Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
October 8, 201010:52 PM

A Living Organism

Part of the reason that automated tools pose a challenge to Social Media is because it removes that live feeling.

I've been thinking about this Blog a lot lately. When I'm thinking about this Blog, I'm also thinking about Social Media - what it means and why it's so dramatically different than any of the other media channel. Once I am doing that kind of media hacking, I start thinking about what we can expect and/or do with these many new channels when it comes to business, Marketing, Advertising and Communications.

That usually leads to the struggle.

It's the eternal struggle between young and old. New and antiquated. Traditional and modern. What was and what will be. This Blog and many of the other Social Media platforms - like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube - are living organisms. Remember that. Think about that. Not everything can be planned and there won't be an obvious beginning, middle and end (like traditional Marketing has). If this is your first time on this Blog, the story is very different from those who started playing along at home a couple of years back. It flows and changes based on mood, my availability to deliberate on a specific topic,  how many people comment and even how I respond. It's not planned. It's not perfect. It's human. It's a living organism.

Think about Twitter and Facebook.

Living organisms that change, evolve and adapt based on who is putting what into it and how the content is being collaborated on and extrapolated. You can plan to be a part of it every day at 7 p.m., but you'll never get the same or a similar result... the living organism will do what it does (selfish gene and all). You can walk away from it all... it keeps on going. Every day that passes, individuals (like you) leave comments and ask questions about Blog posts that were written well into the past. Those older posts don't wind up on a pile with newspapers getting yellow and crusty from the sun. They stay where they are... there are breathing, being found in search engines or being resurrected in online social networks.

You can see why a business might struggle with it.

The hardest part of being a living organism (especially one with conscience) is knowing that everything is actually not in our control. It is chaos theory on a good day. How it lives and how it dies is usually not a defined decision... stuff happens (as they say). The ones who succeed with these living organisms are the ones who are comfortable with this. This always on platform that evolves and tweaks is not for the brands that feel the need to control everything from the colors to the commentary.

When you think about getting really active in Social Media, it might be wise to think about whether or not you're capable of dealing with the living organism of it all.

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Mehrtash
    Mehrtash

    nice post Mitch, yes they are much like living organisms, One major problem argued is that using these tools, internet is now actually largely comprised of things that have nothing to do with intelligence or even creativity, duplicates and copies of images, even scarier more complex entities that are consuming our intelligence and our planet, I met a few of them on youtube this week, spreading through facebook acting like cults spreading through it's users making them act as if they were burning other books in the library of the internet(or attacking them sort to speak). Of course there are many useful entities these organisms produce, specially compared to traditional media. Chaos is a kind of an evolutionary order, it's patterns predictable not with ordinary eyes. I'm assuming you're seeing hence appreciating some of it's beautiful patterns by now ;)

    "and those seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who couldn't hear the music.", Nietzsche

    Reply
    • I like thinking about new media channels as living organisms vs. what we see in traditional media. Think about a traditional radio broadcast: it's on the air and then it's gone into the ether. If you weren't listening at that, specific, moment, it's gone. I love that these digital channels turn that into a living and breathing organism that evolves, grows and changes over time. Hello, The Long Tail.

      Reply
      • Posted by Mehrtash
        Mehrtash

        haha yes the Long Tail, speaking of which: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZKkxAQYxyE&feature=player_embedded

        from Aristotle's point of view perhaps it's gone, however many argue and even indirectly admit(Einstein) that nothing ever gets lots in the Akasha, we just don't have the tools to connect with these traditional organisms, it doesn't do marketing much good so let's leave it there. Internet might be the first Media that we are realizing these organisms through, first hand. However all these organisms really come to life when they have contact with us.

        Reply
  • Posted by Greg Bogdan
    Mitch Joel

    Online conversations becoming living organisms, yes. Lots of analogies to living conversations. If you are consistently interesting your conversation multiplies your "online event", the "virtual classroom" you "occupy" expands, more people gather around your "soap box". If your conversation is boring, you just talk about you or you are not relevant, you end up talking to yourself and no one else. And many, many people are talking so you better be good. You are good Mitch, thanks for he open forum.

