In social media, What’s more important? The technology or the user experience?

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Kim Kobza, the CEO of Neigborhood America. If you are not familiar with NA, they are one of the top players in the social media platform space. To say that it was interesting  is putting it mildly. We kept taking the dry erase pen from each other constantly in the course of an hour to drive our points home on a white board about our thoughts on all things community and social media related.

My take away points were many but I kept thinking about one thing even 3 days later. That being-What drives the community? What is more important in the social media communities that we swim in? Is it the user experience or the user interface? Kim and I discussed what makes the community thrive and there are some interesting variables that determine this. Not the least being if we look at the 6 degrees of seperation theory, the sixth person is as important as the primary or focal person in the chain. Kim’s point that if you has a brand champion, this person is important yes, but the others on the peripheral are as well. In my head the best way I can wrap my arms around this is to perhaps think of worker bees being as important to the community as the queen is. They are integral to the survival of the colony.

My point to Kim, was that I could have this new and shiny social community ready to launch, and in my mind I totally got it, it made sense to me perfectly, and my thinking would be it would totally rock the social media space. My thinking and hope being that the buzz would bring in some fantastic members and thrive, quickly. But what if the technology was too slick? Could it have too many bells and whistles. Absolutely!

Which brings me to my point-Isn’t the user experience as important if not more than the platform? I don’t like to say dumb it down, but as technology people, we are exposed to cool tech stuff everyday and we get it. But put yourself in the shoes of the stay at home mom or the somewhat savvy electrician who has a familiarity with Myspace or Facebook for example. Will they get it? Maybe , maybe not? Do you want to take the chance that they “might” get it?

The user experience and the user interface are each predicated and determined by the other in my mind. If you have the technology but it’s broken and doesn’t perform, then you can forget it. If you have a community ready to go but they can’t understand how to use the technology, then they are gone. If you have a community that can grasp the technology quickly, and the technology is solid. Guess what? The user experience is elevated. With that being said, as managers and developers of communities, we need to walk that fine line between what works for the user and what the user can work with

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