29/6/20081

What brings us to social media?Comments

OpportunityWhen Mark Dykeman commented on my post "People who need people" he remarked "Perhaps many of us do drink the KoolAid more than we should but... it's hooked us for a reason". So what is it that attracts us to social media?

No doubt, at least in part, inspired by his comment, Mark shared his story detailing what attracted him (and keeps him coming back) to social media and I'm sure his story will ring true with many. However, his or my reasons are not going to be valid for the majority. As Steven says, things may be nice and rosy is out bubble but what about those "who still look forward to a Sunday brunch with their newspapers"?

As early adopters we have a different mindset to Joe Public - what floats our boats will not necessarily float those of others - a rising tide drowns those who cannot rise with it.

Task oriented

A lot of the time we use social media for the sake of it whereas most will only use it if it is task oriented (as I have said before) but even then would still need a lot of convincing before taking the plunge.

For example, take my mother-in-law. She is perfectly happy to use email when it suits a purpose but is still far more comfortable with the phone and mainly uses the web to plan holidays but soon realised that you can't get the same information, opinion and flexibility as when speaking to an actual person.

You frequently get good deals on price if you book online but without the flexibility - her solution is to get all the details online including the deal but then ring up saying the online booking form wouldn't work - the travel agent will then generally honour the deal and, at the same time, you can speak to a person and tweak your package in ways that you couldn't online.

So, would some kind of social media endeavour get her to change her behaviour? Probably not.

Undoubtedly, for many of those already established on the interent it came as a natural progression from bulletin boards, IRC, forums, or Instant Messaging - depending on how long they've been around. The ideas behind social media are as old as the hills, what's new is the ease of use and the scope - it is now a question of scale and simplicity.

For others there will have been a desire to keep in touch with friends who are already using a particular social media service. And finally, there will be those who were attracted to the newest bright, shiny object; attracted by the buzz and hype.

The five C's

At it's core social media gives us five base opportunities:

  • the opportunity to contribute - easy sharing of information
  • the opportunity to comment - your chance to have your say
  • the opportunity to collaborate - work with anyone, anywhere to achieve a common goal
  • the opportunity of conversation - getting involved in discussions with others
  • the opportunity of community - building relationships online

We early adopters willingly embrace these opportunities but many see little or no need to enhance their traditional forms of communication - perhaps rightly so. The internet is not a replacement for face-to-face communication but can certainly facilitate and encourage offline activity so how can we extend the reach of social media and invite in those who would otherwise show no interest?

Over to you

What brought you to social media, and why do you stick around? And how can we use our stories to educate others?

UPDATE: added collaborate to the base opportunities.

Image by Eric Rice.

What brings us to social media?