Let’s take a short foray into some theorizing with social media and community—won’t you join me?
Let’s assume social media is the means to an end. That ‘end’ is going to be different depending on whether you are using it as an organization or an individual, for conversations or for advertising, for profit or for community, for fun or for policies. So, when social media meets up, in person or online, and communities form, is it mostly around the means (specific tools, advocating for adoption, etc.) or the end (people using social media in general for the same purpose or cause)?
So, asked again: Do we come together around social media because of affinity toward specific platforms, tools, or programs or because of similarities in usage of those platforms, tools, or programs?
Personally, I’m more attracted to communities or events that discuss using various tools for a specific ends. Working in the nonprofit technology field, I gravitate toward conversations about how nonprofits can better engage their members online or share resources between staff and volunteers, rather than conversations solely about Flickr, for example. That isn’t to say that Flickr isn’t included, but it is just an example, an option, a means, for engaging the community around an event or program. Is the preference based on my field?
I can think of many communities that would focus on just one tool, though, and (to answer my question from above) are focusing on the tool because of the field. For example, urban photographers could very easily come together specifically to discuss their use of Flickr, the community on Flickr, site developments, changes in the way they use the tool, and more. Why? Because as one of the most popular photo sharing websites, it is probably used by all of the photographers in the group and by their colleagues or friends. It makes sense that they would come together about the tool specifically, even though it is a means to their end of sharing photos online.
Does it then, really matter if social media communities and conversations are focused on either the means or the ends? It isn’t as if we are discussing war, right? The uses, developments, and constant permutations of social media are so diverse and evolving so quickly—is it enough to help each other just keep pace?
What do you think? Do you find that you are more drawn to conversations, collaborations, or communities that focus on a specific tool or tool set or that focus on the uses and applications of social media generally?
Amy Sample Ward’s passion for nonprofit technology has lead her to involvement with NTEN, NetSquared, and a host of other organizations. She shares many of her thoughts on nonprofit technology news and evolutions on her blog.