Beyond (Digital) Social Media

Conversations which are already happening on social media platforms can be shared, archived, sorted, aggregated, analyzed and networked around the world.  But obviously there are a lot more conversations that are NOT already social-media-ized.  And despite the millions that connect daily with Twitter, FaceBook, MySpace, and other popular platforms, there are billions more that just ... don't.  

Do we (relatively early adopters) care about that?  Do we simply wait until everybody else joins us, sooner or later, as we are sure in our hearts they will?  Are we going to twist arms or preach sermons to get them all to sign up?  Or should we find ways to extend our own conception of (digital) social media to include and embrace other forms of conversation, when there are real benefits to doing so?

Within "purposeful communities" (distributed groups with a shared agenda) there may often be real value in re-directing a selection of existing non-SM conversations onto social media platforms, if it's a natural, comfortable and scalable process.  There are a variety of approaches that come to mind:

  • Re-directing "traditional" messaging, such as email or SMS, into social media channels (e.g. tagging or filtering a subset of emails and automatically converting them into blog or micro-blog posts) with the permission of participants, of course.
  • Initiating specific person-to-person conversations (e.g. interviews, phone conferences, ideation and focus groups) and converting them (with participant permission) to digital text via speech-to-text applications, and then channeling that text into social media posts.

The technology of doing this is available and not difficult.  But are there real scenarios under which it is acceptable to the community and target participants?  

We've been working on a number of projects, in areas like social services and healthcare, where key target communities are not likely to be heavy users of conventional social media platforms, but still might benefit from the benefits that social media represent .  We can envision other possibilities in innovation, sales support, and product marketing.  (In many ways this concept is similar to the "ethnographic" methodologies being used increasingly to develop new products and services ... the collection of non-structured, essentially narrative, information from communities through structured interactions.

We'd be very curious to see if anyone else has explored this territory ... feedback, references and ideas welcome!