Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
November 28, 2010 2:24 PM

When The Definitions Are Wrong

One of the biggest disruptions you may have noticed since the pervasiveness of Social Media is our definition of things.

You can sit back and say that the world has not changed all that much in the past two decades, but you would be putting your head in the proverbial sand. Just the other day someone mentioned to me that not following an individual back on Twitter would be the same as ignoring a customer. In some instances, that is a very true statement. In other instances, it isn't at all accurate.

How can that be?

It depends on how you define a "customer." If you're a major airline and people are connecting to you on Twitter and Facebook and you're not following them back, I can see this individual's point of view. If you're more like me, and you're running a service-based business and use platforms like Twitter to share things you see and connect to certain individuals when time permits, it's a horse of a different buggy. I love it when Chris Brogan points people to his Blog, You're Doing It Wrong, because it's a welcomed reminder that Social Media is not a fixed piece of software. It is (and it should be) many different things to many different people. Some will use it to game the system, while others will use it to change the world.

Don't get hung up on your definitions.

The trick comes in recognizing that there are many ways to make a point online. Some will do it by broadcasting, while others will do it by spending time to build a fanatical audience. Neither one is wrong. Neither one is right. The problems arise when those with little experience but tremendous popularity speak as if their way of doing things is the bible. Many years ago (long before Twist Image), Andy Nulman hired me to help him launch Airborne Entertainment. Prior to anybody really thinking about it, Andy and his business partner (Garner Bornstein), believed that people would use their mobile devices for much more than just phone calls. They were producing content for mobile devices long before the carriers ever acknowledged the importance of data (and yes, that includes email as well). Along with being ahead of their time, they had a very different definition for what these cell phones could do. To all of us at Airborne Mobile, the cell phone was a personal remote control for your life.

Imagine all of the definitions.

When you see something like Twitter, please don't just see what other people are doing. Don't just look at who is popular, and why they've become that way. Look at it with a fresh perspective. Create your own definition for it and test your theory. What makes Social Media so incredible is the immediate feedback. You can learn (in short order) if your definition has merit. You'll be able to know who is interested, why they're interested and what they're saying. You'll be able to engage directly with those people, and this will help you formulate your own definition (which will - in turn - be very different from mine).

Just because it is, it doesn't mean that it will always be.

I was asked to speak to a small workshop last week of corporate writers on Blogging for business. I was amazed to learn how few of them knew that what really makes a Blog a "Blog" was the RSS component of it. That was part of my core definition (along with a personal journal that is published in a chronological order and enables people to comment). Then, I thought about it, and realized that my definition of a Blog was antiquated. Most websites have RSS now. Some websites use WordPress and look much more like Blogs than a corporate website. Some people would debate whether spaces like The Huffington Post, Mashable and TechCrunch could even be considered a Blog anymore (don't they look and feel more like a website than anything else?).

Are you holding on to your definitions? Are your definition of things holding you back?

By Mitch Joel