Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image

social

04 Sep

By

Tectonic Shifts #02: Social

September 4, 2014 | By |

 

Tectonic Shifts is a series of articles on the mega trends that will shape our digital future for years (if not decades) to come.

tl;dr (Executive Summary)

Social – short for Social Media, and a key part of the holy trinity of Social/Mobile/Location-based services – is what happens when users connect: They connect around topics & interest, around products, on platforms, between platforms. It’s ubiquitous conversations as popularized by the Cluetrain Manifesto (2000), and as such maybe one of the oldest (internet-based) tech trends that we still see evolving. Social includes, but goes way beyond platforms like Facebook, Youtube and Twitter, and has impacts on everything from customer relations and marketing to business models & business strategy to customer service and product design.

Numbers/impact

Social is a development of such ridiculous size that quantifying it wouldn’t get us very far. A few pointers as to just how big anyway just for good measure:

  • 74% of adults use social networking sites (Pew Internet 2014)
  • 70% of citizens in Iceland actively use social media, 57% in the UK, 35% in Germany, 64% in Taiwan, 46% in China… (Statista 2014)
  • Twitter, Whatsapp, Snapchat, and Facebook are als considered “billion dollar companies”.

More important than these numbers is the central role that Social Media has been playing for the last 10-15 years. Used almost synonymously with “the internet”, Social has been the key driver behind the massive user empowerment as well as a whole new way that groups can coordinate online to affect change – politically or in campaigns of more consumption-oriented nature.

What does this mean for society & industries?

Social touches practically all areas of an organization. Marketing & communications, sure. But also customer relationship management and customer service; strategy; product design; product development; internal processes; market research; and many more.

Products and services that smartly leverage Social have a much higher chance to succeed. Those designed without at least consideration for Social are bound to fail in the market. This doesn’t mean everything has to have a Facebook Like button on it, of course. However, not leveraging Social should be a very conscious decisions. There’s almost no internet or media related product that don’t have potential for a Social layer of some sort or another.

Social Media as well as product design with Social elements has been around for more than a decade. It’s a mature field. Don’t do it with amateurs, work with professionals – there’s a whole industry out there. However, be aware that really embracing Social will almost certainly lead to a bias towards more openness and more intense engagement with stakeholder groups inside and outside the organization. Again, set up the infrastructure and team to make and maintain the transition smoothly.

Which industries are expected to be most strongly affected?

Every. Single. One.

The most obvious and direct impact was most certainly seen around communications/marketing, publishing, music & video, as well as campaigning & politics.

If you think your organization or industry isn’t impacted, think again – you’re very likely missing something.

Risks & opportunities

Opportunities:

  • Social creates a lot of data points both explicitly (conversations, items shared, etc.) and implicitly (usage data). This means lots of intelligence on user behavior and desires, in other words: market research.
  • New services and products: Social data and the structure associated with it allows for new business models and product ideas.
  • Stakeholder engagement: Social opens new channels and ways to engage with stakeholders (clients, customers, users, current and potential employees, collaborators, media, etc.)

 

Risks:

  • Privacy implications are huge. Don’t be a creep.
  • Implementely haphazardly or bluntly, or without giving the project the necessary love, Social engagement can backfire and create bad publicity at large scale.
  • High costs as processes, team structures and infrastructure need to be adapted, and are likely to be in flux for a longer time.
  • Lots of snake oil out there. Proceed with care.

Resources, key players, links

  • There are too many players, agencies, platforms to name here.
  • Facebook’s own business backgrounders are quite useful.
  • Otherwise, check what’s already out there in terms of networks and tools.

 

To learn more, read what this series is all about and see all articles of Tectonic Shifts.

24 Jun

By

poetic/social/playful objects

June 24, 2012 | By |

Jorge Luis Borges’ poetic objects, Jyri Engestrom’s social objects, playful objects in the tradition of the more recent IoT explorations like Usman Haque’s addicted toaster or maybe the Ugle, a networked wooden owl that allows you to send a color message.

