Social media needs to be mass collaboration, not just mass communication

We’re still trying to make new technology work like old technology, which is why some companies are still using social media in an outdated way.

When new media come along, the first uses are usually akin
to putting old wine in new bottles.  The
old modes of thinking – our mental models—are still at work, so people use the new media as if it were the
old media. 

For example, the first television shows were broadcasts of
radio shows. Viewers would watch the cast of the show
standing in front of microphones reading their scripts.  The first web sites were nothing more than digital
brochures.  And some may recall that
Yahoo started out essentially as a Table of Contents for the Web.

This phenomenon of seeing new media through the lens of
old media occurs in other areas as well.  In 1900 the first motorized transports were known as
horseless carriages.  And they looked
like horseless carriages—a horse-drawn carriage with an engine mounted underneath
and no horse in front.  It wasn’t until
around 1910 that they started looking more like modern cars and became widely known as automobiles.

Today, this tendency for new media to replicate old media is
playing out in multiple areas of interest to The Hub readers.

Remember the clunky acronym SaaS?  It’s the equivalent of the horseless carriage;
so,  what’s the equivalent of the
automobile?  Cloud Computing.  Can you see how shifting from thinking of
just ‘SaaS’ to the much broader concept of ‘the Cloud’ frees us up to move
beyond using the Cloud solely as a new way of delivering software?  Now the Cloud represents an entirely
different way of accessing data, sharing information, and collaborating. 

Social media is still trying to break out of its horseless
carriage phase.  For the last hundred
years, we have thought about media as channels—ways of broadcasting a message
from one-to-many in order to reach a target audience.   As a result, most people still think of
social media as a channel to reach a passive audience, whether on Facebook,
YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Instagram.

But social media is a many-to-many medium.  It’s designed for mass collaboration, not
just mass communication.  You can use it
for a one-to-many broadcast, but that’s like using television to watch a radio
show. 

The “channel” model is proving difficult to disrupt.  Even the social networks are falling into using
it.  Facebook is working hard to convince
advertisers that they should put their billboards along its social
highway.  Meanwhile LinkedIn is turning
itself into a next-generation newspaper. 
They already took over the jobs section, and now they are working on the
op-ed pages with its Influencer program. 
And like Facebook, they are shopping their “audience” to advertisers in
the hope that they will advertise in their channel to reach their audience.

But some leading-edge brands, such as Nike, Vail Resorts, Threadless,  and even Oscar Meyer have already realized that social is not just a channel.  They are moving beyond the era of the
horseless carriage, and into that of the automobile.  They are using social
in new ways that provide a context in which to put the power of many-to-many collaboration
and communication to work in order to engage a community.  For these brands, the value of social has
shifted to creating a new kind of relationship with consumers—one
based on reciprocity, authenticity, transparency, collaboration and co-creation.  This is truly putting new wine in new social
bottles.

Of course brands can, and will, still use social as a
channel to reach an audience in order to persuade and promote. And there is
nothing wrong with that.  The key is understanding
that this is not the only way to think of and use social.  To engage the hyper-connected and super-empowered
consumers of the 21st century we have to go beyond mass
communication to mass collaboration.

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