Social by design
I went to NMK's 6th Beers Innovation session Social by Design
on Tuesday evening. It was my second time to B and I think it is a nice event. Not the goodie-bag crap discussions of days gone by. It is a refreshing scene, and I'm looking forward to the January session : Do Agencies Innovate?
It was the first time I had a chance to see Meg Pickard
speak. She was as articulate in person as she is on her blog. AOL is lucky to have her. The other two members of the panel were Tim Morgan of Mint (creators of the Islandoo
site for Channel 4) and Philip Wilkinson of Crowdstorm
, the social shopping site. The event was chaired by The Guardian's Neil McIntosh, who I thought did an excellent job.
The event was sold-out and there were a bunch of passionate people in attendance: Sam and Mike from TechCrunch UK
and Tom Coates who blogs at Plastic Bag
and works at Yahoo!.
After a professor asked the crowd to describe their tagging habits (low point of the evening), I decided to stir things up by suggesting that there is no design to social media (actually, I said most of it is shit) and, later, asked why there is no focus on value creation.
Yes, I know design is not only about the front-end, but I wanted to get a reaction and kick-start a debate. It worked. It got under Tom Coate's skin, and he almost came out of his seat. You can check out his post about the event here
. I left a lenghtly reply, and I've decided to post some of it here ...
--- lifted from the comments, here
Regarding "design" ... No one designed Orkut to work in South America. Bebo wasn't designed to appeal to Irish kids. Etc. There is an incredible serendipity to the geographic popularity of a number of social networking and social media sites. When Michael Birch emailed a few hundred people in Canada about Bebo, do you really think he had grand plans (a "design") to corner the CA market?
I need to debunk your debunking of MySpace ... The biggest two things that distinguished MySpace from Friendster was the fact that, unlike Friendster, MySpace wasn't crashing all the time and MySpace let people have "Fakesters", something Friendster was totally against allowing.
MySpace (and others) only had a chance because Friendster blew it. Friendster suffered from bad design: both bad technical design and bad design in terms of how they wanted to let people develop the network.
Sure, MySpace had tons of email addresses and an interesting approach to music, but despite the fact that their user experience was crap (and still is in lots of places), people went to them in droves because the site didn't crash. Given Friendsters technical problems, MySpace was the only game in town in terms of large-scale, open, free social networks.
By the way, you're totally right that the missed mention of Wikipedia when the guy in the front row asked about social benefits was incredible. I said the same thing to the guy sitting next to me. Shame on you, Meg. ;)
As for the "value creation" comment/question, you suggest that we should "start refusing to take seriously questions about value." We'll, I'll keep asking about value until people start giving better answers. Two of the three people on the panel could not give a direct answer to the question. One guy said pageviews. Pageviews?!? Common, get real.
Value creation, however people define it, needs to be part of the conversation. Why is it that so many people assume that the idea of value creation can only be about cash? Social participation, collaboration, content generation, activism, increased advocacy, improved relationships, and yes, cold hard cash, are just a few ways to measure the ROI of a social media company.
Sure, I know you understand it. You even pointed out some excellent ways that it can be approached. Too many people and companies involved in the space, however, either assume that everyone "gets it" or just don't bother. If we want real participation (ie: investment and advertising), there is a need to be serious about questions of value creation.
I think if UK companies (and especially start-ups) want to participate in the absolute global boom that we are seeing these days, they shouldn't be afraid of things like value and ROI.
They should embrace them, almost as if by design.
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