The Golden Unknown

This post was actually written by one of our summer interns, Max Kirsch, who himself recently headed into the golden unknown as a freshman at Brown University. We tried to convince him of the merits of some DC institutions of higher education, so he could stay on board with us, but to no avail. Read on to see why we thought Max really understood the world of social media, and Small Act's mission.

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Social media is about connecting you with your friends online, right?

Well, not quite.

Social media has been a part of my life for a number of years, and as the platforms have matured it has become increasingly clear that social media serves a greater purpose than just connecting friends. I signed up for Facebook soon after it opened for high school consumption, long before it was open to the public, and back when you needed either a .edu or an invitation to gain access. It was kind of exclusive, and that was nice.

As users, we soon realized that although to Facebook all friends are equal, that’s not really how it works outside of the social media realm. We can all segment our “friends” into at least 3 types: those we don’t/barely know, those we communicate with occasionally, and those who are truly close friends.

Back when my friends and I first joined Facebook, we immediately added our closest friends. We added the occasionallies when we had something specific to talk about. And the barely-knows who added us (because we would never do such a thing) were the ones we only half-jokingly referred to as creepy stalkers.

A strange thing happened though. After the initial excitement of the new toy (and the mere fad-appeal) wore off, I think we all came to the same realization. Among the barely-knows, very rarely would we find a stronger connection that would slip them into the occasionallies. For the most part, barely-knows were little more than a name on a friends list, and there wasn’t much point in connecting with them in the first place. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we started to notice the inverse relationship between quality of actual friendship and quantity of Facebook communication. Why would we write on the wall of one of our best friends when we talk to them constantly through more private and direct means?

Two of three friend segments dropped out of the picture on Facebook, leaving only the occasionallies to invite us back to check our wall. The conclusion was simple: Facebook was boring. But this conclusion was predicated on two things we didn’t realize at the time, but can now see 20/20 in hindsight: both our expectations of Facebook and the features themselves were juvenile.

As we as users and as the platform itself matured, the true value of Facebook – and, more generally, the true value of social media – became apparent. We don’t need Facebook to keep in touch with our best friends. We see them. We call them. We IM them. We txt them. And although Facebook is good for keeping in contact with the occasionallies, we only want to do that…well…occasionally.

Social media is most valuable, then, when it connects us with people we don’t know. It’s the excitement of meeting someone new. Not someone random, but someone who is interested in the same things we are. Someone who is talking with their friends about the same things we’re talking to our friends about. Someone who we never otherwise would have met, but with whom we now share a meaningful connection.

Maybe those creepy stalkers had it right after all.

The rise of Twitter and the recent launch of Facebook’s universal search highlight this profound globalization of online networking. And if you don’t trust either of those services, ask the more professional-oriented LinkedIn why it emphasizes the degrees of connection between you and your network.

Social media is not about connecting us with the people we know. We already did that the hard way. It’s about connecting us with the people we should know. Which all begs the question: how do we find these people? On the personal level, we use search. It’s crude, but for individuals, it works well enough.

For organizations, finding and connecting with the right people is (and has always been) paramount to success. Social media is a feast of information. The ability to pinpoint relevant information and powerful influencers separates the effective connoisseurs of social media from the confused rookies.

Enter social media monitoring and marketing. No longer will organizations have to choose between an all-out assault on social media and totally missing out. Imagine the stream of conversation flowing by rapidly. Sure, you can hop in yourself, catch what you can, and blindly hope that it ends up being useful.

But your time is too valuable. You have a mission to fulfill. You need help. Help from a technology so powerful that it can sort through nearly all of the conversation and pick out the pieces and the people who are relevant. Help from a technology that works around the clock at full force so that personal care can be applied to only the right results. Help from a technology that knows everyone, that knows exactly who you’re looking for, and that can connect you at the click of a button to all of the people who aren’t on your radar, but who need to be.

This is the promise of social media monitoring. This is the mission of Small Act.