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The Evolution of the Social Platform 05/07/2010

Posted by Paul Daigle in Uncategorized.
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Human civilization sprang from isolated webs-of-people. We were tribes huddled together in the night for our mutual protection and survival. We learned that by living together, pooling our experiences, skills and resources, and by placing tribal community at the forefront, that we could survive. Even prosper. This is an idealized description of the first human social platform. Though those early tribes likely relied on a degree of exploitation and cruelty, they succeeded in delivering us from the jungle and sustaining our species for thousands of years. Over that time our tribal platforms produced thousands of diverse cultures, each with their own lands, their own languages, their own customs and beliefs. Each tribal platform cultivated a unique relationship to their world. That relationship, and the data that fueled it, was passed on from generation to generation via the spoken word and through many forms of art and human expression.

As tribal platforms matured and evolved, they got more and more complex. Within progressive cultures, class platforms arose. Power, influence, weapons and resources spurred dynamic regional ecosystems in which platforms ruled platforms, creating complex human systems. Within these systems class-platforms informed geo-platforms which helped define countries, cities and communities. Through it all, the voices of ordinary people remained the leading distributor of system and platform data. These systems worked to keep webs-of-people segregated, yet functioning together as an integrated whole. We knew which platforms we belonged to, and learned that our lives, safety and comforts could often depended on how well we understood and respected the platforms that bound us.

Human systems powered by webs-of-people sustained us until the fifteenth century BC, when the printing press gave birth to a new platform, one characterized by the mass distribution of data. The print age found the individual voice threatened by a much more authoritative voice, “the media”.  But this new means for preserving and distributing data also supported individual curiosity, scientific discovery, and mass education. Through books, pamphlets and newspapers our old systems, powered by isolated webs-of-people, were able to inform a more cohesive and integrated super platform, the web-of-ideas. As this new platform gained influence, our individual ideas and beliefs became the platforms that united and divided us.  As individual and collaborative thinking fueled accumulating human knowledge, faith began to grow that this web-of-ideas could one day deliver us to an improved future.

Less than 500 years later, the progressive web-of-ideas birthed a new age, one characterized by industry and technology. Within a few short decades the steam engine, the phonograph, the telephone, the radio, the automobile, the television and the airplane had connected the world. This new platform, a web-of-machines, continued to chip away at geographical, cultural and ideological barriers. Overnight our web-of-ideas, the platform which fed personal beliefs, traditions and identities, seemed threatened by an exploding ecosystem of social and technological advancements. This new platform, characterized by progressive speed, gave rise to corporations who delivered new paradigms for human comfort, security and connectivity. As we became susceptible to the challenges of life in this dynamic new age, a ubiquitous corporate mass-media emerged to serve as the platform’s primary channel for distributed data.  Corporate broadcast gave the web-of-machines a unified voice, inspiring hope, confidence and authority.

Less than one hundred years later, through the success of personal computers, the web-of-machines produced the Internet, a platform with the promise to consolidate and democratize data distribution and communication for the first time in human history. The Internet first emerged as a web-of-data, the electronic age, providing a world in which all public data could be made readily available and actionable to any person or group with a PC and network connection. The Internet is now in its second phase of maturity, which can be described as a web-of-platforms (the social age), delivering a world in which individuals are creators and distributors of content, environments and experiences, and where social influencers attract like-minds to ignite engaged social communities. As the web-of-platforms gains social influence, public tastes, opinions and worldviews are becoming increasingly dynamic and fragmented, forcing corporate mass media to acknowledge, compete with, and cater to more specialized tastes and interests.  Mobile devices, digital/cable systems, social networks, messaging systems, gaming platforms and peer-to-peer media channels are serving as tribal incubators, shaping ideas, world views and experiences and allowing micro-communities to  flourish. New social systems for media discover, interaction and consumption are quickly eroding the authoritative voice of corporate media, and jeopardizing long establish mass-media business models and distribution channels.

Here is where the history of social platforms ends and the future begins. Where do we go from here? What is the next social platform? What will replace the web-of-platforms and the social age?

I believe the answer is a single web-of-people, and the user age. What will it look like? I’ll try to dig into this question in upcoming posts. When will it emerge? Looking back at our Social Platform Evolution time-line, can we make an educated guess?

  • Tribal Age or webs-or-people (8000B.C.-1450 A.D.) about 10,000 years.
  • The Print Age or web-of-ideas (1450-1880) about 400-500 years.
  • The Machine Age or web-of-machines (1880-1980) about 100 years.
  • The Electronic Age or web-of-data (1980-2000) about 20 years.
  • The Social Age or web-of-platforms (2000- when?) we are 10 years in.

Could a new User Age driven by a web-of-people super-platform soon be upon us? Is it already here?

The Evolution of the Social Platform.

Human civilization sprang from isolated webs-of-people. We were tribes huddled together in the night for our mutual protection and survival. We learned that by living together, pooling our experiences, skills and resources, and by placing tribal community at the forefront, that we could survive. Even prosper. This is, of course, an idealized description of the first human social platform. For all we know there may have been a fair amount of cruelty and exploitation making them possible. But they worked. The tribe, the first human social platform, delivered us from the jungle and sustained our species for thousands of years. Over that time our tribal platforms produced thousands of diverse cultures, each with their own lands, their own language, their own customs and beliefs. Each tribe cultivated a unique relationship with the world which they called home. That relationship, and the data that fueled it, was passed on from generation to generation via the spoken word and through many forms of art and human expression.

As tribal platforms evolved, they got more and more complex. Within progressive cultures, class platforms arose. Power, influence, weapons and resources spurred dynamic regional ecosystems in which platforms ruled platforms, creating complex human systems. Within these systems class-platforms informed geo-platforms which helped define countries, cities and communities. Through it all, the voices of ordinary people remained the leading distributor of system and platform data, as the power of the written word, art and the theatre were often reserved for a system’s ruling class. These systems worked to keep webs-of-people simultaneously segregated and functioning together as an integrated whole. We knew which platforms we belonged to, and learned that our lives, safety and comforts could often depended on how well we understood and respected the platforms that bound us. Within these systems of integrated tribal platforms, the family, the blood platform, served as a powerful underlying sub-system.

These systems powered by webs-of-people, thrived for over 10,000 years, until the 15th century BC, when the printing press gave birth to a new platform, one characterized by the mass distribution of data. The print age found individual voice usurped by a much more authoritative voice, “the media”.  This new means for preserving and distributing data supported individual curiosity, scientific discovery, and mass education. Through books, pamphlets and newspapers our old systems, powered by isolated webs-of-people, were able to form a more cohesive and integrated super platform. The web-of-ideas. As this new platform gained influence, our individual ideas and beliefs became platforms that united and divided us.  As our individual and collaborative thinking was able to fuel this new system, faith began to grow that the web-of-ideas could deliver us to a new and improved future.

Less than 500 years later, the progressive web-of-ideas birthed a new age, one characterized by industry and technology. Within a few short decades the phonograph, the telephone, the radio, the automobile, the television and the airplane had connected the world. This new platform, a web-of-machines, continued the chipping away of geographical, cultural and ideological barriers. Overnight our web-of-ideas, the platform that fed personal beliefs, traditions and identities, seemed threatened by an exploding ecosystem of social and technological advancements. The new platform, characterized by progressive speed, gave rise to corporations who delivered new paradigms for human comfort, security and connectivity. As we became susceptible to the challenges of life in this dynamic new age, a ubiquitous corporate mass-media emerged to serve as the platform’s primary channel for distributed data.  Corporate broadcast gave the web-of-machines a unifying, authoritative and comforting voice, working to supplant the influence of tribes, ideas and individuals.

Within a hundred years, through the success of personal computers, the web-of-machines produced the Internet, a platform with the promise to consolidate and democratize data distribution and communication for the first time in human history. The Internet first emerged as a web-of-data, the electronic age, providing a world in which all public data could be made readily available and actionable to any person or group with PC and a connection. The Internet soon entered a second phase of maturity, which can be described as a web-of-platforms (the social age), delivering a world in which individuals became the creators and distributors of content, environments and experiences, and where social influencers could easily attract like-minds to produce hive-minds, the new social tribe. As the web-of-platforms gave social influencers and hive-minds more and more social influence, public tastes and opinions became more fragmented, forcing the corporate mass media to acknowledge, compete with, and cater to smaller and smaller audiences.  In the web-of-platforms, platforms themselves became leading influencers is shaping ideas, world views and experiences. Mobile devices, broadcast systems, social networks, gaming platforms and new media channels served as social incubators, allowing new breeds of social influencers to attract and convert the like-minded into a vast new network of social hive-minds.

Here is where the history of social platforms ends and the future begins. Where do we go from here? What is the next social platform? What will replace the web-of-platforms and the social age?

The answer is the web-of-people, and the user age.

What will it look like? I’ll try to dig into this question in upcoming posts.

