Community, Making the web better, rant, technology, Web 2.0 Musings

Social Technology Rant

A client recently asked me to help them understand “Multichannel Communications” – you can also insert “360 degree campaigns” or various other buzzwords of choice here.

Below is my response. Much of it has been delivered before, but the message doesn’t seem to be filtering through to industry as a whole (perhaps due to social media snake oil vendors), hopefully I have something new to add to the conversation.

Forget about the technology, this is about Humans

At the Palomar 5 summit – www.palomar5.orgMarc Prensky (coiner of the phrase “Digital Natives” – a phrase I abhor, to be taken up on a future blog no doubt), admitted that he had learnt something important from our camp. Our message was clear:

We don’t want to engage with technology, we want to engage with each other. Technology is just a tool that helps us to do so.

The less technology frankly the better, the best interface is still “face to face”.

The same applies to companies, forget about the technology. Let it go. This is about you and us. We’re not talking enough. You need to start listening and engaging with us as Human Beings not demographics. First off you have to listen.

Listening takes more than ears alone

Information enters our brains through the ears and then passes through a number of filters that distort it (our ego’s, our perception of self and others, what we want to hear, what we are unwilling to hear, our emotional inclinations and our preconceptions). To listen truly, requires an openness of mind, concentration and empathy.

So it is with us, and so it is with organisations. The desire to converse is not new, it’s just that Social Media allow’s people to have the conversation without you, if you are not willing to engage, or if you don’t make it easy for them to engage.

Think of it as a relationship (borrowing from, because that’s what it is. You’re other half is telling you “I don’t think this is working, you need to make some changes” you nod, pretend to listen and say, “that’s great dear, did I tell you about how awesome I am”. Sometimes they’ll stick with you because they’re insecure and there’s no one better. But sooner or later someone will start showing them some attention and actually listening and then you’ll be fucked. In the meantime they’re just going to have to off-gas with their friends about what a dick you are, so when they do leave you no-one will touch you.

You are how we see you to be

Sorry guy’s we own your brand now. You can put together whatever instructions you like on how partners can use your logo, and how your staff can talk about your brand and what the “message is”. But we shall judge you by your actions and we shall decide what you are. It’s no good telling everyone your great, if everybody thinks your a twat.

You can try to suppress the conversation, but control will inevitably backfire. Your brand therefore is defined by how you behave, not how you look, or what you say. Actions speak louder than words.

What can you do?

Looking at the above it’s easy to be scared. You had control and you lost it. Your just going to have to accept it, if we’re to move on. Make a commitment to stop broadcasting and start listening. Using conversational tools to broadcast, isn’t going to endear you to us any more than some idiot entering into a bar with a load hailer selling haemerroid cream.

Firstly your going to need to get better at listening, get to know who your speaking to, and what they expect from you.

Next demonstrate that you have actually listened and take appropriate action (note: this is not a cease and desist letter). Accept your flaws, and show that you are making the effort to change. Where it’s an issue of communication (ie. not something you can immediately change), learn to communicate openly and honestly.

It’s a partnership, we’re here to help if you’ll let us in.

Be prepared to re-evaluate how you see us

As you start to understand us you may be surprised, you’ve spent so long selling us who you think we are, that you’ve forgotten who we really are. You reduced us to shallow market demographics for the purposes of understanding physical needs. Our emotional needs were subjugated to this as a result. There are things that unify us. There are common needs, but these needs are intrinsically Human. Start seeing us as such, start treating us as such.

What does the future hold?

In the future we are equal. In order to be a part of it you will need to develop better ears, and a more beautiful mind.

By ears I mean technologies that allow you to listen better. To know which spaces we are talking in, so you can come to us. There are numerous challenges with information overload, it may be better for you to provide us with a better mouthpiece. NB. it would be better for you often if our conversations were private, and you kept us happy. Also be aware that some of us are also twats, where this is the case you should just take a step back, as long as you have made a reasoned case people will see it. The last word doesn’t win the argument.

Technologies that allow us to express our needs better, will lead to you understanding us better. It may even lead to completely different directions for your organisation.

A more beautiful mind is more challenging, it is not technological but systemic. To change your mind, you have to change your behavior. Recognising you have to change is the beginning.

Every advert is an opportunity to begin an engagement with us, so is your product if your clever enough about it. Everything you do is a moment of contact, another form of communication, consider what you are saying and how we might respond.

Your going to need to start caring about us. We’re more than objects, our needs are more than physical. When you start to recognise that and start to meet our emotional needs, then you’ll begin to earn our love and trust.

The world is your toolbox

Finally just to quell your thirst for technological knowledge. All you need to know is this – the world is your toolbox, you can build whatever you want.

You don’t need to know the trends, because even greater things are hidden from view.

It is no longer neccessary (or indeed possible), to keep abreast of every emerging technology trend and capability. But generally you can assume that if you can imagine it, then the technology exists to bring it into reality (or at least make it appear real).

So don’t limit your imagination. Listen to us, establish how you can make our lives better, then act on it. We will love you in return and continue to support you in this two way relationship.


2 thoughts on “Social Technology Rant”

  1. Good “rant” , as you said on Sandbox forum.

    I had a similar discussion about design affordances and why people hold themselves to old metaphors for problem solving (focused on UX).

    I will reply in the other thread. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.



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