Personal Empowerment and Community Building through Social Media

23 03 2010

Source: Flickr: Franco Folini "Graffiti on a truck: renuer"

Throughout history, the development of technology has always sparked counter-cultural movements that have looked to subvert popular culture and societal norms.

Many of these movements were inspired by the situationist movement of the 1960s. However, all these movements did have 2 common underlying motives. They all looked to improve personal empowerment and encouraged the building and growth of communities.

One such movement led to the use of print media to create the “Whole Earth Catalog“. This catalog promoted openness, user-generated content (yes!..back in the late 60s) and stood for the democratization of information and collective consciousness. Out of this catalog was born a message board called Whole Earth Lectronic Link (WELL) in 1985. This online message board looked to again subvert culture by attempting to use technological tools (initially built for societal control) to bring about Personal Empowerment and a sense of community. Of course, I don’t need to remind you that the same underlying motives form the foundation of Social Media and the web 2.0 world as we know it.

I therefore strongly feel the success of innovation in the Social Media world will be heavily dependent on whether or not newer ideas take the fulfillment of these very motives/ideals a step further. Yes, I know there are many other factors that will influence success, but I believe that these cultural motives are critical to laying a foundation that can withstand growth.

I think a good example is Foursquare (and of course other similar location based services) because it looks to improve personal empowerment by giving businesses the ability to better cater to their customers’ needs. Are there other examples of innovation in social media that adhere to these two principles? Your input will make this post and my follow-up a lot more interesting.

References: www.virtualcampfire.org

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Creating Magic at Zoocasa.com

30 08 2009

saul-coltI recently came across Zoocasa.com as I was doing some research on companies that are really finding innovative ways to use social media and build strong customer communities.

Following a model similar to FreshBooks, Zoocasa is slowly building up a very strong online community of its own. To get a better understanding of what sort of a thought process went into some of the marketing activities at the company, I decided to have a quick chat with Saul Colt (Head of Magic at Zoocasa).

I was initially thinking of making this a conversational blog post but looking through my notes made me realize that Saul gave me two critical pieces of advice that I thought I’d rather share with you.

1. You don’t have to treat marketing activities as programs (with a start and an end). Building an affective bond with consumers is a continuous process. A process that doesn’t necessarily have a start and an end but certainly has milestones and interim goals that constantly reassure you that you’re on the right track. Saul likes to refer back to the 4E process that he found very useful while he was at FreshBooks – Execute on Extraordinary Experiences Everyday.

2. Treat your community as a pretty girl – Building a community is sort of like building a relationship. Its a constant struggle, and you always need to pay attention to what your customers are saying. In Saul’s words “sometimes you need to spice things up a bit, and shave that beard”!

Here’s one of Saul’s presentation’s from the Zoocasa blog. Enjoy!