Thursday, October 23, 2008

Social Media: A Case of Lambs to the Slaughter?

I have been meaning to write this post for a while. The recent Wired article by Paul Boutin entitled Twitter, Flickr, Facebook make blogs look so 2004 seemed like a good opportunity to share.

I'm concerned... As someone with a true interest in the potential of social media, I follow the subject extensively, yet I find it alarming that the majority of views seem to be so similar. Invariably, a great number of the user-commentators that are creating the content will have read much of the same material; The Cluetrain Manifesto; Naked Conversations; Groundswell; Citizen Marketers; and Marketing to the Social Web to name but a few of my personal favourites. But how many people read these texts, recognise the points of view contained therein and then develop their own theories and ideas? I'm not so sure... I personally find the tendency for commentators to follow the herd en masse slightly alarming.

The Wired article referenced above has received almost total dismissal within the Blogosphere. Boutin's thoughts have been shredded by commentators arguing that the suggestions made therein are flawed, naive, or just absurd. Perhaps. On the contrary though, perhaps the article represents something quite unique; an author who is willing to break away from the pack to offer somewhat radical social media advice. Clearly, there is a generally agreed best practice approach to implementing social media; this is undeniable. Yet, in an age in which social media uptake is reaching unprecedented levels, is it not better to examine contrary points of view in an attempt to distinguish oneself and one's organisation from those around them? I myself wrote an article yesterday on my perceptions of the Future of the Social Network. In this post, I made the prediction that those organisations currently experiencing dominance within the market will be superceded by new, increasingly innovative organisations. Although the assumptions made are hardly radical, I am certain that many people reading the content would disagree with it.

I'm in the process of reading a book called 'Cult of the Amateur' by a chap called Andrew Keen. Most of the content of that book is pretty radical for anyone with any knowledge of the benefits of the social media, and Keen has been accused of being elitist for his views. Yet I read this material to get an alternative perspective, simply because I find it refreshing to get more than one point of view. It is only through the examination of several points of view that we are able to develop an appropriate solution to a problem, and to craft a response accordingly. I am reminded of a comment I once saw on a poster for HSBC bank: 'A different point of view is simply the view from somewhere you are not'. Whilst it is good to offer one's opinion, an ability to recognise the views of others is equally important.

Suggestions and recommendations such as those made in the article need to be examined in context. Remember, Boutin is not discounting social media in its entirety. Yes he suggests that blogs are outdated, but within the same piece he advocates microblogging. To me, the article simply represents an attempt to convey an opinion. Whether or not Boutin is proved correct is yet to be seen, however I think that as a social collective we need to be more open to new ideas, instead of shutting them out in their entirety.

In times when more and more people are jumping onto the Social Media bandwagon, why not distinguish yourself from the crowd?

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  1. Great insightful piece, Chris.

    I agree - there are too many people that accept the status quo and never move on. Worse still, they feel that if someone in influence says something, it must be right or wrong, as opposed to having an opinion.

    While I disagree with the views of Boutin, I respect his right to have them and can actually see where he's coming from.

    However, with the figures currently doing the rounds for blogging (not to mention the millions that will spring up now Asia has joined the online fray proper), I feel that blogging as a medium is far from over.

    I wrote a similar post a little while back (at least as far as having an opinion is concerned), if you're interested?

  2. I should probably point out that I too am sceptical about the imminent demise of the blog. Let's remember though, that the social media represents a social revolution, and not a technical one. As such, the platform is likely to be less important than the functionality thereof. As new platforms emerge that better cater to the societal demand for connectivity, it is possible that older social platforms such as the blog will become obsolete. Who knows. Perhaps Boutin simply has a greater insight than me; only time will tell.

    What the community at large needs to realise is that it is those with the foresight to anticipate developing market demands that will be in the best position to profit.

    Thank you for the comments, Danny.