7 points on the value of social media tools

 It has been an interesting week for my book. I had the amazing opportunity to show my first chapter/introduction and the content of the book to my editor (@Graeme, this is your official status, I hope that’s OK;)) and received great points on how I can improve the copy, add a better take on certain strong points I want to make and adjust my style. I like to receive creative feedback. It makes me work harder and inspires me to dig into the areas of my book I did not consider as important as others.

In the meantime I was on the panel of LASA Digital Summit this Monday in London where I have heard about Rob Dyson’s  – what seems to be rather controversial, or shall I say popular – decision to delete his Facebook account. I feel that my personal take on the matter is quite relevant to the content of my book. Rob Dyson is a popular voice in the UK non-profit comms and digital media sector, you see. His voice is listened to and followed, hence why I am really happy to see Rob promoting Google+ as the next big thing for non-profit and digital communications professionals because I know others will follow. The mere mentioning of his move as a “future trend in social media” and a dominating dislike towards Facebook and sudden interest in Google+ seem to prove that. But I might be wrong, it was just one of many reactions I have observed at the LASA event.

I have very mixed feelings about Rob’s announcement. From one point of view, I am really glad that he is advocating sceptical approach to social media platforms with a history of unstable management and sudden changes. I think industry leaders like Rob should really drive the innovation in the sector and raise awareness – it’s a responsibility coming together with their legitimate, true offline and online reputation. We trust their experience. We face our personal fears or worries related to tech and actually try out new things. That is good.

What I am worried about it the bigger picture. Once again I hear that Facebook is blamed for many aspects of social media experience that as a company it is not necessarily responsible for. As many other social media platforms, it’s a tool for communication, relationship building and content sharing. Ultimately the personal value of a social media channel will depend on:

  1. Our goals in this particular space – what do you really use it for?
  2. Our networks – who else is there with you and what type of people do you reach out to?
  3. Content – what are your friends sharing and what are you sharing with them?
  4. Tool’s place in the entire social media landscape and your personal mix – how much time do you spend on it? how important is it amongst all other social media channels? Does it contribute to the entire set of tools you use?
  5. Offline value – does it complement your offline activities and help you in connecting with offline connections or build new ones?
  6. Productivity value – does it save you time in finding content, sharing content or getting in touch with others?
  7. The price you pay – does it endanger your privacy, the integrity of your reputation or affect anyone else in your network?

I am sure there are many more questions one needs to ask when measuring the value of a particular tool. Rob mentions in his post six types of activities he listed when evaluating his Facebook usage but most of them actually relate to his behaviour, not specific Facebook functionalities. I am really sorry it if sounds harsh but the argument against Facebook as a tool, in this case, is a bit weak and unfair. I do agree that occasionally we all experience noise fatigue or have to re-evaluate our networks, but Facebook has some pretty basic and good tools to manage that.

I do agree with few Rob’s points about Facebook as a company and sudden changes in user experience (trust me, I am frustrated about having to re-write my slides about its features ever so often!), but again we must not forget that 1. it is a free tool, 2. we are not forced to use it or connect through this particular channel.

I also agree with Rob that there seems to be in the UK in the nonprofit sector sudden change of heart. Possibly due to the recent changes in Facebook algorithm and drastic changes in the actual reach of fan page messages. (Again, maybe there is a good side of this change for brands too – I see a few posts on the value of long term relationships and cross platform relationship management). I agree that Google+ might just live its time as it starts to mature and I feel that general public starts to embrace it and we have more and more good branded case studies too. Maybe…

As I said on Monday, I myself would not be able to bet on any of the major tools in 2013. I hope that all those reactions will raise our general awareness around the true nature of our relationship with the tool providers, value of the content we access, filter and share; value of our long term relationships and contact management; and finally common sense in taking responsibility for how we and our friends use a particular tool for practical purposes.

Technology is what we make of it. It should be the extension of who we are. It is our responsibility to make the most of it or walk away. On that, I also agree with Rob.

So, as we approach our weekend how about we simply head off for a walk or a coffee with friends?;)


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