Archives for posts with tag: social networks

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There’s a lot of talk about Social Media revolutions. The Twitter revolution. The Facebook revolution. While most of it is simplifying hype, Social Networks allow people to synchronize much more efficiently than ever before. And there’s lot of talk how Social Media can be used for good causes. Donations to help Japan, the environment – you name it. Brands run initiatives under the authenticity and transparency mantle, one of the keys to Obama’s success was the Social Media savvy of his staff.

This is good and legitimate.

What happens when evil regimes/people start to understand Social Media?

Brands have tried to game the social web. They posted fake blogs, fake videos, continue to buy endorsements from bloggers. I don’t think it’s ethical or beneficial for the brand in the long run. But brands are not evil. Sometimes they act pretty bad but it’s not rooted in an evil core or an evil mission/vision.

But once the military and/or government gets involved to game the social web, I’m getting really concerned. It’s happening already. According to this Guardian article, the “US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.”

The article continues:

“The discovery that the US military is developing false online personalities – known to users of social media as “sock puppets” – could also encourage other governments, private companies and non-government organisations to do the same.

The Centcom contract stipulates that each fake online persona must have a convincing background, history and supporting details, and that up to 50 US-based controllers should be able to operate false identities from their workstations “without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries”.

While I agree with Jeff Jarvis’ overall assessment (“It’s appallingly stupid, for there’s little doubt that the fakes will be unmasked. The net result of that will be the diminution, not the enhancement, of American credibility.”), I still wonder: What happens if a government starts to really comprehend the power of Social Media and doesn’t stoop to the tactics of the Nigerians spammers? What if they find ways to connect with people in the early stages of an uprising, get them to congregate and kill the revolution in its early stages?

Hitler was an early adopter of mass communication

He used radio to spread his propaganda. He owned the newspapers. Jewish men and women were depicted as greedy, hook-nosed bastards wholly responsible for the desecration of society. And he used the power of mass media to share this sickening message: comic-strips, cartoons, editorials, movies. Over time, we developed a decent nose to detect manipulation fairly quickly. Have we developed that nose for manipulation in the social space yet? Or, do we need to be more cautious?

This post appeared first on Jack Myers’ MediaBizBloggers site.

Social Networks were not created to add another channel to the marketing mix.

Social Networks were not created to spark revolutions.

Social Networks were not created for influential’s to share their message. Or nonsense.

Social Networks are for all the people that participate in them.

We are social beings. We spend our whole existence in Social Networks. Being part of Social Networks allows us to share common goals, resources and learn from each other. The people in Tunisia and Egypt didn’t get a message from someone to start a revolution and followed like sheep. They pulled down information and learnings from others. And formed a picture, saw that others felt the same way and decided to act.

Messengers, carrier pigeons, Gutenberg, telegraph, radio, TV, Facebook and Twitter never started a revolution. People did. And they always will.

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Image: Courtesy of dropular

Cheap encounters

Not everything was better years ago but some things were better defined. Clarity has become a rarity. A good example: relationships. Decades ago it was clearly defined. A relationship was between two people who liked or loved each other. Even without engagement ring or marriage contract, a relationship was nothing vague. A relationship was a well-defined thing with clear rules and a precise goal: improving the relationship over time. Before you started a relationship, there were declarations. We defined our expectations and were ready to hear the same from the counterpart. Besides these defined relationships, we had cheap encounters: We had something but no real ties that held us together, many exit doors in close vicinity. Nobody wanted to define expectations. More booty call, less duty call. That’s what we called a cheap encounter.

We’ve become used to this. Today we call it network.

Everyone does it with everybody. And it starts earlier than we think. Do brands really have a deep connection with their customers? Why do brands address me with my first name as if we just had a beer together? Do we know each other? Why do brands think it’s better to become my buddy than treating me with respect as a paying customer?

