Social

Meaning of social:

  • It’s interesting to witness how language changes and evolves over time, almost without concern for the intentions of language users. It seems to have a mind of its own. Studying language can tell us a lot about ourselves and our interpretations of the world around us. Today I want to talk about the word Social.
  • First, here’s the traditional meaning of social:
    • “late 15c., “devoted to or relating to home life;” 1560s as “living with others,” from Middle French social (14c.) and directly from Latin socialis “of companionship, of allies; united, living with others; of marriage, conjugal,” from socius “companion, ally,” probably originally “follower,” from PIE *sokw-yo-, suffixed form of root *sekw- (1) “to follow,” and thus related to sequi “to follow”
  • By this definition, all humans are social creatures. We work and play and live together, and depend on one another for survival. So it never made sense to use “social” as a prefix for anything. All business and commerce was inherently social, because it involved interacting with people.
  • Today, Social has come to mean something a little different. (I’m capitalizing it in the context of this blogpost to distinguish between “old social” and “new Social”). Social Media is the most powerful and familiar example.
  • Social as a prefix
  • “Social worker” still means a person who works in…
  • Social security,
  • social science, social capital, social contract, social enterprise, social engineering, social darwinism, social responsibility, social fabric, social visit pass, social trends, social games, social groups, social butterfly, social network, social unrest, social justice, social order, social psychology.
  • Gurus and Ninjas
  • Some of these words very clearly have roots in the old, familiar and traditional sense of the word. While a social media marketing person might call themselves a “Social Ninja” or “Social Guru” and receive only a few cringes, calling himself a Social Worker or Social Scientist would probably get outright reprieved. It’s probably because social worker and social scientist already have rather deliberate meanings, and any attempt to replace those meanings is a subtle act of violence, invalidating those earlier, existing roles (which still have important places in today’s world, arguably more than the Social Ninjas).
  • We could have a whole side discussion about why people chose words like Ninja or Guru- roles that have been relinquished. There are no real Ninjas left to be offended, and the few Gurus that do exist are probably too removed to be upset or offended. Also, the startling contrast between traditional job roles (director, executive, manager) and these “fun” roles (ninja, guru, or even just guy or girl) emphasizes the liquid, imprecise nature of these jobs. “Community manager” can seem a little imposing and stuffy. All of this, of course, is subject to change. Language evolves quickly enough these days to be observed.
  • By now I’m hoping you see where I’m coming from, and that there are two sets of meanings for social (social and Social, within this blogpost), and that they do overlap to some degree.
  • Social media isn’t “media turned social”, in the sense that media was always social. It was produced by people, for people. Social media is a term that emerged from the collision of social networking sites and traditional media. I’d argue that the more accurate way to think about social media is “social turned media”, or more accurately, “media emergent from Social”.
  • What is Social?
  • Social is a loose, vague shorthand generally describing online relationships between representations of people. If it had to be a thing, it would probably be best described as an emergent phenomena. It is a collection of behaviors, practices, institutions (the platforms that facilitate the behavior, such as Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc).
  • Social as a Prefix
  • Consider how nobody says “social blog”. A blog is a publication typically intended for public consumption. People comment on them, share them, write response pieces to them. With some rare exceptions, blogs are inherently Social. They started out that way and have remained that way, so there was never a need to distinguish between “pre-Social and post-Social blogs”. A blog is a blog. In contrast, media was originally social but not Social. Today, big media companies are forced to “go Social” to remain relevant. Social media is a necessary term because it distinguishes user-generated, user-driven media from pre-Social, centralized media.
  • This isn’t to say that the new, Social media is somehow free from the power structures of traditional media. Big companies and big money still attract talent, and can still forcefully dominate the landscape. But it’s now possible for an ordinary person to write a response to something from the mainstream media, and have it picked up and shared.
  • Most interestingly, a lot of the New Mainstream media- Mashable, Buzzfeed, UpWorthy, etc- spend a lot of their time looking for such responses and then signal-boost those things. On average, it’s never been a better time to be a content producer. If you’ve got something worth saying, say it, because now there’s an entire ecosystem, an entire infrastructure designed to seek out what you’ve said and propagate it.
