Who’s making the rules in social media?

I know it sounds like I’m bucking the system right? Or I’m challenging authority. Or I’m that guy who says, why are we doing it this way on his first day on the job…  But here is where my head is at.  Back in the Oh so heady dot com bubble days I became part of a very large team working on a startup. I remember thinking I had died and gone to heaven-I mean it was a dot com, I was going to be able to retire by the time I was 35. I came into the project mid-stream and yet the product had essentially been built. And I remember that very first day that I got a look at the site that it wasn’t right.

The reason?  Simply put, a bunch of software engineers and developers built a system in which they assumed they knew what the user wanted without really asking. There was zero intuitiveness to it and I remember asking anyone willing to listen-How do they know the users will want this? Blink…Blink…

Let’s fast forward 11 years. I’m in a meeting in which I was talking to a bunch of department heads about the major social platforms, I alluded to Twitter in particular and how it has changed. The interface has not really changed and the “way” you’re supposed to use it functionally speaking has not changed-but the way in which we actually use it has-Dramatically. You see, when Twitter was first created it was meant to be a way to update people on what you were doing quickly right? Remember this comment from the naysayers? “Why do I care what someone had for lunch?” For the most part, the way it was built and the way it was intended to be used held fast. But…

What has changed is that we the users have redefined how we use Twitter. We have decided that Twitter is a great way to share links, to share content and to consume content. Sure you can have those short staccato like conversations, but we have chosen to use it in another way that suits are needs and desires. It is now purely a content consumption and content push platform. That’s not to say that Twitter is not good for conversations any longer, but obviously what Twitter has done for us, for them and for the Google+’s and the Facebook’s of the world, is that it has defined a new action that has been woven into the fabric of our social lives. The action of sharing a piece of digital content in the form of a link. Pure and simple.

In the evolution of social, we might say that first it was blogs in which the written word was used in long form, then Twitter in short form, followed quickly by Facebook who then realized that Twitter was onto something so they borrowed the Twitter stream idea… The underlying theme in all of this is that we, the users have determined what we want from our social networks and how we will use them-and not the engineers. Although I still have a problem with the narrowness of defining what the social actions must look like or be called, i.e. “likes”, “friending”, and “follows”-We still have the power to really define them in the ways that we want to treat them.

The biggest mystery however lies with marketers trying to get inside the heads of the users to determine how they can turn them into loyal brand advocates. Stay tuned.

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3 Responses to “Who’s making the rules in social media?”


  1. 1 Mona July 16, 2011 at 3:09 am

    Great post, great intuition, I am staying tuned.

  2. 2 Penny Haywood Calder July 16, 2011 at 9:39 am

    Market rules! Be interesting to see whether the market will take to Google+.

  3. 3 Oscar Del Santo July 16, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    I agree that in the end it is end-users who end up deciding how they use the social media tools and platforms for their own ends – and these may be something quite different that what they were originally intended for.

    Great Post and great thoughts. I am most definitely staying tuned :-)


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Marc Meyer is a Digital and Social Media Strategist at DRMG. This is my personal blog where I share observations, thoughts and opinions that are all my own.

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