Last night, we went to the Social Media Club of San Francisco (SMC-SF). The discussion was on “how do we create networks” and “how do we create value in our networks.” The event was full of many different people who had a lot more experience than us in developing and interacting in digital social networks. The mood of the event was engaged and we got the sense that people were very interested in collaborating to improve their offers, those of the other members, and the collective offer of “Social Media Club.”
At the same time, we didn’t get a sense that the group had yet built a way to “win” this game of collaboration — there was no shared purpose or goal in coming out of this event. In the beginning, Chris Heuer asked the group to say what they thought of when they heard the word “Social Media.” People threw out words from “wikis” and “podcasts” to “collaboration” and “trust.” We listened to “Social Media” as everything and anything that has to do with the Internet, from the tools, to the social practices, to the assessments, to the moods, to the narratives about the good in human nature. This broad definition was so all encompassing that it was meaningless; it didn’t bring forth any new actions or commitments for us to take.
This confusion that showed up for us happened when participants used other words, such as “value,” “trust,” “network,” and “intentionality.” We plan to explore the phenomena that these distinctions were being used to show in future posts.
In this post, we suggest that some of uncertainty and inability for us to see distinct new actions was part of the style that this group had. It was still young and hadn’t built a rigorous communal language or clear offers of what joining this group will bring to the participants. While this is good in the beginning — it leaves a space for thinking about what concerns of participants (present and future) the group plans to address — we 1. don’t assess that this group is rigorously asking what are the concerns of the participants, and 2. propose that this group is growing (it now has 17 different local teams across the country/world) and is should begin to define itself with an offer. We claim that if the group doesn’t build an offer, its relevance in the lives of the participants could first be confusing and then obsolete.
Having a strong offer produces more certainty and more possible commitments out of that offer. If we take the example of LinkedIn, they offer a digital space for professionals: to meet clients, providers, partners, etc. who have been previously recommended by others in their network; to find available job positions, to facilitate introductions with networked members, etc. LinkedIn’s mission is “to help you be more effective in your daily work and open doors to opportunities using the professional relationships you already have.” These are clear offers which help to shape the space in which people work together in this group. One participant at the SMC-SF event mentioned how he accepts or rejects members into his LinkedIn network not whether he is friends with them or not, but whether he can vouch for their professional skills, responsibility, etc. LinkedIn has a clearer offer and the community around it preserves that offer.
We don’t want to make this critique from the sidelines. We listened that there are many individuals, including ourselves, who want to build the SMC in order to bring value to the community. We want this post to help open up a space to build a stronger offer oriented to specific concerns of the community, a more rigorous communal language, and a shared narrative of who we (SMC) are and what we are doing in the world.