Borges, referring to a kind of literature of the fictional world of Tlön, whose language consists “ideal objects” which are “convoked and dissolved in a moment, according to poetic needs”. Second degree objects, combinable by an author in levels of complexity challenging comprehension, yet fleeting, ephemeral. Engestrom, using data points as a focal point that connects people. Digital, possibly lasting (for now). Haque, playing with perceptions of things, anthropomorphizing everyday objects that are connected, interactive, conveying playfulness.

(Bruno Latour’s Parliament of Things, re-surfacing in Adam Greenfield‘s notion of a Thing of Things (thing used here in the sense of assembly, as presented at the OpenIOT Assembly), also seem to be relevant in this context, although I’m not entirely sure how, beyond the more obvious power — and hence policy — implications.)

There’s a strong connection there, between these three types of objects and their interplay, yet to be explored, a meaning I’ve been trying to surface, so far unsuccessfully.

Gut-feeling: Where you cross the (admittedly blurry) lines between two or more of these types of objects it gets interesting. Take Alex D-SGood Night Lamp (GNL), both social and playful object. One could argue that its rapid prototyping-based nature taps right into Borges’/Tlön’s ephemeral poetic objects as well. The Ugle would probably also fit right at the intersection of social & playful, after all much like the GNL it represents an ambient social signal with low-key interactivity. David Bausola‘s Weavrs (like this one) are definitely playful, if purely digital in their current manifestation, and work around social objects in Engestrom’s sense – data points, images, blog posts, geo data. In other words: URLs.

How can we tap more into all three? What happens at the overlap of the Venn diagram of poetic/social/playful objects?

17 Jan

By

Social Media in Medical Institutions

January 17, 2012 | By |

Note: These are some initial thoughts, not yet ready for prime time on the Third Wave blog. Feedback to help shape these thoughts is very welcome.

A recent issue of f&w, a German magazine for managers of medical institutions (mostly hospitals and rehabilitation clinics) had a series of articles on social media. On the one hand, it’s almost a bit depressing that this sector is only now beginning to seriously look at Social Media. On the other hand, it’s good to see some movement in this space as there is much to gain for all parties involved.

The magazine quoted plenty of studies – some of which seemed fairly small-scale, but indicative and plausible enough for me – that boiled down to this:

  1. The whole sector is only in a very early stage of embracing Social.
  2. Top level management is only beginning to see the need for and advantages of Social Media, mostly because they have no personal experience with it (ie. a generational gap).
  3. Adaption rates seem to grow quickly from a low level as the first movers gather lots of (oftentimes positive) experiences.
  4. There’s clearly a recognized need for the sector to engage with their potential patients online and through Social as patients get more and more autonomous and base their decisions on online research and peer recommendations.

It’s a tricky sector for Social. Not unlike banking, if for completely different reasons, data is highly sensitive and privacy is of the highest priority. This is also reflected in the laws regulating both sectors.

Just to be clear here: In an emergency hospital, things can already be quite sensitive. But if you or your relatives submit themselves to treatment in a clinic for psychological or psychosomatic diagnoses it’s a different ball game altogether. There’s legal issues, there’s social stigma, there’s the risk of negative impact on the treatment. Most people won’t “like” a clinic on Facebook, and that’s ok.

And yet there’s tremendous potential in using Social channels in this context. As patients get more autonomous, monitoring and reputation building grow more important. As a clinic, you’ll want to know how happy your patients are with treatment, location and service. You might want to learn how to improve their experience during the treatment. You might try and support them after treatment through regular checkups and by providing a channel for them to get advice should they need it. And of course you can always help patients with shared experiences to connect among themselves for mutual support.

That’s the Social Media part. While the details and implementation are tricky, it’s not rocket science and there are enough examples of how things work. Then there’s the part that I’d put at the intersection of where the somewhat unwieldily named Quantified Self (that we’ve been writing about for awhile) meets mobile apps and networked technology.