Sure, when you ask those questions you sound like an old fart. Nobody talks about basic politeness and a healthy distance. A healthy distance that would help us identify forced and real intimacy much easier. All these networks nobody claims to be able to live without, support the idea of social promiscuity. That leads to many cheap encounters but rarely to real relationships.

Global Relationship Economy

The word “Network” transformed into an empty word in the last few years. Scientists, database modelers and engineers defined network precisely. And enterprises started to understand that inflexible, hierarchical organizations that see themselves as a walled garden have problems adjusting to a new world of complex and collaborative work structures. Old enterprises were successful because they had everything under control. New enterprises are successful because they know who to work with others to solve a problem.

The last few years made clear that new enterprises got it right: Energy, IT, Research and Innovation: You can’t survive without  cooperation, collaboration and co-creation. The walls of the walled garden came tumbling down. The old control economy will be replaced with the new relationship economy. Are we ready for that?

Looking for friends

Let’s pose the question differently: Are we engaging enough? Are we open to a cooperative working environment? Are we ready for relationships?

Actually, the word ‘Network’ is for most people a throw-away word, mostly used to avoid the answers to above questions. The Web made everything so easy. So much interactivity, so many opportunities, often too many opportunities.

Are we looking for friends on Social Networks?

I know the phone numbers of my friends, know where they live and have a beer with them once in a while. I don’t need a friend confirmation before contacting them. Those relationships are transparent, in almost every way.

I know the strengths and weaknesses of my friends, their likes and dislikes, their destination. I invest trust in and have respect for them. Sure, it’s a pretty big risk. I’m more interested in them as a holistic person, less in one of their characteristics. Human beings are more than the sum of ‘likes’ and favorites. And I know I can have in-depth discussions with them, advancing our relationship. These relationships don’t need to be dissected by my preferences and categories. There’s one rule in life: If it’s not for real, there will be a form you need to fill out. 500 million people have done so on Facebook to present themselves to the world. The results (just like government forms): Nothing. Or almost nothing. Instead of a blooming relationship economy, we now have a new form of social bureaucracy. Voluntary. And very 2.0.

Quid pro quo

To be very clear: Not all relationships on Social Networks are equal. And, let’s please stay away from relationship therapy, talking about relationships until there’s nothing to talk about. Social engineers work on their relationships until they deal with a complete wreck. That’s based on the crazy idea one can plan human relationships, direct them, construct them – until they conform with their view of the world. Leaving relationships to the arsenal of manipulation.

Cooperation and collaboration despises manipulation because they always ask: What can you offer me? What can I offer you? How can we create something together we wouldn’t be able to do alone? Cooperation is an evolutionary principle. We band together and 1+1 turns into 3. Nothing new or revolutionary here. Romans used the phrase “quid pro quo” to express this sentiment. A relationship is not a self-service kiosk.

A relationship is not a present. A relationship is a business. A deal. Quid pro quo.

Oh, I’m sure many readers will shake their head in disgust. At least, I hope so. Maybe they start to question the value of 14,453 global friends while there’s no time to meet a real person for lunch. Do we create peace, improve justice and new technologies with our network friends? Or are we just trying to avoid the real work? We could act, do and work together. Instead, we’re developing a fetish. That’s easier. And meaningless.

Quickies and Wikis

That doesn’t mean networks and wikis are useless because that world is is maturing. We see two separate network trends: the Facebook world and the Wiki world. On one hand you have cheap encounters (quickies), on the other hand constructive cooperation. Here self-indulgence, there collaboration.

The Wiki world works together because they extract value. Many enterprises use these tools because they experience the benefit of working together, not against each other. This is not the old team where everybody hid behind the other person. The Wiki world goes beyond that thinking: Innovative projects happen because the old control model ended in the trash. The other department/division/company is not an enemy, they are partners.

Quid pro quo. The network matures.

It might be also a sign of our recessionary times. When people prosper, they focus on themselves and don’t see any benefit in working with others. It’s easier to complain, criticize and bitch about others. Cooperation in this world feels like capitulation. A defeat. We can beat them by merging or owning them. But working WITH them? Please.

