A few months ago, I was engaged in studying cloud computing. I thought the whole concept was pretty interesting. I wrote a post in mid-June about how I thought cloud computing as a concept could translate into the social web. I hypothesized that eventually we would all have a central hub where we would write our posts, our e-newsletters, our status updates, and we’d just select which communities we’d want that information to reach.My thinking was focused on sending information out.
I think my focus was misguided, however. I don’t think that Social Media can sustain or maintain itself if we are all out here sharing information. Listen to all of the noise. See all of the competition. We are all standing in front of a wall that is basically consistent all the way down. Sometimes the wall shifts here and there so that we are talking to different parts, but generally, we all have the same targets in our sights. Those targets are our audience. Those targets are also us. Those targets are people who write blogs, who comment on our blogs, who tweet out our posts, and whose posts we tweet out.
Do we all need to talk to the same wall?
I know that a lot of content in this Social Media world concentrates on community. I’ve certainly talked about community a lot here. But does community mean that we all need to create our own community?
The way I see it, there are huge portions of the wall that have been stamped and stenciled by very large real estate owners. These real estate owners have huge blog communities, huge followings on Twitter, the maximum number of Facebook fans. And all of those people, those subscribers and twitter followers and facebook fans – they are all people who you and I and countless others want to reach too. We are the audience as well as the authors. And I’m just wondering – does that make sense?
No Man is an Island
If Social Media is a sea, then all of these individual blogs and Twitter accounts and “presences” are islands floating along. In order for someone to gather all of the resources they could want, they have to jump from island to island to island. It’s time consuming. It’s tiring. It takes away from time that could be dedicated to building one’s own island. We don’t get along this way in real life, for the most part. We emphasize putting as much information as possible about a topic into one single place. If you are trying to open a bank account with a bank, you don’t have to go to 7 different branches. If you are trying to buy a television at a store, they aren’t going to make you go to 6 other stores to gather all of the information you want.
Moreover, we don’t live this way as people. When you decide it’s time to move, do you start to build your own house and then your own town, or do you move to a community that is already in place?
Why can’t we do that in Social Media?
It takes a community to make a community
If you were to skim through the people I follow and ask me how I met them, the following would be my answers: I met him through that chat. I met her because we did at least one chat together 3-4 nights a week. I met that person because we started conversing over on Chris Brogan’s blog. I met that person from Blogchat.
I have begun to build a community, but it is really not unique to me. I have visited other communities that already existed. I’ve delivered some delicious tuna casserole, introduced myself, and I’ve been invited in. My connections with multiple people have built bridges, for me, between several different communities that exist independently from each other.
I’m starting to think that maybe, just maybe, for people like me who are newer to the Social Media world, that this is the better way to go. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t blog or have your own Twitter account. I’m just saying, why try to create your own town when there are already all of these established communities where houses are for sale? I’m saying that the heart of social media is perhaps not content creation or context creation. I’m saying the heart of social media might be evolving into community adoption – mixing it up with people who are regular commenters on a blog or regular participants in certain (or countless) chats.
How does this work?
What if we let go of the concept of possessing or owning our ideas and content? What if we let go of the notion that our content is furniture and our blog is our house, so all of our content has to be there? Instead of writing a blog on a subject that someone has already blogged about, what if we wrote a meaty, lengthy, thoughtful comment that maybe in the past could have been a blog post, but now it is a submission to a community? We could still generate our own content too, but what if our central hub was everything external to our blog, and our blogs were just spokes on our wheels? What if our community was a cross-section of many other communities, with us as the bridge between them? We would no longer be islands. Our readers, our target audience members, would no longer have to jump from one person’s blog to another. Everyone’s thoughts on that specific subject would be gathered in one place, discussed in one place, ready for evaluation and analysis.
What do you think? Does this make sense?
Image by Gabriella Fabbri. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/duchesssa