Skip to main content

Communications Scale with Social Networks

Most social network platforms we set-up and run are for business organizations. Organizations that want to connect people, ideas and information - mashups - so they can improve decision making and performance amongst employees, customers, suppliers, etc. But some of the ideas Mr. Young writes about, scaling self-expression, reach of distribution, and decentralizing the ecosystem apply to what we enable inside businesses.

"Social Networks are the NewMedia", posted by Robert Young.

"It’s crucial to understand that social networks are architected to help scale self-expression to new heights, both in terms of the extent of self-expression as well as the reach of distribution (e.g. number of “friends” and the effects of the whole six degrees of separation thing). A simple example… a person on MySpace can have thousands upon thousands of friends. This was not possible before the Internet, and even prior online communications and community innovations like email, chat/forums, and IM didn’t truly enable this kind of scale. Moreover, a person can now express him/herself with multidimensional, multimedia depth via text, photos, audio and video… again, to a degree that was not really possible before.

To some extent, self-expression should be viewed as a new industry, one that will co-exist alongside other traditional media industries like movies, TV, radio, newspapers and magazines. But in this new industry, the raw materials for the “products” are the people… or as Marshall McLuhan might say, “the people are the message” when it comes to social networks. So for any player who seeks to enter this industry and become the next social networking phenom, the key is to look at self-expression and social networks as a new medium and to view the audience itself as a new generation of “cultural products”.

In the past century, the creation of cultural products was centered in Hollywood. Now, social networks are broadening the scope of cultural media to include “identity production” (a very appropriate term coined by danah boyd), all the while decentralizing the ecosystem out to the edges. For traditional media companies that are seeking to enter this space (e.g. MTV, Martha Stewart, etc.), it’s critical to follow the audience into the development of this new market by re-focusing core assets that have the capability to deepen the level, and heighten the production value, of self-expression."