Cooperation/Co-Creation and Collaboration has increased in the last few years. It might be the tough times or just the plain insight that enterprises don’t have to do everything themselves. They can become better companies and more competitive when working with others. In the old days, enterprises were forced to collaborate. Now they want to.

Explanations

Collaboration as a basic element of economic activity has been researched by academia for a long time – game theory as an example. Home Cooperativus is far superior to Homo Oeconomicus. Cooperation and collaboration grows up and becomes just a normal part of the business routine. A good sign. But as long as we talk about networks with this quasi religious undertone, we still have a lot to figure out. Homo Cooperativus is not a new form of humankind, a new us. We’re still driven by our own motivations and desires. We just know that we have to cooperate and collaborate to achieve those. The old term ‘relationship’ is filled with moral implications, always implying there are no selfish motivations. That’s why we read so much crap about the new way of working together, Office 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, co-creation. Nobody wants to be honest and admit the one reason for the advent of collaboration: It benefits us.

Until a few years ago, cooperation meant attacking each other (Call it Mergers & Acquisitions.) Those translated in conquering market shares, not developing new markets. A successful merger was one where the winner eliminated the last traces of the losers corporate culture. Often not motivated by a sense of business. Motivated by legacy emotions.

That doesn’t work anymore. Structures are too complex. Employees too confident. Markets too saturated. Forced marriages were replaced with marriages of reason. We should be happy about that.

That forces all parties to adjust to various corporate cultures. They have to negotiate, find a consensus and then decide: What is the value for each of the stakeholders? How much of my identity do I have to give up to succeed? Answering questions like that lead to clearer rules, clearer rights and duties. If you want to have a relationship, you have to declare your self. Clear and explicit.

Results

Enterprises are trying to break through the walls and silos, expanding the definition of relationships. Collaborative efforts become the norm of corporate culture. The groundswell has just begun, forcing enterprises to rethink everything. I’ve worked in the agency world for almost 20 years, often more involved in a client culture than my employers culture. More often than not, feeling more loyalty towards my work than my boss. Good relationships center around content. Not form factors.

Still, many people have problems sharing their knowledge. One of the skills we learned in the corporate world was to hide our expertise and knowledge from competitors and internal divisions. That’s was a key to survival. We all know those little organizational piranhas. Ready to digest any little piece of knowledge and spreading it around the organization, poisoning the culture. Didn’t we get punished for collaboration, being too open for cooperation? And how often do terms like “Team” and “Group” equal “Buddy System” and “Organized Nothingness”?

That’s the trick: Eliminate organizational piranhas, the buddy system, the “relationships” that kill an enterprise. These little games have to stopped before they start. Fact: If your organization lacks cooperation because of internal parasites, your business will suffer. That’s a leadership problem. Maybe the most important leadership challenge for years to come.

So easy and so hard. Cheap encounters sold as relationships are still running the network. As relationships, these encounters are nothing better than a fling between teenagers. We’re still far off from transforming these connections into 1+1=3 relationships. That’s the only result that counts.

A relationship between adults.


