It's not a secret that there are many different communications styles. Sometimes I'm tempted to think that they are as many as the people on the planet. It's such a wonder that we connect at all. What gets us on the same page are usually the rituals within communities. We build communities with each other and within other entities - like social networks, blogs, forums, towns in real life, etc.
That's why as soon as a social network is launched and people join it,
you see many attempts at defining how one is to behave in such a
context. Up pop the posts on how you behave on Twitter, what you share on FriendFeed, what constitutes blogger relations and what is social media sponsored content, what success is - remind me, is it the number of comments to a post? The influence of the blogger? Whether he's famous already in life 1.0? - how brands (actually in sales they call them logos) need to thread and so on.
Organizations are systems, too where people and materials (more and more, those are ideas today) combine to deliver outcomes. There are informal networks that underpin the social fabric of companies and that allow people to really get the stuff that matters done.
Yes, hierarchies are still there, but their power is on the way out. Soft power is in. Experience matters - as in the experience of you. The best results are cultivated through collaboration, not boxes on an org. chart, as important as those are to the order of things.
communicate is an indication of how you relate
Imitation is part of the human fabric - we are social animals, we like to socialize things. As soon as we join a new company, club, social network, community, anything, we look around to figure out who else is there, what they want/are about, and who follows whom.
However, there are different stages we socialize from, depending upon how we relate to others. There is also a whole conversation around authority, influence, and popularity that I will not attempt here. I have not read Malcolm Gladwell's latest book, yet, so I won't try to retrace his arguments on culture and circumstances, either.
How we relate goes to what is important to us and in which stacking order. It depends on our values, our stage in life, our attitude, and our awareness. So if I asked you, as I did last night on Twitter:
What do you dislike most about social media?
What you'd say would depend on your frame of reference - how you see the world, the type of project you're working on, personal curiosity, and belief system. Let's take a look at what other people said:
When we dug deeper and continued the conversation, Miles Austin said that for him it's a question of how much time there is in a day and what needs his attention. You can see there that The Somers Team also asked me a question. My answer was: I don't like posers, people who cannot find their own brand, and feel the need to 'try' and copy someone else's.
This is why conversation is so important and effective - we discover frames of reference, opinions that build on ours, common ground from which to explore more. Just as importantly, we discover that by virtue of being in the same space, we develop similarities in how we behave and what we accept as unspoken rules. Remember that we all aired the opinions in public and I would guess that was not the first time any of us had given thought to the question or verbalized the response.
Can this kind of insight help public relations? Could it be good food for thought for marketing? There are discoveries in there that we could learn from to execute both better. For all the talk about individual preferences and choices, we are still very much social in our behavior. Yet, the way we stand out - as people and as brands - is by being different. How do the two reconcile?
What do you think? Bandwagon or unique and different? Both?
[image courtesy of Eirik Solheim]