Stand by...

You're about to be redirected to

February 10, 2008

Antisocial media: Why most associations grasp the 'media' part, but not the 'social' part, of social media

rude mechanical orchestra
Originally uploaded by iamtonyang
The web is littered with social media initiatives (particularly blogs) that are missing out on the full possibilities for the medium. I've watched more and more organizations decide that they need to get with the web 2.0 program, jump into social media initiatives, and inadvertently launch antisocial media initiatives.

These antisocial media initiatives are never launched deliberately. In my view, the organizations who create them are simply ignorant about the 'social' part of social media. And in the web 2.0 world, their inability to deliver media with a fully developed understanding of the 'social' aspects of social media is a distinct disadvantage.

I have long advocated that the best way to learn about social media is to just give it a try. I still do. But trying social media doesn't mean you've learned social media. There definitely are "wrong ways" to blog, although I don't think there is any one "right way." To fully tap into the benefits of social media, you have to treat your blog as a conversation. Failure to do so makes your blog more like antisocial media than social media. Remember, conversation is a two-way street, you have to listen and inquire as often as you talk.

And the conversation isn't all about your blog: If you write a blog but don't read others' blogs, comment on them and link out to them, what you have is antisocial media. My mom taught me that God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we could listen twice as much as we speak. Unfortunately, many seem to believe that God gave them ten fingers and two eyes so that they can type five times as much as they read. Consider how you felt the last time someone cornered you at a party and couldn't stop talking about himself. Your blog can develop a similar social dysfunction.

Furthermore, while the bulk of the conversation in social media happens on the web, it isn't all web-based: If you write a blog but don't email other bloggers directly, talk to them on the phone and break bread with them, what you have is antisocial media. It sounds trite, but given its namesake, I would assert that social media is about relationships.

Organizational blogging takes much more than adapting press releases or other corporate communications. It takes socializing. Anything less is considered antisocial behavior by the bloggerati. And the result will usually be lower interest in your quote-unquote social media initiatives.

Why do most organizations fail to grasp the 'social' part of social media and inadvertently find themselves stuck with antisocial media? I think it's because they view social media as just another tool to deliver their message. The reality is, social media isn't just another tool. Those who simply view social media as new bullhorns through which to shout their traditional messaging miss the point. They'd actually be better off just sticking to their old traditional ways of doing media.

Perhaps they view the social part of social media as frivolous, unnecessary, uncomfortable or time-consuming work better left to someone like a sales or field rep. Unfortunately for them, they are losing out on the best opportunities available to organizations who use social media .

This list is by no means comprehensive, but I think if you follow my seven tips for new bloggers, you will have at covered the basics and not make a fool of yourself. However, there are many, many more cultural norms in social media that aren't obvious. Ignorance is not a defense: if you don't want to be relegated to an antisocial media maven, learn our culture.



anne said...

I've been thinking a lot about business blogs and you've helped me think in other ways--a great gift.

I quoted you in a comment here:


Bob said...

Ben - great post. I think this is something potential and current bloggers should really note - developing a great blog isn't as easy as opening an account on blogger or wordpress (I myself am learning this first hand). I find the most beneficial blogs are those that introduce new ideas as well as other outlets to help foster and grow those bits of wisdom. This blog is a great example of that.

anne said...

Thanks for the comment, Ben, that you posted here:

I also listed your Seven Simple Tips for New Bloggers


You mentioned in your comment that you are making money blogging.

The guy described in this Entrepreneur article, John Chow, does, too:

In the print version of this editorial from the Wall Street Journal, The Coming Ad Revolution, 2/11/08

the article is printed around this: "Google and Microsoft are so yesterday."

Dyson writes, "This does not mean that traditional online advertising will go away, just that it will become less effective," and "This market will get more competitive, and users will be barraged by ads to which they will pay less and less attention."

Ben, are you open to sharing how you make money blogging? Do you use "traditional online advertising"? Does your business model include Dyson's contention that "The new value creators are companies--like Facebook and Dopplr [in which Dyson discloses she plans to become an investor]--that know how to build and support online communities"?

Would welcome your thoughts.

D Theus said...

Interesting take. I think you're right about what you say, but I also think there is another dimension to the struggles that organizations have establishing a role/identity in the social world, and this makes them appear antisocial.

Specifically, social implies that on some level you get personal. And yet, organizations are not living breathing individual beings. There are decades of marketing/branding practice, theory and philosophy that go into how they create and express their identity and it all adds up to "no one person can be the organization." With this being the case, they can't just traipse out into the social realm in the same way individuals like you and I can.

I am thinking a lot about this these days and hope to blog about it more in the future, but I think the issue you identify here presents good insight into the down side to them of not figuring it out.

Good stuff.

Ben Martin, CAE said...

Anne, I earn some extra money by consulting, writing and speaking. I attribute most of my success in those areas to my blogging. See this post for a more detailed explanation. It's an indirect relationship. I would agree that cultivating a community provides opportunities to monetize a blog.

Vinay said...

Great post Ben. As you know, I am very new to this blogging world. Loving it very much. But I also can't help but wonder to myself if I am doing it "right". If you see anything that I can be doing better, not doing it "right", etc. PLS PLS PLS do tell me. I really want to know. Thanks Ben.

Anonymous said...

Could you please explain why you included the picture of the Rude Mechanical Orchestra? You do not refer to them in the text, nor suggest any reason why the photo is relevant. Thank you.

Ben Martin, CAE said...

Anon, I've no idea what RMO is. This photo is published under a creative commons license, so because I mention a bullhorn in my post, I used it to illustrate that point.

Ellen Behrens said...

Ben - Catching up after several weeks of travel and travel-induced sickness :( so I just caught this post.

A relatively new blogger myself (, I agree with much of what you say, and delight in the social aspect many blogs engender (especially within the Blogoclump).

I do feel a need to say that some of us would love to break bread in person, but can't (budget and time constraints prevent getting to conferences, workshops, meetings, etc.), so our being absent shouldn't suggest we're antisocial, but just unable to be there in person...

Which is why, for some of us, blogging is our way of reaching out, making contact virtually when we can't do so in person.

Secondly, while the interaction of blogs with comments and conversation definitely fits into the "social networking" category, it seems to me that blogging came first, then the term "social networking" because one fit into the other, rather than as an outcome of it.

I started my blog because I started receiving (and still get) so many inquiries about online learning for associations that it's the easiest and fastest way to capture ideas and suggestions and make them readily available.

Finally, I can't remember (so sorry!) which ASAE eLearning Conference presenter said it, but he remarked that blogging was a learning experience for him because the process of articulating his thoughts helped him define his understanding of things. That's not an entirely "social" motivation yet it's a valid and worthy one.

Thanks for this nourishing food for thought, Ben!

Nathan Larson said...

They want to control their message, and if you let people respond, that creates an opportunity for it to blow up in their face and make the PR person who organized the blog look bad. They get to be the sacrificial lamb if something hits the fan. "Well, Mr. CEO, I know there was that big media frenzy about the critical remarks posted to our blog about the new product rollout; but it's okay, we closed it to comments and fired the PR guy who created that thing."

Then of course there are potential legal consequences if you inadvertently host stuff that some people find objectionable. CYA, as always. Another downside to living in a litigious society.

das said...

"Social media" signifies a broad spectrum of topics and has several different connotations. In the context of Internet marketing, Social Media refers to a collective group of web properties whose content is primarily published by users, not direct employees of the property (e.g. the vast majority of video on YouTube is published by non-YouTube employees). Social media optimization (SMO) is the process of trying to get one's content more widely distributed across multiple social media services.

Link builder