Devolution of Social Media

by Jay Deragon on 09/23/2010

Devolution“, “de-evolution“, or backward evolution is the notion that humans can change into a more “primitive” form. It is associated with the idea that evolution is supposed to make humans more advanced, and that the human network  has lost their ability to “think” and seem to be going backwards instead of forwards in advancement,

Certain uses of social technology are creating devolution because it overloads people with meaningless information, not advancing knowledge by transforming information into new knowledge.

Lets put things into context. Another form of devolution is devaluation. Devaluation is a reduction in the value of  something and not advancement of potential value. It specifically implies lowering of the  economic value created by people’s use of something.

The opposite of devaluation are  revaluation. Revaluation means a rise of value created because of the creative ways in which something are used to create improved value. Revaluation is usually created by the introduction of new knowledge or innovation created by or from the previously devalued product or service.

A market that doesn’t understand the value of something, or “how” to create value with something,  is a market that  demands to understand the ROI from something before they understands what that something is.  Trying to understand ROI from something without  understanding how to create value with something is shortsighted. In other words it represents a devolution in thinking.

Social media are getting a lot of attention, maybe the wrong attention. Much of the online and off-line media is positioning “social media” as another marketing channel and their usage reflects their beliefs. Everyone is talking about the ROI from social media or trying to define it. Most metrics and examples are all tied to a response from marketing and advertising messaging using social media. While applicable to those vertical uses organizations are missing the larger value that can and should be created and captured. By narrowing the markets view and use of the relevant technology the value are being limited and not expanded. In other words devalued.

The Revaluation Of Social Media

McKinsey Consulting looks at social technology as more than social media. They view “social technology” as a significant enhancement to collaboration and communication processes. An enhancement that changes everything a business does, not just marketing and advertising. What new value can be created by  improving communications and collaboration? Everything!

In an In article titled “Using technology to improve workforce collaboration James Manyika, Kara Sprague and Lareina Yee writes: Raising the quality of these interactions is largely uncharted territory. Taking a systematic view, however, helps bring some of the key issues into focus. Our research suggests that improvements depend upon getting a better fix on who actually is doing the collaborating within companies, as well as understanding the details of how that interactive work is done. Just as important is deciding how to support interactions with technology—in particular, Web 2.0 tools such as social networks, wikis, and video.
There is potential for sizeable gains from even modest improvements. Our survey research shows that at least 20 percent and as much as 50 percent of collaborative activity results in wasted effort.

To put this in better perspective consider what happens when organizations use social media solely as  advertising and marketing channel. They are likely to initially get the markets attention and in doing so increase the cost of responding to said attention. Worse, the market takes notice then criticizes the brand or organization for terrible service, poor customer relations or “spamming” the market. Worse yet is that the organizations employee attitudes reflected in their online conversations produce a negative sentiment about the organization. These incidents are happening everywhere because organizations do not think systemically about social technology. Rather they think about marketing and advertising. That thinking represents devolution.

Revaluations are  driven by efficiency, effectiveness and innovation. Devolution of social media are the results of doing things that reduce the value of communications.  It’s time to create a revaluation of this thing being called social media. That can only happen when there is a revolution in thinking. That would require a revolution in “what” we believe.


hrd2imagin (Alan Waldron) September 27, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Twitter Comment

RT @cioitexec: 50% of collab activity = wasted effort. [link to post] #scrm #crm #km #e20 //only if used poorly w/o strategy

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V51Consulting (Sharepoint Developer) September 27, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Twitter Comment

RT @glfceo: as much as 50% of collaborative activity results in wasted effort. [link to post] #scrm #crm #km #e20

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cioitexec (Tatyana Kanzaveli) September 27, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Twitter Comment

as much as 50% of collaborative activity results in wasted effort. [link to post] #scrm #crm #km #e20

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Hyoun Park September 23, 2010 at 5:34 am

This is a great start, but I’d add a couple of points.

1) ROI stands for Return on Investment. As obvious and stupid as that point may seem, I think there has been a lot of confusion brought into the market by people using the term “ROI” without actually thinking about what that return actually is. And as difficult as it may be to quantify the value, organizations aren’t going to make a fundamental reorganization and a million-dollar software purchase unless some sort of value can be defined and quantified at least as a potential gain. By clouding up the conversation with claims of “more comfort” or “more natural business”, some consultants and analysts have done social business a disservice, in my opinion.

2) Although a fair amount of collaborative effort is “wasted effort”, I’m not sure if that’s the right way to look at it. When you look at innovative or new ventures, the majority of startup companies are wasted. Does this mean it was a waste to create Google, Amazon, and Facebook? No, but creating these companies in part required an ecosystem of “wasted effort.” Similarly with the human body, we only process ~40% of the calories we eat into actual work. Does that mean that the other 60% is wasted? Actually, if we converted 100%, all we’d do is spontaneously combust. It’s by creating a pathway of channeling these efforts that we get work done, so I think the real issue is whether a collaborative ecosystem is set to facilitate intended outcomes rather than to extract every bit of work like you would try to do in a project management or business process management effort.

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