If it’s not a community… then what is it?

Posted: September 25, 2009 in social media, Twitter
Tags: , , , , , ,

Sometimes it’s just difficult to get a whole idea out in 140 characters or less.  Even in a whole bunch of short bursts of 140 characters or less.  Today is one of those days.

@amacisaac had an interesting tweet earlier today.   Her statement:  FYI: Social media is not a ‘community’.  It’s a technological platform.

My question:  Is she right?

I think it depends on the definition of social media.  To many, social media means Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Myspace and Flickr.  To others, social media means word of mouth.  To me, it means connecting, empowering and sharing.

If social media is Twitter and Facebook, then yes.  Those are not communities.  Those are technological platforms that allow communities to grow around them based on common interests.

If social media is word of mouth, then it’s people dispersing information to their community, so community is involved, but it’s not really part of the definition of social media.

If social media is connecting, empowering and sharing, then it is absolutely all about community.  It’s about creating and participating in many different kinds of communities online and offline.  There are communities that grow around a platform, like Twitter.  Twitterati is an actual term people have identified with.  Folks like @mrrocknroll have built connections with their followers on Twitter, and refer to themselves as ‘Tweeple’.

And then there’s the whole ‘social media community’.  It’s all the people who have an interest in how social media is being used today and the new tools that are being developed to support it.   And it’s made up of all the people, like Angela, who have an idea as to what social media means to them.

Social media, Twitter, Facebook, whatever you’re talking about… they mean different things to different people.  So, just like everything else on the web, there’s no black and white here and there are no rules.  It all depends.  What is it to you?

  1. Angela MacIsaac says:

    Awesome post, Wendy. Thank you so much for fleshing out your thoughts (as I Tweeted, I so knew you would).

    I think your last Tweet says a lot in 140 characters or less: @oviartist but is the platform the community? or is it just allowing ppl to further grow communities on top of it?

    The platform has provided us with a method of connectivity. But, as I just said to @ghippolt, there is too much a false sense of self-worth in an individual’s number of Facebook friends or Twitter followers.

    I speak of the individuals who post ‘Oh woo hoo, I got a thousand followers. Thank you so much for following me!’


    In the grand scheme of things, how many of these people are worthy of a follow-back?

    In the grand scheme of things, how many of those are individuals with whom you will engage on a daily basis.

    In the grand scheme of things, if you’re following a while shwack-load of people, how many of their Tweets are you truly reading, absorbing and appreciating?

    I’ve been on Twitter since last September, I think. And I had the initial buy-in. But after the elevation of some to demagoguery and the inflated egos I’ve come across, it’s given me a different look at the purpose and the thought process in follow-backs and posting.

    Of the 400 and some people I follow, there is only a small fraction of them with whom I engage on a regular basis. There’s another fraction with whom I engage sporadically. There are others with whom I don’t engage but I read their Tweets out of interest/entertainment (@shitmydadsays is awesome) or a thirst for information.

    Nuts … now I feel like I’m rambling and losing my train of thought.

    But I think you hit the nail on the head when you say social media means different things to different people.

    I simply want to keep throwing out the doses of reality when I feel the sense of community is smoke and mirrors, an illusion not to be trusted.

    For if Twitter or Facebook were to disappear tomorrow, what are you left with?

  2. Wendy Peters says:

    If Twitter and Facebook were to disappear, there are still forums and blogs and wikis and all of the other sites that enable us to socialize online. I totally agree with you on those that are there for the hype (I had a bit in my original post about some people using it as popularity measurement that didn’t make my final cut…)… but there are those that use it for completely different reasons too. Who’s to say that the people who use sites like FB and Twitter to feel popular or to ‘collect friends or followers’ are wrong to do so? If that’s the value they get out of it… awesome. Where I also find value is in the fact that I can turn them off. I It’s like cutting out commercials with a PVR, it’s now even easier to cut out the crap that doesn’t add value to our own experience.

    That’s the other cool part for me, using social tools is like a ‘choose your own adventure’ for the web. You and I both use Twitter, we both use Facebook, we both blog… but our experiences using the tools and their perceived value is different.

    If all you’re finding are the smoke and mirrors… perhaps it’s time for a new community :).

  3. John Tyler says:

    I see Twitter as a unique platform to connect in our communities.

    It is unique because even though Twitter allows me to join the #yyc community, it is my own singular community that I have created by whom I choose to follow. No one else will have the same experience unless they duplicate identically who I follow. Your example Wendy, of ‘choose your own adventure’ is so accurate! With no physical boundaries, our possibilities are endless!!

    Right now I use Twitter and Facebook as my way to keep in touch with real world: chatting with my friends and catching up in the news. My work schedule is so varying, and with the ability to use both tools on my iPhone I can keep up while on the go. Or at least I try to 🙂

    Eventually my job will stabilize, and it will be interesting to see how my uses of Twitter and Facebook will change when that time comes!

  4. Wendy Peters says:

    You’ve always got good things to add in your comments John. (Ang your comment was awesome too 🙂 ).

    Do you think you’ll use Facebook and Twitter more or less with a more stable job? I cut off my internet at home just over a month ago. I think I’m more active on Facebook and Twitter now than I was then. Like you, from my iPhone. Being able to update from anywhere… out having a beer on my balcony, dancing on stage with 5440 at the Shaw Mavercik Tour… stopping for gas on my way to Saskatoon… it really does bring my life a whole lot closer. Mobile devices bring my experience to me, I don’t have to go out and find it. I click links and wander.. and then always come back to my home base. That’s how I see the use of the web changing as mobile devices continue to flood the market. We’ll all be able to create unique experiences for ourselves. And I’ll be consuming only the good, portable content :).

  5. John Tyler says:

    Thanks 😀

    I think I would use both a lot more. In Facebook I’d probably communicate with more of my friends, participate in my groups. And in Twitter I’d love to do a lot more exploring and follow more people!

    That’s impressive- no home internet- saves a bundle of money there! 🙂 no need when you can carry your internet with you wherever you go and share your experiences!!

    As mobile technology increases in capabilities, I’m sure more and more people will follow your lead and be rid of expensive ‘home’ services.

    Unique experiences and portable content are the way to go 😉

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