Shifting From Social Media Fascination To Generating True Value

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Thomas Jefferson once said, “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers.” Sometimes I think the day to day changes in the social media industry deserve the same respect. However I’ve spent a fair amount of time chronicling all the day to day change in social technology and it continues to change rapidly. The majority of us (including myself) are easily seduced by the appeal of instantaneous knowledge. It’s what drives the real-time web.

However in order for us to have a deeper understanding of how things work, we must become experts on a specific topic. Read any book which provides deep insight into any topic and you will find experts who have spent years trying to discover the core laws. By studying the experts, you can become an expert yourself. Personally, I have spent the past two to three years immersing myself in the social technology industry to see what businesses are being developed and why some individuals were making millions of dollars.

To be honest, my primary focus was the latter and no matter where you look, there’s always examples in this industry of people that have made millions from building their businesses and many more that have failed while trying. Three years ago I was trying to figure out what was necessary to create one of those success stories and what I decided to do was to begin chronicling one of those success stories: Facebook.

What I’m realizing quickly though is that those day to day changes are not nearly as important as the long-term impact. What’s more important is how individuals and businesses are being transformed by these emerging social technologies. As such, I’ve switched the vision of Social Times from “leveraging social technology to connect the social web community” to “learning the skills and tools necessary to help businesses and individuals build social capital”.

Earlier today I was watching a video of Clay Shirky in which he states, “What matters here isn’t technical capital it’s social capital. These tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring. It isn’t when the shiny new tools show up, it’s when everybody is able to take them for granted.” The point is to ignore the shiny objects, or what I would equate to Thomas Jefferson’s description of newspapers.

Back in January I wrote about the curse of the shiny object phenomenon and I feel as though I’ve partially continued to chase it. The launch of New Media School is an attempt to move away from it and it was the materialization of what I described at the beginning of the year: “how to leverage social media for success”. As you may have noticed over the past couple weeks, I’ve shifted the kind of content being produced.

While news occasionally pops up (I want to help out industry colleagues), I’m becoming more focused on how to execute visions of a massive scale. How can social technology assist in amplifying the story? How can social capital be transmuted into its material equivalent? This will be a journey and not just a daily news story. There may be occasional news stories but there’s more important things than a minor feature change which ends up driving traffic to our site.