Understanding “Social” Language

by Jay Deragon on 06/11/2010

When  business leaders initially begin to learn about all things social many don’t understand the language. While they believe they understand marketing, advertising and PR they seem lost when it come to discussing social media. Why?

It could be that all things social represent a different language and of course unless you understand the language you cannot comprehend the meaning of the subject being discussed.

Language is power. Language isn’t only what we use to communicate; it also determines how we think. In a post-social media world, we must learn to articulate a new, elevated vocabulary, and concepts that the C-suite can appreciate while giving the concept of “social media” the respect it deserves. Otherwise unless we understand the language of both parties neither will gain any new understanding.

Elevating the Vocabulary

Language is transitory and always evolving. New words, emerge on an ongoing basis to better explain emerging concepts. There are, in fact, nearly 1,000 new words added daily to the Urban Dictionary. Many are slang terms with limited life spans. Others take root and become part of our broader vocabulary.

In 1999, when The Cluetrain Manifesto was released, we struggled to understand the term “markets are conversations” and then a new language emerged to explain the new paradigm that was emerging that required new ways of thinking. The term “social media” first began to emerge around 2003 to describe the impact of two way markets of conversations through the emergence of  social technology. Then the term took off and subsequently took on numerous meanings. When a term has numerous meaning the vocabulary used to describe it becomes confusing and takes on a language of its own.

It Depends on What the  Meaning of the Word “Is” Is

Bill Clinton’s phrase “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is..” became famous as he dodged questions concerning his affair with Monica Lewinsky. The same is true when you ask the C-Suite questions relevant to what is social media and what is its value? The answers are akin to it depends on what the meaning of “is” is. Well kind of the same thing. The fact is that few in the C-Suite consider the disruptive nature of social media gone wild until it goes wild on them. Bill Clinton avoided the truth about his affair. The C-Suite avoids admitting what they don’t understand about social media.

To understand something thoroughly you must listen to the language. To not gain an understanding of social media  means you cannot hear that which you don’t understand.

The language of all things social carries new meaning to old familiar issues. Social media is  pragmatic to some but not to others. Pragmatic is defined as relating to matters of fact or practical affairs often to the exclusion of intellectual or artistic matters : practical as opposed to idealistic.  Pragmatic leaders with power have had no time or inclination to deal with…social media. Now that social media is enabling people to gain more power, pragmatic leaders will have to find the time to learn and understand social media and its language.

While many business leaders consider themselves pragmatic they do not understand pragmatics and they should if they want to understand social media. Pragmatics studies the ways in which context contributes to meaning. Pragmatics encompasses talk in interaction and other approaches to language behavior in philosophy, sociology, and linguistics. It studies how the transmission of meaning depends not only on the linguistic knowledge (e.g. grammar, lexicon etc.) of the speaker and listener, but also on the context of the utterance, knowledge about the status of those involved, the inferred intent of the speaker, and so on.

The ability to understand “markets of conversations” intended meaning is called pragmatic competence.  Pragmatic awareness is regarded as one of the most challenging aspects of language learning, and comes only through experience. However, without context to meaning experience doesn’t insure understanding.

Just because you use social media doesn’t mean you really know why others do.  How pragmatic is that?

{ 26 comments }

Lutz Becker June 21, 2010 at 4:50 am

RT @storiedstrategy: Keeping with the tenets of Complexity and Narrative Theories "Understanding "Social" Language | http://ht.ly/20VuX

Dr John Ortner, DBA June 21, 2010 at 2:30 am

Keeping with the tenets of Complexity and Narrative Theories "Understanding "Social" Language | http://ht.ly/20VuX

dede June 20, 2010 at 6:02 am

Understanding "Social" Language http://bit.ly/cnhb76

JUDY MARIE O'MEARA June 18, 2010 at 9:05 am

RT @markorlan: With social media enabling people to gain more power, leaders must learn and understand its language http://bit.ly/cruSbv

David Holzmer June 18, 2010 at 8:56 am

RT @markorlan: With social media enabling people to gain more power, leaders must learn and understand its language http://bit.ly/cruSbv

Mark Orlan June 18, 2010 at 8:54 am

With social media enabling people to gain more power, leaders must learn and understand its language http://bit.ly/cruSbv

Alex Hall June 15, 2010 at 11:17 pm

http://www.relationship-economy.com/?p=10326 – Interesting read: Understanding “Socialâ€* Language

CFM Charter June 15, 2010 at 3:02 am

Understanding social language http://dld.bz/gFEK

Mark J.P.Kerrigan June 12, 2010 at 5:13 am

RT @simbeckhampson: Understanding “Social” Language http://ping.fm/k33vT

Paul Simbeck-Hampson June 12, 2010 at 5:01 am

Understanding “Social” Language http://ping.fm/k33vT

Angela Suddarth June 11, 2010 at 6:50 pm

RT@JDeragon Understanding “Social” Language:
When  business leaders initially begin to learn about all thi… http://tinyurl.com/2u9vjy8

The Social CEO June 11, 2010 at 6:50 pm

The Social CEO Understanding “Social” Language:
When  business leaders initially begin to learn about all … http://tinyurl.com/2u9vjy8

Holt Communications June 11, 2010 at 6:10 pm

This was interesting Understanding “Social” Language http://bit.ly/dbN2Hy #socialeconomy http://bit.ly/bJQpIQ

Achievers Network June 11, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Understanding “Social” Language: When  business leaders initially begin to learn about all things social many don’… http://bit.ly/9hGHdh

smconnection June 11, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Understanding “Social” Language: When  business leaders initially begin to learn about all things social many don’… http://bit.ly/9hGHdh

prblogs June 11, 2010 at 6:10 pm

RelationshipEcon: Understanding “Social” Language: When  business leaders initially begin to learn about all thing… http://bit.ly/9hGHdh

Tabitha Edwards June 11, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Understanding “Social” Language http://bit.ly/bHdq4M

Allen Howell June 11, 2010 at 4:21 pm

RT @TopsyRT: Understanding "Social" Language http://bit.ly/cnhb76

Siteworx June 11, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Understanding “Social” Media http://ow.ly/1Xnv9 #socialmedia

JDeragon June 11, 2010 at 11:45 am

Pragmatic leaders with power have had no time or inclination to deal with…social media. http://bit.ly/aCmtcb

Allen Mireles June 11, 2010 at 11:45 am

Understanding Social Language (via @JDeragon) http://ow.ly/1XazF

JDeragon June 11, 2010 at 6:45 am

Pragmatic leaders with power have had no time or inclination to deal with…social media. http://bit.ly/aCmtcb

card4net June 11, 2010 at 6:11 am

Understanding "Social" Language http://bit.ly/cnhb76

JDeragon June 11, 2010 at 5:59 am

Just because you use social media doesn’t mean you really know why others do. How pragmatic is that?http://bit.ly/aCmtcb

StarGazon June 11, 2010 at 5:01 am

Understanding “Social” Language via The Relationship Economy – When  business leaders initially begin … http://tinyurl.com/39pgyex

JDeragon June 11, 2010 at 4:49 am

ReThink: Understanding "Social" Language http://bit.ly/aXADWL

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 4 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: