Social media is not media, it's social


A controversial titbit from our friend and firestarter, Mark Earls, author of Herd: How to Change Mass Behaviour by Harnessing Our True Nature:

Social Media – blogging, tweeting, facebooking and so on – is not (primarily) about information (what we write, say or read – just as advertising and all those things we criticise are not either); real communication is gestural in nature – it’s about what you do and what you see others doing.

Of course, it seems like the crafting the information bit is important and of course we’d all like to believe that the information processing bit shapes those big and well-considered opinions we carry around. Sad thing is the info bit comes second in terms of shaping our behaviour: most of our thinking is after the fact (as Eliot Aronson puts it, we are more rationalizing than rational); most of our opinions attempts to make sense of what we’ve done not the wise and considered precursor to action.

So, this new landscape can’t be about information and broadcasting, albeit in a way that’s less wasteful or more credible; it’s not about advocacy and brand advocates making the case on behalf of your brand; it’s not about the 1-in-10 or any other minority group who will tell the rest of us what to do; it’s not about “talk” or WOM or any of these poor substitutes for the old TV transmission model – sending messages out to change minds in order to (somehow, eventually) change behaviour. It’s not media at all (as in a medium down which we can send information to folk).

It’s about people. People watching and listening and interacting with other people (that’s why Hugh’s championing of the Social Object is spot on).

It is at heart profoundly human.

We’re not ready to throw away awareness, consideration and recommendation as objectives and measures just yet, but we do agree with his main message – we are inherently social, and social media just lets us be social in new and different ways (even if we’re still restricted by Dunbar’s number).