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Do the tools mask what social media really is?

November 27, 2009 Leave a comment

I have a ridiculous amount of godparents. My mother says she didn’t want any of her friends to be left out so my brother and I have around eight each! This, of course, has many benefits. In my early years it ensured a high yield of gifts on birthdays and at Christmas, and this week I was invited by one of my godfathers to a Livery Dinner held by the The Worshipful Company of Salters. Oh yes!

Out of my league

I wasn’t too sure what to expect. My godfather was a solicitor and having Googled the Livery Companies, I had an idea of the company I would be in plus there had been talk of having to wear white tie and tails…and I am still not really sure what that is. Anyway, I found myself amongst diplomats, MP’s, chairmen of some massive corporations and high ranking chemists, with some of the wearing robes, medals and animal hide! It was patently clear I was way out of my league on so many levels and when I explained I was in the social media, emerging technology ‘field’ there were various glazed expressions and one “…how funny!”. Awesome.

Very minor epiphany

During the dinner I, again, found myself trying to ‘pitch’ the industry to Dr. Gordon, a chemist from Geneva who knew way too much about wine. He was fascinated by the theories and possibilities of social media that I was attempting to explain, but couldn’t see any practical purpose for himself. He used email to stay in touch with his family and had heard of Facebook and Twitter but certainly wouldn’t consider himself a social media ‘user’. Reaching for examples or case studies that I could launch at him, I asked what his favourite pastime was? “Easy, wine.”

“Cool”, I replied, “there are loads of ways to use social media for wine …” And then the minor epiphany happened. He cut me off and said, the only thing he had really done online was buy wine at an auction through a live feed. He went on to say how amazing it was to feel so connected to the actual event and could bid in realtime, see the auctioneer, other bidders etc. “And you said you have never used social media?” I said. “What, that was social media was it?” was the answer!

Look past the tools

My point is that it is so easy to see social media as the tools or platforms that grab the headlines rather than a wider capability to connect you to people and places, which is where the real magic is. Dr Gordon had a ‘real’ human experience using social media for what it is meant to be…and he apparently got a good deal on the wine!