Comparing my friends in real life and friends in my Social Graph, I had an interesting revelation: most of my “real friends” are outwardly similar to me. We have common interests, tend not to be very interracial, multicultural or intergenerational. My Social Graph, on the other hand, is a totally different game. I find myself exchanging thoughts and feelings before even acknowledging, even less caring about skin color, gender or age. I have people in my network young enough to be my kids and significantly older than me. I hear from atheists, evangelists, wing-nuts, unemployed, independently wealthy – you get the point.
This is especially true for new platforms. When I first discovered Twitter, I just followed anyone that sounded remotely interesting. Over time, social networks start to develop specialized groups (at the worst, cliques) the longer these platforms are around, and the more time communities had to develop. That might be the reason why networks die over time: communities become stale and too much like our real-life networks.
Fresh networks help me to build relationships I never dreamt of when I grew up in a small in town in Germany with two TV network channels, a few awful radio programs and a fading signal from the Armed Forces Network. (Have you ever listened to the Super Bowl at 3am on the top of your house in 35 degrees because that’s the only place you could get a decent signal? Well, I did.)
Interactive Marketing is too often defined as selling things. The real potential of interactive marketing is relationship building – whether it’s groups of unbelievably loyal consumers sharing information, companies supporting online events and services that people use, making useful information available (not shilling information to sell) or interacting directly with consumers. The goal of each brand in the interactive space should be to give people choices. Nobody wants to be told what they want and what to do. The moment the ‘Mute’ button was added to the remote, people used it to have a conversation during commercials. When DVR’s started to become ubiquitous, people started to skip commercials altogether. And we got even more sophisticated when display ads reared their ugly head: We just became blind to them. No technology needed.
Besides some outliers, most marketers have accepted the rules have changed. But, we still play the outdated demographics game of trying to squeeze people into little boxes and messaging to them with even smaller messages. When traditional media reigned supreme, brands like Lexus targeted affluent professionals in their late 30’s and early 40’s. Print, TV and Radio could deliver that audience on a silver platter.
In the new marketing reality, I would rather build lexusbook.com or mylexusspace.com (I was never good at naming things) and connect with the fanatics of my brand. Develop relationships. Develop a community. Develop the brand through people.
Rather than lamenting the demise of traditional marketing and decline of performance metrics, brands need to grab this opportunity by the horns. The glass might be half-empty for selling things through marketing. But it’s overflowing for building relationships.

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Image: Courtesy of 13.media.tumblr

Comparing my friends in real life and friends in my Social Graph, I had an interesting revelation: most of my “real friends” are outwardly similar to me. We have common interests, tend not to be very interracial, multicultural or intergenerational. My Social Graph, on the other hand, is a totally different game. I find myself exchanging thoughts and feelings before even acknowledging, even less caring about skin color, gender or age. I have people in my network young enough to be my kids and significantly older than me. I hear from atheists, evangelists, wing-nuts, unemployed, independently wealthy – you get the point.

This is especially true for new platforms. When I first discovered Twitter, I just followed anyone that sounded remotely interesting. Over time, social networks start to develop specialized groups (at the worst, cliques) the longer these platforms are around, and the more time communities had to develop. That might be the reason why networks die over time: communities become stale and too much like our real-life networks.

Fresh networks help me to build relationships I never dreamt of when I grew up in a small in town in Germany with two TV network channels, a few awful radio programs and a fading signal from the Armed Forces Network. (Have you ever listened to the Super Bowl at 3am on the top of your house in 35 degrees because that’s the only place you could get a decent signal? Well, I did.)

Interactive Marketing is too often defined as selling things. The real potential of interactive marketing is relationship building – whether it’s groups of unbelievably loyal consumers sharing information, companies supporting online events and services that people use, making useful information available (not shilling information to sell) or interacting directly with consumers. The goal of each brand in the interactive space should be to give people choices. Nobody wants to be told what they want and what to do. The moment the ‘Mute’ button was added to the remote, people used it to have a conversation during commercials. When DVR’s started to become ubiquitous, people started to skip commercials altogether. And we got even more sophisticated when display ads reared their ugly head: We just became blind to them. No technology needed.

Besides some outliers, most marketers have accepted the rules have changed. But, we still play the outdated demographics game of trying to squeeze people into little boxes and messaging to them with even smaller messages. When traditional media reigned supreme, brands like Lexus targeted affluent professionals in their late 30’s and early 40’s. Print, TV and Radio could deliver that audience on a silver platter.

In the new marketing reality, I would rather build lexusbook.com or mylexusspace.com (I was never good at naming things) and connect with the fanatics of my brand. Develop relationships. Develop a community. Develop the brand through people.

Rather than lamenting the demise of traditional marketing and decline of performance metrics, brands need to grab this opportunity by the horns. The glass might be half-empty for selling things through marketing. But it’s overflowing for building relationships.