
In my presentations, I refer to the chart below as a “useless chart that makes a point.” It’s useless because all of the cells are marked off – but that’s the point! All 2.0 technologies can be leveraged externally, internally, and inter-organizationally. None is the exclusive province of any particular domain. Just because the technologies CAN be used in any application, however, that doesn’t mean they SHOULD. As I discuss in Part 7 of the Primer, organizational leaders have to identify their strategic goals and priorities and assess which technologies will best enable them to achieve their objectives. The possibilities may be limitless, but leaders must be strategic and pragmatic in deciding how to convert those possibilities into realities.
In Part 2 of the Primer, I describe how 2.0 technologies can enhance organizational functioning by upgrading existing organizational systems from their limited 1.0 designs. I specifically address how knowledge management systems and intranets can be enhanced, and the potential impact on human resources and internal communication.
The diagram below extends the conceptual hierarchy above by visually depicting what enterprise 2.0 involves. In addition to knowledge management and intranet applications, it’s worth noting that project management and business intelligence systems in organizations can benefit from incorporating more 2.0 functionality as well (note: the benefits for these applications are similar to the benefits articulated in Part 2 of the Primer for knowledge management and intranet systems).
This diagram is also intended to demonstrate the connections between internal applications of social media, public social networking sites, and boundary-spanning private networks. Although internal systems were traditionally maintained almost exclusively behind an organization’s own firewall, the advent of cloud computing, as well as the ability to leverage public platforms and create private systems using commercial sites (e.g., Huddle, 37 Signals, Ning) has changed how organizations should define and design the systems they use to meet their goals and objectives. As illustrated by the overlaps among the shapes and the dotted boundaries, these systems and applications are no longer by definition mutually exclusive and independent. Organizational leaders will have to take their potential intersections and integrations into account when replacing/upgrading their existing systems and developing new social media-based system(s).
As always, I welcome questions and feedback on my ideas.
Please visit the SMinOrgs Social Media Primer page to check out and access other parts of the Primer, and the S.M.A.R.T. Resources page to learn about other ways in which SMinOrgs can help you climb your social media learning curve, including the S.M.A.R.T. News feature.
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