Why I Didn’t Understand Social Media

This post is in response to Robert‘s request to clarify my status update in Facebook. I said

just realized that I don’t really understand the social media yet.

Robert asked why. Let me share some indicators.

I never took Social media serious

I had a twitter account on February 14, 2007, and sent my first twitter message that day. But I didn’t really take it serious afterward. I dropped some tweets in the beginning and recently, but compared to 1195 blog entries I wrote since than, 869 messages are much fewer. Majority of them are notification of new blog entries. Obviously a blog entry is longer than 140 characters, and takes much more time to write.

The same happened with Facebook.com and Kaixin001.com, the two major SNS I still consider myself “using”.

No wonder that I don’t have too much in-depth knowledge about the rising of Social Media.

Social Network Services (SNS) vs Social Media

Let me clarify two concepts first. SNS is the websites everyone uses today – Facebook, twitter, or Kaixin001, or Renren… SNS is the service to help people to connected with their friends. People don’t use it as a “media”.

Social Media is a another concept. Just like most people use paper to write mail to their friends, some small amount of professional use paper to print newspaper. The previous paper is called tool, or carrier at most, the later is called “media”. Another example, not all blogs are media, at least not with that intention, but many blogs are built to be a media.

“Social” media is a new form of communication. They leverage the social interaction to spread out the message. Although it exists long before Internet even come into being – the Tipping Point described the roles of connector, maven, and salesman in the case of the American War of Independence.

So a group of people and company are researching how to leverage the social connection (especially in today’s SNS sites) to spread out the message.

How They Do Social Media

I talked with Isaac in Xindanwen the other day, and got a lot inspiration. Here is the step some companies do on their Social Media effort.

  • They build their identity (a fan page, or an account) in all SNS site (call it as cloud of people). There is nothing new about it.
  • They generate interesting contents and feed into accounts. They designed the message to flow from the account of one network to another. There is nothing new here either.
  • They do research to find the most-well-connected people in each network (the Connector role in the Tipping Point book), and try to let the connector follow them. If that is hard, they check out who the Connectors follow, and make them (the Maven) follow their account. This is the key since you need to design the path for the message to spread.
  • They track who re-tweeted, or re-posted it, or “liked” it, and fine tune the message to make it either more useful, or more interesting, with the hope that the message will be spread out by the Connectors. If an influential connector RTed the message, huge amount of people will notice it, and it is likely that they will RT again, and again, and then hit another big connector. The circle goes one.
  • Finally, with the message spreading out so quickly, many people will start to follow the genuine source of the message, the account the company or person setup.

With time going by, with the help of connectors, there will be more and more people follow the original account, making it a powerful, sustainable channel for the company. That can be called a true media, or a social media!

That is Something New

When Google became big, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) becomes important, and now everyone knows link matters. Now, when SNS shows the trend to deliver more traffic, and more awareness than search engine, it is something that everyone in the industry should look carefully at. Obviously, I was not in this circle before.

P.S. I just broke my rule of only following people I know on Twitter. I just followed back all the 824 followers, and start to use Hootsuite.com as Twitter client. People warned: “You cannot follow that many people! That is huge distraction, and you cannot handle it”. Well. After I did it and check the timeline for a while, I realized, it is just like glance on the 800 people in the People’s Square. You may not see every individual, but the few individuals you happen to noticed tells you a lot of information about this city already. You don’t need to check every of the 800 people, or look at them 24 hour to get the impression that “it is hot, and people are wearing T-shirt”, or “the economy is bad, since most of them are not happy”…

3 thoughts on “Why I Didn’t Understand Social Media

  1. I asked a question via twitter — How can I find bloggers who are living in shanghai or will be visiting shanghai, then somebody

    recommends me this site.

    I dont understand why you have so many month page views —1 million. that is a lot.

    have a nice day.

  2. Robert Scoble (@Scobleizer) follows what must be billions of people. (OK, just a great-many thousand…) I forgot the URL to his FriendFeed feed, but that thing is like incredible. There are, at least, 5 to 10 new updates PER SECOND.

    It is just insane. ;-)

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