Those of us that grok the notions involved can all bang on all we like about Web2.0 and social media. And isn’t the blogosphere hot about it at the moment? We have Scoble trying to define it off the back of Dare Obasanjo asking about it. There’s Stowe Boyd jumping in and trying to (successfully in my mind) help out. And then there’s Marianne Richmond at Resonance Partnership Blog waxing lyrical and super-smart on the changes afoot as a consequence of social media penetration beyond the geek set.
But try to explain social media or Web2.0 to your non-geek spouse, or your 60-year-old Mum and you’re doomed. They barely know about Wikipedia, let alone, Twitter, del.icio.us, digg or last.fm. And they certainly don’t have their own blog or use an RSS feed reader. I’ve begun relying on THAT WEB2.0 VIDEO, that I discovered thanks to John Battelle. You should read his interview with its creator, Michael Wesch, PhD, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University.
The video is clever and generally understood by non-technical people, even if they still don’t quite “get it” until you have them using flickr, del.icio.us, Google Personalized Home Page and Google Reader (I’m getting there with my family…)
In case you’ve not yet seen it, have a squiz.
Way better than the one that makes you want to tear your ears off with a spoon.
To my mind, social media and Web2.0 (for they are inexorably connected) are about, indeed, connectedness. This isn’t a new notion, and is one that all the pundits put forth. As my network of professional contacts expands, and as I introduce non-technical friends and business acquaintances to the tools I consider critical in my day to day functioning (Skype, LinkedIn, Plaxo, upcoming, del.icio.us, etc.), as well as those that simply add pleasure to my online life (last.fm, flickr, Pandora, Plazes, Twitter), I realise that every one of these applications keeps me connected in some way. That connectedness is almost always to a community of some sort, whether that community is focussed on music, photos, business relationships or whatever.
Now, in the 21st Century as our lives get busier, we work longer hours and we struggle to maintain the sense of community that our parents and grandparents talk about — a community based upon really knowing your neighbors and rarely living more than a few miles away from where you were born and where all your family live — we can rebuild community through the power of the connectedness afforded to us by social media. We can talk about and interact with others on subjects that are important to us. We can be a voice to be heard and considered. We can ensure that Grandma who lives on a whole different continent sees video and photos of the new baby.
To me, it’s the connectedness and the community that defines social media. And it’s those factors that real soon will drive use amongst the right hand side of the adoption curve. For most users, it’s not the coolness factor, or the chance to be an early adopter that drives use of tools (whether it’s Google Reader or an iPhone or a cordless drill), it’s utility.
For social media applications, it’s going to be the facilitation of collaboration, community and connectedness that determine uptake and true success.