I’m bored of social media and here’s why…

I’ve spent the last few years telling organisations  to invest in social media, to create a Facebook Page, set up a Twitter presence, start buzz monitoring and to be equipped to engage customers in conversations online…

…usually to find that most people are only concerned about not keeping up with their customers. And although this is a valid concern, it shouldn’t be the only reason for investing in social media.

The thing is, I don’t actually care about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat etc. Although I think these can be really useful tools to help some of the more important stuff – the stuff that is really going to help your business deliver its mission.

Maybe it’s the words ‘social media’ which are misleading some people.

They’ve got bad connotations. They’ve become associated with the idea that your office doing the ‘harlem shake’ is the best way to engage your customers (I put my hand up – I’ve suggested this before).

The thing is, it does work… sometimes. Organisations having fun is really important. It’s when it’s a pretence that I get bored with it, and customers are getting tired of it too.

What I’m really talking about is ‘kulturelle etterslep’ (which is a Norwegian term meaning ‘cultural lag’).

The term cultural lag refers to the notion that culture takes time to catch up with technological innovations and that social problems and conflicts are caused by this lag. — Wikipedia

What I mean by this is that we’ve moved on from believing the hype. We, as consumers, can see whether your employees are really happy or that you have true purpose in what you do.

But you can solve the kulturelle etterslep problem if you start looking beyond the digital tools and start focusing on authenticity, trust, purpose and meaning. It is this which will shine through.

If you invest in developing a culture which is truly authentic and has purpose and meaning, then your Facebook/ Instagram/ Twitter/ Vine/ Snapchat account will look after itself.

A metaphor for business

In the 18th century, philosopher and social theorist, Jeremy Bantham, designed a new type of building called the Panopticon.

The Panopticon was a concept which would allow someone to observe (opticon) all (pan) of an institution without others being able to see whether they were being watched or not.

panopticon

Bentham described the Panopticon as “a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind”.

Bentham was attracted to this idea for one main reason: knowledge = power.

Many people are, or have been, afraid of giving up their knowledge, of sharing it widely . Instead, we’ve seen how knowledge has become restricted within certain groups of people in an attempt to maintain powerful positions in society. Women are a good example of such a group throughout history. Even today women currently hold just 4.2% of FTSE 500 CEO positions.

It’s organisations that deploy these ‘panoptic structures’ that are getting it wrong and are losing trust their key stakeholders. These organisations are failing because essentially they’re restricting knowledge and operating in silos.

But what if the Panoptican was used as a force for good, rather than evil?

What if Bentham’s vision was about sharing power?

What if everyone was encouraged to climb the central tower to grasp the whole picture?

The blurry line & evolving habits

There’s a blurry line evolving in my day-to-day life. And it’s getting bigger.

20130402-222933.jpg

Technology means that everything is becoming connected.

This has many benefits of course..

– It means we get to do things like work from home and, therefore, less office space is needed.

– It means we can access information wherever we need it, whenever we need it. This means that knowledge is becoming less top- heavy and more evenly distributed between all the classes and demographics in society.

– It means we can communicate with anyone anywhere at anytime. This means that the whole world is essentially the new ‘local’.

Essentially it means that there is less room for structure in every day life. I’ve noticed this in my personal behaviour:

  • I write blog posts in the bath.
  • I tweet about them on the bus.
  • I send emails from the gym changing room.
  • I arrange my weekend from my office desk.
  • I finish proposals over breakfast.
  • I check my emails when I get into bed.

Workplaces are reflecting this with the importance of growing trends such as flexi-time and ‘bring your own device to work’. Personally, my life – which once was divided into very distinct areas – is now a blurred mist of interconnected ‘things’.

In direct correlation with this, I’ve noticed my behaviour changing on Facebook. Initially a place for organising nights out with friends and tagging drunk photos at university – I’m now connected with family, my grandma(!), my parents, colleagues and even clients.

So, when is it OK to switch off?

____

Since writing this, I’ve come across this post by Senior Researcher at Microsoft Research, Danah Boyd, who has communicated my thoughts on this much better than I have. Well worth a read.

(Updated 07/05/2013)