Sunday, April 4, 2010

Social Media: Source of Manure or Pearls?

Recently, a very experienced, educated and highly respected consultant in the association community made the following statement:

"Social media can spread piles of manure or pearls of wisdom."

The word manure caught my attention. My initial reaction was that of complete agreement for there does seem to be lots of useless chit chat. Upon further reflection however, I wondered if I jumped to agreement too soon, if I am viewing this from a very narrow and limited short-term perspective. I wondered if this manure is not so much a waste but rather a fertilizer. Please allow me to elaborate.

As I think of social media, aside from what appears to be idle chit chat, I see 3 benefits, which I like to share with you:

1. Emptying the Cup: In Buddhism it is commonly stated that before one can pour in tea in a full cup, one must first empty the cup--a metaphor for opening the mind to receive new information. Social media I believe provides that emptying of the cup.

As we know, everything begins with a thought. It is also true that when we keep thoughts in our minds, they being to circulate, eventually causing short-circuiting and blocking of new thoughts from flowing in.

Therefore, social media provides an important forum for us to pour out our thoughts. As that is done, it allows for new thoughts to flow in. And one never knows when a new thought arises that can be revolutionary.

For example, when I started this blog, one of my concerns was what if I run out of things to write about. So far it hasn't happened. With each post, new thoughts flood in. It seems that to tap into that infinite source of thoughts, it really is necessary to empty one's cup and social media provides a great means to do just that.

2. Random Connectivity: In the context of business, it is often difficult to know upfront which shared thoughts have value and which don't. It so often happens that a thought, which at first and as a stand alone thought does not have value, yet it somehow triggers series of thoughts, within or with others, that can turn out to be immensely valuable. Yet which could not have occurred without the others that came before, those which at first appeared as waste.

For example, couple of years ago, I read the following 3 words somewhere: Marketing for Introverts. Being an introvert myself, these words stuck with me. Later, those words served as the seed that lead to number of posts on this blog on introversion.

Reading further, one of my blog readers who is a membership director in a national engineering society, as a result of my posts, asked me to prepare a 1-hour webinar entitled "Selling for Introverts", where nearly 40 association leaders attended from around the country. Since then, this presentation has been converted into another live presentation entitled "Sales Made Easy", which has been delivered already over 5 times. In addition, I have also been asked to write couple of articles on the topic of introversion for a national magazine. All within a short period of time and this journey has just begun--all originating from those 3 words which I coincidentally read on some social media site.

3. Diversity: As in human populations where inbreeding within close circles can lead to diseases, communications and idea exchanges limited to small circles can lead to group think, which can be dangerous. Social media provides a forum through which larger segments of the population can exchange wider range of thoughts, ideas, topics, knowledge, and information which can lead to greater individual and collective creativity and innovation-as one personal example shared above in #2.

With the above in mind, when I now view social media in the broader context I can't help but wonder if the term manure used really is more in the context of it being a fertilizer. After all, we live in the world of relativity and very few things are absolute. Moreover, growth of any kind requires fertilizer and manure is certainly one of those.

Therefore, when I look at the original statement from this perspective, social media is actually quite powerful, even though at initial glance much of the dialogue that takes place may appear to be pure waste.

Well, these are few of my thoughts on this topic. So, what do you think? Does social media generate waste, or fertilizer?


Avery said...

Thank you, Vinay. Social media is not living up to its potential if we are not exercising our options of trust, truth and value. First we must trust ourselves and each other. Second if we communicate our knowledge and wisdom truthfully, we create change. Inherent in change is progress, and our human capability for bettering ourselves and helping each other. Again applying ourselves is central to how social media works well. Finally, the real value of social media is the social aspect and how we are using the medium to create meaningful interactions. This post is one example. I would not have found you if I hadn't been searching both in the technical sense, as well as the spiritual. The basis of our business is to reinforce a quality and caliber of dedication to humanity. Please see: to introduce ourselves. Thanks again for making fertile ground for a conversation through this blog site.

Vinay Kumar said...

Thanks Avery for jumping in and contributing to the conversation and moving it forward. You make very good points. Thanks.

Janet Fouts said...

It's become harder and harder to sort through the junk and find the gems but they are there to be sure. Filtering helps, but so does keeping your networks relatively small. Trying to go for quantity of conversation rather than volume leads to better quality IMHO.

Liam O'Malley said...

This is a great post, Vinay. I love it. Thank you for sharing your perspective.