  • Nothing is non-Social
  • I say “pre-Social and post-Social” because Social is eating the world. Nothing discussed online is non-Social anymore. Your offline business may not have a deliberate Social presence, but it may very well benefit or suffer from the actions of Social agents. A picture of your store might make the frontpage of Reddit without your blessings, and you’re just going to have to roll with the punches, good or bad.
  • Origins of Social
  • I’m convinced that Social (in the digital sense) has its roots in social networking sites. It seems to have emerged spontaneously with Facebook and Twitter. Their predecessors (MySpace, Friendster, etc) were social networking sites, allowing people to post pictures of themselves and leave comments on each other’s profiles. Friendster had “Testimonials”. In the early days, people would write relatively lengthy testimonials for one another, almost like LinkedIn recommendations today, but in a personal sense. “I’ve known this guy for many years, and he’s helped me through some of my hardest times…”, etc. But interestingly, people started using Testimonials to leave semi-public messages for one another. People started using it in a way that Friendster hadn’t quite imagined. Eventually Friendster got really laggy and boring.
  • See: Why Friendster Died: It didn’t understand what made social media social
  • http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2384588,00.asp
  • http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2013/02/friendster-autopsy/
  • What about MySpace?
  • http://www.reddit.com/r/explainlikeimfive/comments/kyduc/why_did_myspace_die_when_it_has_such_a_great_idea/
  • http://gigaom.com/2011/04/08/was-it-google-who-killed-myspace/
  • http://techcrunch.com/2011/06/28/sean-parker-on-why-myspace-lost-to-facebook/
  • The Facebook Newsfeed changed everything:
  • http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2013/09/facebook_news_feed_turns_7_why_it_s_the_most_influential_feature_on_the.html
  • “It updates a personalized list of news stories throughout the day, so you’ll know when Mark adds Britney Spears to his Favorites or when your crush is single again. Now, whenever you log in, you’ll get the latest headlines generated by the activity of your friends and social groups.”
  • Post-Newsfeed Privacy
  • Pre-Newsfeed, people had expected things to remain relatively private even though they technically weren’t. If you uploaded something, you knew your friends could see it, but you didn’t really expect them to unless you directed them there. Post-Newsfeed,
  • Consider the following changes in Facebook mechanics. Initially, you primarily interacted with friends by posting on each other’s Walls, the way MySpace comments and Friendster Testimonials worked. Your mutual friends could see these responses, but they couldn’t do anything about it. So it felt relatively private, even though it technically wasn’t.
  • After that, Likes and Comments were introduced. Now if you posted something on my wall, our mutual friends could crash the conversation. This was unprecedented in online messaging. It made conversations a lot more “open”. I think people took a while to navigate this properly, and we’re still figuring it out as we go.
  • What is social? (Features of social- separate post?)
  • How is social changing the world?
  • Social is about sharing one’s data in public/semi-public spaces, publishing
  • – not everybody realizes the full implications of this. privacy is radically different
  • – sharing is learning, crowdsourcing, smart mobs
  • Future of social?
  • alternate meanings of social is a separate post
  • # WHAT IS SOCIAL
  • “Social” today means something distinct from “social” in the pre-digital age.
  • You hear phrases like “the future is in Social”, or “attitudes towards Social are changing”, and we have terms like “Social media”, “Social commerce”, “Social business”.
  • #HOW IS SOCIAL CHANGING THE WORLD
  • What should marketers, entrepreneurs and even regular consumers know about Social?
  • Social media seems like the best place to start, since it’s so ubiquitous and most people are familiar with it.
  • #SOCIAL IS ABOUT PUBLISHING
  • Social is fundamentally a publishing phenomena. The ability for people to post and share information with others. (Twitter is not a site, it’s a protocol: http://www.human20.com/twitters-not-a-site-its-a-protocol/
  • http://paulgraham.com/twitter.html)
  • #SOCIAL IS ABOUT THE SHARING OF DATA IN PUBLIC OR SEMI-PUBLIC SPACES
  • (additional confusion: social entrepreneurship/social enterprise: http://csi.gsb.stanford.edu/the-meaning-social-entrepreneurship)
  • http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Retailers-Use-Social-Spur-Shopping-Research/1010595
  • https://twitter.com/search?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.theguardian.com%2Ftechnology%2F2014%2Ffeb%2F05%2Fgoogle-plus-not-a-social-network-but-a-social-layer&src=typd
  • This is a long-haul post, I’ll just list out everything that’s related/relevant for now:
  • – emergence of social + definition
  • – future of social
  • http://blog.jonjackson.co.uk/post/78442611279/social-ecommerce-optimisation-the-new-seo

 

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