Going Backwards Instead of Forward

by Jay Deragon on 07/18/2011

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.


Gabriel Gheorghiu October 5, 2011 at 11:55 am

This has nothing to do with social media. Most companies have always promoted and sold their products and services first and thought about post-sales after.

That’s why they’re either understaffed, or they don’t train their customer service people enough, etc. You are right that companies should think more about what happens after they sell, but this existed before and simply did not change in the new world of social media.

Virtual Office July 21, 2011 at 3:58 am

Markets move when new information enters a market. Today markets are overloaded with new information flooding our minds and vying for our attention.

Don - process improvement via training July 18, 2011 at 10:16 am

Yep, tweeting is like mumbling under your breath. Facebook is like marketing at a picnic or family reunion. Youtube is like running Ads on TV. LinkedIn is like meeting the potential customer at their workplace. But they are all so different, I think you should not lump them all together as “Social Media” for your particular post. Plus we do not know what “Social Media” will bring in the future. Like Google Plus is here now combining the best of all the social medias in one interface.

You will be hard pressed to argue “social media” marketing is “Devolution”, when a consumer with a broken machine can conference in a video chat with the company making it, the sales person and the service tech. Or when a Marketing campaign goes viral on Facebook or Youtube, or is educational and opens up markets around the world. Then social media marketing is evolution, not “devolution” :>)

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