A couple of things have prompted me to write about social media, well in truth it’s been spinning around in my mind for weeks and has leaked out I guess. I have been considering the two questions, key questions I suppose, namely what is it and what purpose does it serve. Sounds easy to answer but I’m not looking for one-liners here.
The name is interesting in itself. Social as in socialise I assume and media to mean the fact that it’s web technology based – but of course that’s not what media means it’s just what it has become in this context. So we use web technology to socialise, or do we? What are we doing with these applications? Luckily it seems to break into three products and three reasons – well almost. FaceBook for silliness, LinkedIn for serious and Twitter for tweets. Notice I have left out Google+ - as of yet that has failed to emerge as a real force – in fairness though it has only been a few weeks.
Let’s turn our attention to each in turn starting with the big bad boy FaceBook (FB). FB is funny. You have ‘friends’ and you ‘like’ things which is kind of sweet. You can chat and you can private message (which seems to merge with chat) but most of all you have a wall you can post your ‘status updates’ on. These are fascinating and seem to fall into a couple of groups. First we have the mums and their ‘isn’t my life hard’ ‘isn’t my life wonderful’. There seems a whole narrative around ‘bloody kids’ and ‘little angels’ and this all from the same person depending on what’s happening. Next you have the ‘my life is like sooo cool xxxxx :-)))’. These tell you about where they are going, who with, how much was drunk and how sick they were. The flip side of this is the downers. The status update that just consists of L or of “I don’t believe it”. Desperately wanting someone to ask what’s up. Then comes the quaint family updates, nice and safe. Then there’s the Twitter refugees (I’ll come back to that). These guys are lacing messages about politics, music and semi-serious debate with mischief. Each group seeks a different response. The mums sympathy, the cools ‘I’m like sooo jealous xxx’, the quaint simple a ‘like’ and the debaters a debate. What’s great about FB is they sometimes get missed up. Occasionally these groups merger with humorous results. Throw in a media event and sparks fly. Quickly we find out that ‘hanging is too good for them’ and such like. All entertaining if you are bored and all rather pointless (but that’s ok to relax I thionk). Businesses use it at their peril. I am interested in my friend’s business but only secondary to them. I’m not keen on a constant sell and I soon drop business links that post too often (sometimes this can translate to once).
Next comes the also ran. LinkedIn doesn’t seem to know what it does. There is little point logging on or turning on the (now quite hideous) app. We all put our CVs there, often Apprentice style ones with wonderfully massaged titles and descriptions and then that’s it. Boring updates from businesses trying to sell something and unwanted emails about ‘great offers’. Seriously I fail to see the point.
Next comes the rather nutty Twitter. It shouldn’t work! But somehow it does. It’s a bubble bee. I can only speak in 140 characters, I can only show pictures by loading them somewhere else first and I can say little on my bio – but it’s somehow fun. Of course it has its populations just like FB. There are the serious social media missionaries trying to sell WiFi and Twitter to the world so we can all tweet everything everywhere all the time so we all know everything in a democratic way (I’m thinking Oscar Wilde here: "The trouble with Socialism is that it takes too many evenings."). Then we have the social media consultants, ever tweet a sales pitch. Promises that I can get more followers (they’re not friends here), I can get more traffic, I can write better blogs (maybe I should read those). Then we move on to the FB style debates, the people who post links to the Guardian and the BBC, news with a comment. It’s amazing what clarity people can in 140 characters about such a complex issue. Yet amongst all this Twitter seems the most fun for me. That said I have certain tastes, I enjoy debate and insight, I tire of parties, holidays, purchases and hearing about people’s problems. It’s probably best we all keep separate – we have probably evolved these uses. They represent emergent behaviour.
Of course through all this I get it wrong. I read recently you were meant to construct alter egos on-line. Sort of sentient avatars. I just blunder though it all warts and all style. Sharing what I find interesting, making jokes and having random thoughts – very random at times which I am unable to contain. But if you spent an hour with me you would realise that’s just what I do. Maybe I need to read those tweets about working on my on-line presence?
But back to business. How and where does this fit into the social media world? Well so far it seems to produce its own business. Like an island full of only antique dealers all making a profit it seems to sell to itself. I have never yet followed through a link to an advert. As for the idea I take advice from my friends and that sells – sorry no more so than in normal conversation. In fact a reason question by me about travel to an airport and cost of parking resulted in a friend offering me her garage. Now that’s a friend and a big failure for the ‘business’ of social media.
Smiley face and lots of kisses, emoticons and some acronyms I have to look up.