jason oke

If you’re not in awe, you’re not paying attention.

The purpose of information

Neil and Leland have mentioned a great quote from Mark Zuckerberg (founder/CEO of Facebook) which gets to the original sin many brands are committing these days, thinking we can just build branded communities that people will flock to.  As Mark says, that’s clearly mistaken:

“Communities already exist.  Instead, think about how you can help that community do what it wants to do.”
This reminded me of my favourite Zuckerberg quote (as reported by Esther Dyson at the Web 2.0 conference last year):
“The other guys think the purpose of communication is to get information. We think the purpose of information is to foster communication.”
So true, so good. Once again, it’s all about the social object.

By the way, if you haven’t already, check out Neil’s excellent presentation “What’s Next – How Social Media Changes the Rules For Good”. It rocks the casbah. And Neil’s a super nice guy.

Filed under: Social networks, Web/Tech

Coverage

In meta-media news, my grammar of social media post from last week got picked up today by the Design Observer and then by Bruce Nussbaum in Business Week. All of which has led to a few thousand new visitors and being featured as one of WordPress’ fastest growing blogs.

So if you’re new here, hi. Thanks for coming. I hope you stick around.

The lesson here? At this particular cultural moment, writing about Obama, Clinton, and Twitter is a hot combination to get some press. Now if only I could figure out a way to get Lindsay Lohan, Angelina Jolie, sub-prime mortgages, and the Lost season finale in there…

Filed under: Media, Social networks, solipsism

The grammar of social media

For a social media presentation I’ve been looking at how different brands use twitter. One of the most revealing comparisons I came across is Hillary Clinton’s campaign vs Barack Obama’s (yes I’m Canadian, but I’m also kind of a US political junkie).

They’re both on twitter, and both use it well – regular updates, often a few times a day, along with calls to action and links to interesting press coverage or videos. Of course I’m guessing neither one of them is actually doing the updating, it’s likely an aide or intern in their campaigns. Which is a shame because the idea of a future POTUS whipping out their phone and saying “hold on, I just HAVE to twitter this” is kind of funny.

But there’s one big difference: if you sign up to follow Barack Obama’s updates, his campaign immediately signs up to follow you. So now he has over 33,000 followerers – and also follows over 33,000 people. Hillary Clinton doesn’t follow anyone – she has 4,000 followerers, and follows 0 people. Now there are clearly some demographic differences there (Clinton supporters tend to be older, Obama supporters tend to be younger, more tech-savvy, and also more loyal and enthusiastic) but I’m guessing that a big part of the difference is explained by the fact that Obama reciprocates the act of following.

It’s a small thing, and I’m sure most people realize that it’s a token gesture: he and his campaign aren’t actually sitting there reading each of our updates. But it’s an important gesture that shows he understands the grammar of social media. Clinton is basically using twitter as another broadcast medium; Obama is using it as a tool for connecting with people on an individual level.

In any social media, there’s an important psychological trigger that happens when someone subscribes to follow your updates – it’s validating, it’s rewarding, it makes people feel in some small way that they matter. In this case it also creates its own word of mouth, because it changes the conversation from “I signed up to follow Hillary Clinton’s updates” to “Barack Obama is following me on Twitter!” – really, which one is someone more likely to say?

Obama’s act of reciprocation also has one other side effect: because twitter shows thumbnail images of the people you follow on your page, Obama’s page now has a huge sidebar of images of people which makes the page feel more grassroots and more like a community. It makes it seem more like you’re joining something.

Does your brand understand the grammar of social media? In another post I’ll share a bit more from my presentation.

Filed under: Social networks, Trends

Post PSFK

Last week’s PSFK conference was great.

Once again, I remain convinced that the real value in conferences lies in the social value they create. I mean to take nothing away from the speakers and content – there was lots of inspiring stuff.

But the best parts always seem to be in the breaks and drinks and little moments, catching up with some of my favourite people. What has struck me at the last few conferences and events I’ve been to is that in an age where many people already share their ideas and presentations, I find the most value comes in the things that can’t be replicated and disseminated online: the live conversations, the putting faces to names, the late night conspiratorial drinks, and generally the injection of some physicality and tangibility into the digital vagueness that defines much of life in the social web.

Seth has some similar, but probably more coherent ruminations on the theme.

Props to Piers for organizing, to Noah, Seth, and Leland for hanging out and getting me drunk, to Faris for getting me really drunk, and Adrian, Mike, Vivian, Lee, and I’m sure a few other people I’m forgetting for good conversations.

Filed under: Interestingness, People, planning, Social networks

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These are my views. Do I even need to explain that? They're not those of anyone generous enough to pay me money. They're just mine. Unless maybe they're yours too. That would be nice.