Where we’ve gone wrong with “Social Media”

Posted by on Jan 15, 2009 in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

pic c/o brandi.org

Top conversation with Jon Mac this morning (hope to be able to join his Every Single One of Us meetup tonight – a really laudable attempt to stimulate substantive change in our little world)

But it prompted me to repeat something that I've been trying to say around the "social media isn't media" posts recently: that the old ideas about communication involving the sending and receiving of messages, transmitted down channels/media/tubes or whatever are just plain wrong in trying to think about the new world.

Russell touches on in his latest brilliant New Schtick posts

"the assumptions about how advertising works we're baking into our media
tools are wrong. And so we're making bad media tools. Things that will
piss people off. I think that's largely because while Google and the
rest of the clickonit scientists were relentlessly implementing a
mechanistic, message and relevance based model of how advertising works
the thoughtful bits of the advertising business (admittedly not large
in number) had their head in the sand denying the existence of anything

The thing is about the new technologies is not that they provide new, more efficient – better targetted or more relevant – messaging opportunities for businesses to exploit, but rather that it connects people to each other and that allows us to see each other (which you will hopefully remember allows us to emulate and thus drives the spread of behaviours and ideas)

(Also – as Russ points out – increasingly the technology is bringing people and objects into new kinds of connections (which leads us into a whole other set of things)

Maybe it's just another one of those examples of Mcluhan's adage that we use new technology as if they were old technology


  1. neilperkin
    January 15, 2009

    Great post Mark. Its about the people, not the technology (as I’ve been known to repeat)

  2. Helge Tennø
    January 15, 2009

    Hi mark, great collection of thoughts!
    I do believe, as Neil, that McLuhan is on to something… He is both right, at the same time as he exemplifies the problem in his statement…
    Looking at consumption trends in media one sees that people, and especially youths, are increasingly using the digital channels as conversation arenas. At the same time media buyers and advertisers continue to treat them as media channels.
    It’s like the telephone call, it’s a conversation. Now marketers wouldn’t interrupt a phone call, but they try hard to interrupt social media – figure that one out?
    I think the problem is an overly focus on technology (as McLuhan also is concerned with). Technology is only a facilitator of format, it has got little to do with the communication itself. People see the technology (“the Internet”) and forget to identify the context of the communication they are trying to influence or interrupt.
    It would be helpful to admit that same or similar technology can facilitate a richness of context for communication. To stop choosing marketing strategy based on platform and become much more fragmented in what we do.
    In the new world we need to focus on becoming valuable conversation topics, inspire valuable ideas, not interrupt existing ones.

  3. jMac
    January 16, 2009

    Totally true.
    Blogged here:

  4. faris
    January 16, 2009

    bring people together,give them something to do. something to copy. social communication is phatic. no one cares what we say about products. as ever sir – ROCKON> fxx
    ps – go get stuck in on the insight stuff rich h is on about. 😉

  5. Nick
    January 16, 2009

    …And it was a much-needed reminder at the wrap of ESOOU proceedings last night.
    For me, what’s exciting (and a little scary, I admit) is that the ‘being able to see each other better’ bit is still very much in its infancy…

  6. Erin
    January 16, 2009

    at likemind this AM, we discussed the topic of transparency and social media/networking with these conclusions: there needs to be a parallel category of “virtual life management” tools that become available, helping people translate their offline behaviors into an online on-all-the-time identity. I don’t know if your point of being “good” is inherent moreso than it’s a by-product of transparency. Anyway, I’m responding in a backhanded way to both your post here and your Tweet about an altruistic digital mindset.
    Carry on.