Wednesday, 19 May 2010
How to do social media
On the way back from Podnosh meeting with my digital mentor, suddenly everything became clear. I understood why Nick had been a little vague when trying to answer my questions, what steps to take, framework, everything. Once in a while you need someone to give you a slap to see the painfully obvious - it took me a while, but I'm there now.
Whatever you do with digital media, it is just that - digital media. The important stuff is the conversations it supports. No conversation, no point to digital media. You have to have something to talk about first - goes without saying, but it is more than that. Laying out a too prescriptive system, too directed, moderated, controlled, censored, and the conversation breaks down. I try and promote 'youth voice' in my work, and there is great potential in using digital social media, but not if you try and lay out how and which people you can and can't talk to. No one likes that.
It's that little bit of Thatcherism that was OK. Not the 'trickle down' baloney, or the every man for himself, but the importance of ownership, the ability to make your own choices, or 'individualism'. That, linked with a genuine desire to share knowledge & experience (I think Thatcher missed this bit) has made some of the most incredible sites - Facebook, Wikipedia, all of them.
It's easy to get blinded by the 'newness' of it, and that everyone else seem to 'get it'. It's also easy to fall into the trap of creating a flash website, setting out everything for you, thinking all is done. Often the answer is right there in front of you - small networks, people linked more naturally and owning their own 'space', collaborating based on each of our own interests, rather than any hierarchical organisational approach.
To 'successfully' use social media it seems you need nothing more than to make any type of conversation. You need to listen, show respect, follow basic etiquette (means you reply to emails quickly as poss, follow links people give you, keep to arrangements you make, update). It's a big world out there, but on the internet can we really be individual and equal?