When will it emerge? Let’s look at the history of our social platforms, and see how long they’ve lasted, and try to make an educated guess.

· Tribal Age or webs-or-people (8000B.C.-1450 A.D.) about 10,000 years.

· The Print Age or web-of-ideas (1450-1880) about 400-500 years.

· The Machine Age or web-of-machines (1880-1985) about 100 years.

· The Electronic Age or web-of-data (1985-2003) about 18 years.

· The Social Age or web-of-platforms (2003- when?) we are already 6-7 years in.

Could the new user age soon be upon us? Regardless of what you think of my attempt to summarize the history of the social platform, I’d like to leave you with a more trusted and authoritative thinker on this subject… Mr. Marshall McLuhan, the man you said “the message is the media” and “we drive into the future using only our rearview mirror.” Enjoy…

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What’s the message behind the social medium? 08/05/2009

Posted by Paul Daigle in Social Media, Social Reputation.
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have a nice dayA recent post by SuzeMuse entitled Social Media-Ur Doin’ It Wrong references Marshall McLuhan’s astute 1964 observation “the medium is the message” from his book Understanding Media: the Extensions of Man.

The basic theory:

Media has characteristics that engage viewers in different ways, so the medium through which a person encounters a particular piece of content has an effect on the individual’s understanding of it.”-Wikipedia

If the medium is the message, than what is the message behind social media?  Can an understanding of the unique traits that characterize social media help companies and individuals engage in the space more confidently, gracefully and successfully?

First… let’s get a better understanding of McLuhan’s theory.

McLuhan understood “medium” in a broad sense. He identified the light bulb as a clear demonstration of the concept. A light bulb does not have content in the way that a newspaper has articles or a television has programs, yet it is a medium that has a social effect; that is, a light bulb enables people to create spaces during nighttime that would otherwise be enveloped by darkness. He describes the light bulb as a medium without any content. McLuhan states that “a light bulb creates an environment by its mere presence.” Likewise, the message of a newscast about a heinous crime may be less about the individual news story itself — the content — and more about the change in public attitude towards crime that the newscast engenders by the fact that such crimes are in effect being brought into the home to watch over dinner. -Wikipedia

Social media also creates environments with its mere presence. Like the light bulb, social media helps us carve out spaces and  open doorways. But this new medium can also connect us to every bright path and dark corner of humanity.  Each of us is able to define and manage many doors between our personal spaces and that global universe. These doors are often two-way channels… relationships. We each create and manage as many spaces and doorways as we choose, and in doing so we cultivate our social presence and manage our social world.

So what are we saying by our mere presence within this new medium. What is the message behind our participation? What distinguishes this medium from all that has come before, and how do these characteristics effect how our actions, ideas and expressions are perceived and absorbed? Can knowing the message behind the medium help us improve our daily interactions, and the value of our networks?

What’s the message behind the medium for me? My participation within social media can help communicate that I’m:

Approachable. Available. Open. Curious. Pro active. Engaged. Interested. Attentive. Helpful. Sympathetic.  Compassionate. Eager. Responsive. Agile. Involved. Generous.  Social. Friendly. Kind.

If I were a company, how could I ignore a medium that enables me to communicate such powerful characteristics by my mere presence?

What does your social presence communicate? Can we find universal messages behind the social medium? Can uncovering and understanding them improve our social uses, benefits and experiences?

Approachable.

Putting technolgy back “inside” the box 08/21/2008

Posted by Paul Daigle in Uncategorized.
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You may have seen this (hilarious) video parody of what an iPod’s 2005 packaging might have looked like had it come from Microsoft. It explores in deadpan accuracy the kind of insulated thinking that keeps many technology companies from producing products and messages that connect with average people.

I find this topic interesting and timely because I often see today’s Web2.0 Cloud as a space where engineering paradigms and tech laden worldviews fuel industry marketing, product design and messaging.

The social web has produced vibrant social ecosystems for youth culture and tech enthusiasts. This is both good and important as early adopters help new technologies find their footing, and lead mainstream majorities to new value propositions. The growing expanse of tire kicking, test driving, puddle jumping and outright pioneering going on in Silicon City, the new city in the Cloud, is one of the most exciting human developments we’ve seen in years.

