Thursday, August 20, 2009

Social media mean nothing without social capital

Another great talk by Clay Shirky available through Tedtalks. Watch it if you have 17 minutes break from work. Besides giving some examples of how social media are changing collaboration and cooperation in society, he makes a very important point: social media can have enormous impact because it can leverage existing social capital, existing networks between people. If you look at his example of the earthquake in China: social media made it possible that the first reports were online by citizens before the institutions could break the news. But it is through the social relationships with these citizens with other chinese people residing in other countries (and other nationalities too) that it could flow. So social media without the social capital is not really revolutionary... I think this is also a lesson for organisations- if you have never built a good constituency- don't think social media will build that for you. If you have already build it, social capital can make it more powerful..

What do you think? Or can social media also help to build networks from scratch?


Anonymous said...

It all depends on the situation. Presently I am a volunteer of an organization that more than 50% of the people are over 65. Our oldest is 94!. So, what can social media do for this group of people? Nothing much. For my survey I had to send out 267 letters by slow-mails.

As for the Chinese earth-quake. I know most people like to use China as a show-case because she has 130 millions (I think that is the figure) using internet. What we tend to forget is, there are 1.6 billions people in China. 130 millions sounds a lot to country, especially Holland of 16 millions, is a lot. Really in their own country is very little impact. I would think TV and mobile phones have a lot greater impact than social media. And that might be something we want to think about WHY the One-Laptop-per-child project don't really take off that well. Do we really take time to understand our audience?

Just my 2 cents.


Jo Jordan said...

Absolutely - we can build from scratch. Because the infrastructure is available to meet and coalesce.

Using social media in most communities will change them. For the same reason. We have new communication channels.

To the previous commentators - true older people resist social media but because they don't like email! Set up folders for them to sort incoming mail and connect them to Facebook and Skype to see pictures of their grandchildren and they are in!

Joitske Hulsebosch said...

@Jo thanks for sharing your ideas.. I see on twitter that you can start from scratch, but at the same time I think the core of a lot of twitter 'networks' are existing networks.. without those it would be harder to connect.

@Cindy I also think TV and mobile phones have huge impact, but social media work different because everyone can have an idea that can be multiplied and picked up. which can not happen with mobile phones