Which is More Important: Tools or Methods?

by Jay Deragon on 01/17/2008

Tools or MethodsThe social web has and will continue to attract lots of attention from individuals and institutions alike.

There is an abundance of suppliers offering “free networks” for people and institutions to easily and quickly set up and start their own network. New networks are proliferating the landscape targeting literally every market segment one could conceive.

In our own discussions with major corporations there seems to be a prevailing mindset to run and set up a network for numerous reasons. On the other side of the market of “Nay Sayers” are attitudes reflected in statements like “I don’t buy the hype, we already have a blog, our people already use Wiki’s or we’re already on Facebook and Linkedin.

It is not about the networks, the blogs or Wikis it is more about “what and how” the tools are used, the methods are more important than the means. People are attracted by the methods and not necessarily the technology.

The Distinction is One of Tools vs. Methods

Stowe Boyd of Collaboration Loop writes: Collaborative tools are geared toward the sharing of information by groups, while social tools aren’t primarily: instead, social tools are oriented toward supporting the interactions of individuals in social networks, and the shaping of culture that arises from the impact of these tools on our social context.

A simple example makes the basic case. Consider a classic sort of collaboration tool: a web-based repository of office documents, managed through a meta-data and search user interface. Various organizational groups upload documents into various folders, like Marketing or Finance, and various sorts of access controls are put into place, so that only authorized users can view, edit, or delete documents in the folders.

Contrast this highly functional and relatively unsocial application with the social analogue, where the social interactions of those creating and manipulating the information within documents, or their equivalents, is primary. In this social architecture, the social interactions — users making changes to wiki pages, or cross-linking from one blog to another — become the primary element of organization, not a functional architecture proscribed by the application. The choices made by individuals, individually and collectively, impose a form of order, and then set the context for future interactions.

Social tools are not inherently more basic than collaborative ones — people do need to mange documents, share powerpoints, and access information in databases. However, the emergence of social tools suggests that information-first architectures will be losing ground to more socially oriented solutions.

So the traditional three C’s — collaboration, communication, and coordination — may be trumped by a new C: connectedness. The primary thrust of social technologies is to help individuals find and maintain social relationships, and through them find meaning and purpose. Along the way, coordinating meetings, collaborating on documents or projects, and communicating through email or instant messaging all seem like supports for the social connections that define our world.

What About Methods?

A wise man once said “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, show the man how to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime“.

Simply launching a social network, a blog or whatever social media flavor of the day is not enough to build sustaining relationship, thus markets. Knowing how, the methods, to engage in meaningful conversations and to hear current conversations is more powerful than the technology that enables the conversations.

Note Stowe Boyd’s comment: “So the traditional three C’s — collaboration, communication, and coordination — may be trumped by a new C: connectedness.” Connectedness is more of a human attribute driven by emotions and intellect that suggest there is indeed a “connection”, one to one to millions. Conversations help establish a discernment of “connectedness”. Until and unless people can “connect” subsequent conversations and outcomes will likely be disconnected.

Business cultures and traditional media methods have created a disconnect with peoples hearts, minds and spirits. The social web is a means of connecting peoples hearts, minds and spirits discerned through the conversational content exchanged over a “network”. That is the essence of what can be done with the social web and the power of social media.

For businesses to successfully use the social web they must go beyond the technology and learn how to connect with people.

What say you?

{ 2 comments }

Michael Pokocky January 18, 2008 at 3:25 pm

If the evolution of innovation in technology allows even the, and forgive the saying here with all due respect, the stupidest of us who just know how to point and click to navigate our way around the Net, then the key factor is not in teaching but in simplicity and design of interactive social engagement.

Misty Khan January 18, 2008 at 2:27 pm

Jay, I agree that many businesses will benefit from learning to connect with people as opposed to just interuption marketing. My expertise has is in effectively using CRM software to manage networking and prospecting acivties, but recently I’ve been working on ways to incorporate both face to face networkings and online networking. My philosophy originally was to try to keep my online participation restricted to business and not personal, but I think throwing in a little personal helps establish a better connection since it helps your network relate better to you. I’m offering a seminar starting in mid february where I’ll be covering topics on how to do just that using your contact database (Microsoft Outlook) along with social media – you can check it out at http://arrow-tips.com/archives/158

Cheers!

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