As we’ve watched new communication channels come to life we have also witnessed the emergence of a powerful social collective consciousness or hive-mind that I’ll call the new Social Tech Society. This prodigious and loosely tied community of social scientist, marketers, developers, entrepreneurs, cyborg anthropologist and influencers wrestle the daily streams of micro-innovation, advanced usage and data feeds to uncover new developments that can make networks flock, bloggers speculate and activities trend, fueling a network fetishism for technical innovation and social evolution. New apps, platforms, methodologies and memes are discovered, evaluated, documented and assimilates or dismisses at a rapid pace .

Is the work of the Social Tech Society widening the chasm between important new value propositions and Main St? Mass consumer success requires products and services that connect with the needs and desires of average people. This occurs when companies successfully package features, functionality and value around simple propositions like solving everyday problems and enhancing quality-of-life. The Social Tech Society is apparently convinced that today’s tech enthusiast ecosystem will one day become the mainstream. Geek is the new chic.  But the seductiveness of combing for watershed moments within the Cloud keeps focus on the outer edges of advancement, which leads to uncertainty, unreliability and diversion. Being an instrument of change, the Social Tech Society is not built for packaging proven features, functionality and value around reliable and well-defined value propositions.

Meanwhile, people who aren’t enamored by tech as tech want to understand what Silicon City is about?  What does it do? Why do we need it? What problems does it solve. How will it improve life? Companies that can develop products that answer these questions for the mass market will harness the true value of the network and the Cloud. Though the Social Tech Society may delay the inevitable, new technologies will eventually connect Main St., Geeks St. and the hive-mind to a truly unified social grid.

If the social web were the telephone, I think we can say that we’ve reached a point where the telephone has become widely embraced by a growing network of wired audio communication enthusiast.  But these participants currently define the network. Until those who care nothing about communication technologies or their effects on the evolution of the human species pick up the telephone and start talking, Silicon City will remain a land known mostly for it’s free flowing innovation and technophile pursuits.

The real value of the social web will be found in the network effect produced by a mass consumer market embracing the cloud for daily interactions. We’re not far from that moment, but we need to improve our ability to develop for and speak to average people. We need to put  technology back inside the box.

How can we help brands become more social? 07/16/2008

Posted by Paul Daigle in Marketing, Social Media.
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ListeningTuesdaySeems like almost once a week I find myself reading a blog or industry report that works to redefine what social media means for marketers and advertisers. It’s pretty clear that the advertising and media industries are still wrestling with how they can gain real competitive advantages from the social Internet explosion.

But I wonder if discussing advertising in the context of social media misses the point entirely? Can a company succeed socially without first assembling the assets to function as a social company? Seems the resources and talent needed to succeed with social media have less to do with traditional advertising and marketing, and more to do with customer service, customer relationship management and PR.

Wikipedia defines PR as “the practice of managing the flow of information between an organization and its public.” Customer Service is defined as “the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase.” These are the attributes that make companies social, as these functions are grounded in listening to customers and the market in order to better serve the needs, concerns and desires of the market. Customer relations and PR departments are better equipted to decipher and manage the constant changes in customer perception and market environments, and they know too well the importance of response. They are accomplished in the art of the 2-way conversation. Ironically, just as most businesses have given up on idea of real Customer Relationship Management (CRM), the ultimate CRM facilitator may well have just arrived.

CRM, according to Wikipedia, is “a multifaceted process, mediated by a set of information technologies that focuses on creating two-way exchanges with customers so that firms have an intimate knowledge of their needs, wants, and buying patterns. …CRM is intended to help companies understand, as well as anticipate, the needs of current and potential customers.”

Advertising, on the other hand, doesn’t know how to listen. Sure, you can run traditional ad campaigns within social settings, but the real opportunities being create here are not for traditional one-way messaging… but meaningful 2-way communication. There maybe a misalignment between the goals of marketing decision makers and opportunities provide by the social Internet, and this may explain why so many companies are moving so slowing, and acting so apprehensively towards the social media space.

Advertising, as we know it,  isn’t going to go away. Nor should it. Advertising will always be an important way to build brand and drive sales. But developing social strategies and advertising strategies may require completely different vocations. So I’m wondering whether marketing and advertising departments are where tomorrow’s corporate social strategies will reside.

In order for companies to succeed socially, many will have to restructure to become social entities. It will happen. But it will take time. Helping companies understand where their social assets lie and how to synthesize these assets to create modern CRM/Social Communication  teams maybe the answer. These teams could work to manage the ears, the face, and the personality of a company.

When we represent our companies at social events we try do so in a manner that communicates who we are, why we are there, and what we’d like to accomplish. We also know how important it is to understand who we are speaking to. We know that our success requires that we engage the room in conversation… and that we listen.

Welcome to social media.