    Reply
  • Posted by Jim Raffel
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch, I'm catching up on 8-9 days of RSS today. I was away from the social media living organism, but I wasn't. I spent one whole evening with a social media friend in real life face to face. The next day we both headlined a small social media conference and shared with and learned from the audience what works. That day I tweeted...a lot about the conference with the hash tag but I was not very engaging. I haven't been engaging for a week, I've been broadcasting. It's like my blog I strive for the best with every post and at that moment it is the best. Maybe that's another way to approach Twitter and Facebook....with a realization that we are human, not machines. :)

    Reply
    • It's the only way to approach it (and one of the main reasons that businesses struggle to make it work for them). I'm beginning to grow a serious disdain for those who differentiate between online and offline by calling offline the "real world". I think I'm being very "real" in all of these channels and I don't differentiate between the two. In fact, some of my closest friends are people I met here long before we connected in our "protein forms." Nothing fake or digital about that.

      Reply
  • Posted by Lisa Hickey
    Mitch Joel

    One of the things I've been thinking about lately is that -- in all of these social networks, for each person, the experience is different. That's part of what makes it difficult for a brand to control. In the "old days" you put a billboard up on a highway. The experience of seeing that billboard was exactly the same for anyone driving down the highway. Or you put a TV commercial on a TV show that was geared to your audience and they all experienced it the same way.

    But in Social Media -- nobody has the same experience. My Twitter Stream is completely different than yours Mitch -- even though we share many similar values. And the *context* that I see communications in is completely different. To me, that's what makes it exciting, that's where the opportunity lies. To marketers, it's what makes it completely overwhelming.

    What are some examples of context being different?
    1) Your advertisement might appear next to something that includes profanity, nudity or inappropriateness
    2) Your ad/marketing message might get in front of people who actually *hate* you -- and are very vocal about it.
    3) Your communications are almost certainly to be "mashed-up" -- taken apart, re-used, quoted wrong, added to other peoples communication.

    And from an *individual* standpoint it means:
    1) If a lot of people are talking about something I'm more apt to pay attention -- but ONLY if people are saying different things all the time.
    2) I can research things much much much quicker than ever before. If it's BS, I'm going to find you out
    3) I make connections at an phenomenal rate now. Not just social connections -- *idea* connections. I think it's amazing that I can go from funny to intellectual to happy to sad content in about 2 minutes. You -- as a brand or a marketer -- will never be able to control that experience for me again. And amen to that!

    thanks Mitch!

    Reply
    • Posted by Karen
      Mitch Joel

      Lisa - very well said. Your context examples are very concrete and I am going to point a few people here to read not only Mitch's thought provoking post, but specifically your comment.

      Reply
    • For years, I've been saying the exact same thing: traditional media breeds a similar experience for everyone and the challenge that brands have in connecting is that the digital channels are unique experiences for each individual.

      People think that Facebook is big at 500 million-plus accounts. It's not. Each person has about 120 connections. In fact, Facebook is very, very small. Each network is very small. This is a branding challenge.

      More on that here: http://www.twistimage.com/blog/archives/500-million/

      Reply
  • Wow Mitch..this was tremendous man, and gives me a whole new 'feel' for how I need to see the social media around me. Thanks for always producing such quality posts.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    "The hardest part of being a living organism (especially one with conscience) is knowing that everything is actually not in our control."

    Which is exactly why many big brands still fail at effectively embracing the social media mentality. They are scared to lose control over their status quo. Can't blame them, I guess time will prove them wrong.

    Reply
    • But it has to come to the point where that doesn't even really matter. People have their own platforms and their own living organisms. The conversations and content are all over the place. Now, if they ignore those... well, what does that say about a brand/business? ... Not much, right?

      Reply
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