All Media Is Social

by Brian Haven
@ 2:37 PM

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» Marketing
» NewCo
» Social Media



We've spent a good 6+ years talking about "social media" and how it's an amazing new phenomenon. How the Internet is abound with new behaviors: posting personal videos on the web for all to see; sharing personal information with strangers on social networking sites; using blogs to voice our opinion; etc. It's the topic of many conferences, articles, and conversations across many fields (marketing, IT, business, policy).

However, in reality, none of these behaviors are new. If you think about all of the social tools and behaviors happening today, in almost every case there is an equivalent comparison to activities in the past.

These are the typical behaviors we perceive as new:

  • Sharing — Current activities include uploading videos, photos, or other media as well as sharing music playlists with friends. However, people have long had the ability and desire to share with one another such as gifting, commerce/barter, courting, and goodwill.


  • Connecting — Current activities include creating and maintaining a social network profile and connecting to others (family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances) on social networks, posting messages on friends social network profile, etc. However, people have always connected with one another such as love, mating, friendship, alliance, collaboration, and career advancement.


  • Opining — Current activities include rating or reviewing products, voting on peer-submitted content (Digg, Dell Idea Storm), or commenting on blog posts. However, people have always had opinions, and channels to voice them such as complaining to friends (WOM), customer service call, letter to editor, or being featured on local or national news.


  • Broadcasting — Current activities include posting thoughts on a blog, creating podcasts (audio or video), posting thoughts on Twitter, etc. However, people have long broadcasted to others their likes, dislikes, style, and thoughts such as fashion style, product selection and use, blasting a boom box in the park, or telling everyone at a party your thoughts on the upcoming election.


  • Creating — Current activities include creating videos, altering photos, creating mashups, etc. However, people have been creating things for a long time such as jewelry for sale at a craft faire, home movies, and other craft related activities.


As you can see, none of those behaviors are new. But there are several characteristics of today's technologies and behaviors that set them apart from the past, and this is what we really observe as 'new' behaviors. They are:

  • Reach — Historically, audiences for the common person have been limited: a tribe, family, friends, neighbors, or the local community. Today's technologies provide scale and enable anyone to reach a global audience.


  • Accessibility — The means of production for most media used to lie in the hands of enterprises with unlimited resources (financial or human). Today's technologies for media creation are available to anyone at little or no cost.


  • Usability — The means of production typically required specialized skills and training, both technically and creatively. Today's technologies simplify those processes, or in some cases reinvent them, so anyone can create and operate the means of production.


  • Transparency — People, especially Americans, historically kept personal information to themselves and had a general distrust of authority (enterprises, government, etc.). Today, people are willing to share anything about themselves (interests, location, family situations, health condition, etc.) in a public venue, and today's technologies make that both possible and purposeful.


  • Recency — When people did have the means of production and distribution in the past (albeit limited), the time lag between communications was typically long (days, weeks, or even months). It was a limitation of the technology or system in which it operated. Today's technologies enable instantaneous responses and dialog where only the participant determines the delay in response.


I'll follow up with several examples soon. In the meantime, what do you think?


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02 Oct 2008
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