Social media is going to enable conversations among people with similar interests and among buyers and sellers with similar interests.
Believe that? Many companies are in a rush to get a social media presence–any presence will do as long as they do it quickly.
While I was writing this, I happened to see my friend Jon DiPietro who has pivoted from automation integration to inbound marketing. He is talking tomorrow at the Yokogawa user group in New Orleans, but unfortunately I will miss it because I’m flying home. He told me he’ll be discussing social media as SCADA for your career. I’ll come back to this later.
I have always been looking for conversations online. In 1990 it was Usegroups on the pre-Web Internet. Then AOL. Then discussion lists via email. Then blogs with comments and link backs. Twitter. Facebook.
Somehow every one of these has really turned into an “it’s all about me” media. The best discussions I’ve been on were the first ones. comp.realtime, comp.c++ and many others that I’ve long since forgotten. People with similar interests asked and answered questions. The new place for those is a place that I am not on–Stack Overflow.
AOL had a metaphor of front porch / back porch. You sit on the front porch saying hi to people going down the street. If someone passes by, you go around to the back porch for a deeper discussion. I was on AOL from maybe 1993 to 1997. Could have been earlier, I forget. Never saw that happen. Most groups became dominated by a few loud, opinionated voices.
Same with list servers. I’m still on one for soccer referees, but the discussion is dominated by just a few. I’ve met most of them. Not really high level referees.
Most comments on high-tech blogs come from “trolls” who merely seek notoriety and seem to enjoy tearing people down. Twitter quickly went from conversations to either a “link blog” (how I use it–sending links to Websites I find interesting) or just making statements in a vacuum. That’s pretty much what Facebook is. Psychologists are studying typical Facebook activists and find similarities to narcissism in many. Just want to say something. I post basically places I’m at because a lot of my family tell me they like that.
The best automation conversations I have over the past half-dozen years are face-to-face at conferences. Hate to say it, but maybe the old fashioned way is the best way. Just fill in the gaps and touch people who can’t be there via social media.
About SCADA for your career? Jon’s got something. But it’s not a conversation. It’s getting known and discovering people. Those would be worthy uses of social media. Guess that’s what I’ve done 😉
Gary, I agree that the promise of open conversations among many in the social networks have never really materialized. The rule of thumb I've heard for online communities is that 90% read (aka listen) only, 8-9% are occasional contributors, and 1-2% are active contributors, like the referees you cite. These percentages may be even more biased toward listening instead of engaging in our world of automation with our population of engineers.
I do see people reaching out to connect with subject matter experts using the private communications channels such as email, phone, private messages, Skype chat, etc. after finding them in online communities/blogs/etc.
My sense is the mix will shift over time as more and more people who were born into the social network communications era enter our profession and those of us not steeped and comfortable with these communications channels depart the stage.
Thanks for the comment, Jim. You know, email just won't die! I can't believe that Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are all pinging me with emails to get me to visit their sites.
You'll find the younger, tech savvy people on the technology blogs. The problem there has been trolling and gross lack of civility. But that doesn't mean that things will always be that way. You can tell pioneers, we're the ones with arrows in the back.
There are exceptions. I'm sure that you have set up many internal conversations through Emerson Process Experts (I know of a couple, so I assume there are many more). Plus the DeltaV thread that I follow is very active answering good questions from users.
There is hope.
Interesting post, and I can see where you are going with your commentary. I also participated in some early Unix alt. discussion groups in the early days of the Internet — and they were certainly not policed well. Let's just say that the IT manager that ran the UNIX system was going thru a sex change, so the alt. groups I saw were on the racy side! It certainly opened my eyes… but I digress :).
As for today, I do see Twitter as more of a link exchange than anything else. I have had some short @ messaging back and forth between some users, but beyond 2 rounds of exchange it typically ends. However, it has been fantastic from a networking perspective and I have met several people through those connections at conferences and events and developed a few friendships. These are people I would never have known or met without using Twitter. I see LinkedIn as the place for the "discussions" you are talking about – albeit they are not quite "back porch" level discussions but they do get specific and are helpful. I know the ISA LinkedIn group is pretty active for discussions on technical troubleshooting, and the members really dislike when a promotion gets slipped into a "discussion" section. It requires constant moderation to keep discussions clean. I think many LinkedIn groups do not keep tight moderation and then the trust and interest factor decreases as members see garbage in stream.
As for Facebook, I do see it as a good customer service channel for businesses, and a place to have a little fun/humor with a brand. But the way most FB pages are set up, it is difficult for anyone BUT the brand to initiate the conversation. Posted messages from members are skirted away on the side – and to change that would open up spamming opportunities – something no one likes. All my kids use Facebook as they sit with around with their friends, and jump to each other's defense/support either jokingly or not. It's a "real time" stream between their cohorts -and inspires conversation outside of FB when they do get together.
Like you, my best discussions have happened in person, over a coffee or at a conference. You cannot substitute a good lively conversation for something online. It will be interesting to see how that shifts with the native Facebook generations get older. I know they already do not like picking up the phone to make a call. We may need universities to teach "social skills" training as a requirement…
A lot to be said for face-to-face and the great lost art of conversation. I guess that's partly the reason why I'm about to travel halfway (prob more?) to be in Philadelphia next week. An email or even a phone interview is just never quite as good as having the guy across the table from you.
That's true, Bob. So see you a second time in 5 weeks, I guess? Going to Nuremberg, too? That would be a lot of travel for you.
I keep wondering about the "kids do this, so when they grow up they'll keep doing the same thing" observation. I've heard that for over 10 years now and don't see as big a change as I expect–but then maybe I expect more than is realistic.
I've heard a few times that Facebook is a great marketing place–for B2C at any rate. Any time you can gather so many people in one place, consumer marketing will insert its insidious foot (OK, that's a little harsh, I've been a B2C marketer in my life). I hate mixing business and personal on Facebook, though. I've never visited a commercial site, there. I see what my grandkids are up to and some of my cousins and try to block out all the political crap that my "friends" like to post. Facebook is in danger of becoming irrelevant–maybe.