No takers on that so that request. So now this is my reflective post to work my way through the idea that unscrupulous information imposters will be able to figure out how to use social media to control information networks. How can that happen? Think about information.
We talk alot about the digital explosion of data at EMC, but how is data different than information? Information has more depth than data because information responds to a need. There may be a need for the information, but if that need is never expressed the information seeking process never begins.
The way that people process information is dependent on the small worlds (or communities, or tribes…) to which they belong. The roles we play in our small worlds also impact if we are able to express a need for information.
Small world signatures
Once you belong to small world, you have to conform to that group’s signature (or style) to remain a member of the world. The signature defines how a group will handle events, topics that can be discussed (or must be excluded), the form of interaction, and the level of meaning of events.
The style also instructs group members how to deal with outsiders. Usually, if a stranger enters a small world they present enough raw information about their world to allow members of the group to see a worldview beyond their own. If the stranger understands the rules the group has for information exchange, the stranger can continue to share his alternative world view. But if the stranger forgets to stay within the group’s signature, the members of the small group won’t communicate freely anymore.
Think about Windows admins vs UNIX admins. Think about very technical people and marketers. Think about women in technology. Think about teenagers and parents. Think about yankees and southerners.
How this relates to social media
Relevance and affinity are two goal posts companies are driving toward with their social media programs. Its the place companies want to get after all of their investments in listening and building reach. The idea is to build real relationships with customers, not to just market at them.
Here’s my idea:
Relevance is being able to meet an information need. If a company has done their homework, they know how to be relevant and end up in one of their customer’s searches for information.
Affinity is being able to know a small world’s rules for exchanging information, and being able to copy the pattern so that information exchange is possible. Its understanding your target community, connecting on their terms, talking their language.
Here’s what scares me
Information imposters can have play this game too. They can study small worlds, make themselves relevant to information searches of their target population, and build affinity. If they are able to do all of these things they should be able to infiltrate a small world. Will they be able to change the group’s signature? Will they be able to change the rules so that people no longer have a need to search for information?
And now this post is getting too long — so I have more reflecting to do. What do you think? Am I on to something here?
All of this came from a paper I wrote in my undergrad days, the material was from class notes in my Information Needs and Preferences course which was taught by Elfreda Chatman.