More concretely, imagine a kid treated for childhood obesity (the numbers in the industrialized world are staggering!). Once kids leave the clinic and head back home, they’re back in their old environment, back in their old life. This is where things get complicated, as obesity usually involves a radical change of lifestyle – often for the whole family, if there is to be a lasting effect.

Feedback loops can help keep the motivation up, as can group dynamics and regular reminders. All the big and small stuff we can do to ease the problems that might arise on a day-to-day basis. A scale that tweets your weight might sound ridiculous. A scale that helps you track your weight over time and gives you regular feedback – not quite as ridiculous. An app that lets you know what you can’t and can eat given your current situation that very day? Now we’re talking.

All these things might become unnecessary after a few months, which is fine. Once the former patient has developed new routines and a better understanding of what’s good and what isn’t and they’re ready to move on. But for the transition period this could be really useful.

The current wave of Quantified Self and lifestyle and health apps aims mostly at those with an extra healthy or active lifestyle and at early adopters. A few of these services also target very specific medical conditions.

It seems to me that there is a huge, huge demand (and thus market) in the middle here. And I’m looking forward to seeing new services developed for this market.

Disclosure: I privately hold a (very small) amount of shares in a small independent medical services provider with a focus on phychosomatic rehabilitation, and used to work with them on their online activities when I was still a freelancer.

21 Nov

By

The Multitasking Tribe Out on the Town

November 21, 2011 | By |

Still life at Dumbo

Over at the New York Times, there was an article the other day: Out on the Town, Always Online. While curiously sparing out most attempts at digging for deeper explanations, it shows and discusses how people have become used to permanently be connected through their cellphones. (Note that I’m trying to avoid any generational reference.)

The Nagara Zoku

To any of us, the folks who are out and about and won’t hesitate to reply to a text message or a tweet during dinners, conversations or on subways, the article doesn’t really explain anything new. However, there are a few nuggets in there, and a few points certainly worth discussing. At the very least, it’s a discussion we’ve all had many times – I certainly did, with family and more offline friends alike.

That behavior, the never ending multi-tasking, of course has a name, too. The Japanese refer to it – to us – as the Nagara Zoku, the Multitasking Tribe.

And there’s a fair bit of potential social conflict in this where other tribes are involved.

I’m being social, just not with you

“I don’t think of what’s here and what’s not here as separate,” he said. “Like I’ll be out with my mom and if I look at my phone, she says I’m being anti-social. I say, ‘I’m being social, just not social with you.’ ”

For us, that’s normal. Hey, I’m not less engaged, but more so! Only, it’s not easily apparent for everyone outside, well, our heads. After all, as often as not reaching for our phones isn’t with social intent, but with the intent to cocoon, to tune out for a moment, or because we’re bored of the conversation.

Either one of which is legit, but we easily send the wrong signals.

Participate in the future before you build it

Most of this potential conflict is part of a change process. Protocols change, and quickly. Says Spencer Lazar, founder of mobile startup Spontaneously:

“I get away with it more than other people because of the industry I work in. I try to adopt behavior that will reflect the way the future will be. It’s important to participate in the future before you build it.”??

The future etiquette is here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet. We see that every day, and there’s a crass difference between having dinner with our families (“Can’t you put your phone away for a minute?”) and our peer group (“Have you checked in on Foursquare yet?”).

For me personally it’s a matter of great personal interest to watch how etiquette and behaviors change, and it has even become part of my job. What’s not to love about it?

The rule of the trajectory

Curiously, the New York Times article notes that evening plans for one of the featured couples are “vague”. If anything, planning social activities seems to have gotten much less of a pain compared to when I was a teenager – And I’m almost sure it’s not exclusively because I don’t feel as akward now as back then.

Where a few years ago, you’d need a more or less rigid schedule, now a trajectory is all you need. No more meet at Bar X at nine. Instead, we’ll leave at 9, join us when you’re free, you know how to find us, and we’ll take it from there. A state of flow instead of a rigid framework. It’s in flux, both in terms of activities and group members. And this makes it more open, more social, more participatory.

In other words, it’s altogether smoother, more elegant.

And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.