Good-bye, Social Media – Hello, Networked Communications

So, today Steve Rubel announces that he is done “blogging”, and now is fully committed to a more full-faceted path called “lifestreaming.” His post is titled So Long, Blogging, Hello Lifestreaming!

What he’s doing is, in fact, not that radical – we’ve been moving rapidly in this direction for a while. Because the fact is – the real issue isn’t whether we “blog” or “micro-blog” or “Tweet” or “Facebook” or whatever. Those terms and brands are temporary labels we have for the early-on way we’re now using technology to…share. To express ourselves, and connect with others.

We’re evolving rapidly in ability to share, not just via long-form formats (books, blogs), but also quick thoughts, pictures, videos, music, and whatever else. Each of these things ended up with their own terms, and have been ranged roughly under the moniker “social media.”

I’d like to adapt Steve’s title to say good-bye to social media. The term, that is; which really isn’t adequate to describe what we’re doing. For some professionals, the term “social” is an immediate turnoff. And we’re sharing more than media – we’re communicating/connecting/collaborating in multi-faceted ways. There is a social element to it, of course, and media is part of this gig. But the term isn’t scalable.

So….hello, Networked Communications. That, in fact, in all facets, and no matter how it evolves, is what we’re doing, on both personal and professional levels. Whether it’s community-building, tweeting, sharing media, marketing, lifestreaming – it’s all networked communications (which, by the way, includes the off-line component of how we relate to one another).

We’re going to burn through existing and new platforms over the coming years, and they’ll get more sophisticated in their abilities to let us network and communicate. Whether it’s Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Posterous, blogs, Flickr (perhaps even my dream platform, Metamee) – the bits and pieces  don’t really matter, they’ll evolve and converge. Each of them is an Expression and/or Connection Engine, all enabling our brave new world of networked communications. Which is same world of networked communications we used to have, amped up on tech steroids.

We’ve always communicated. We’ve always had and built networks. Now we have quickly-evolving tools that will let us more effectively express ourselves and connect with others, for marketing, for fun, for socializing, for enterprise efficiency, for help…for whatever we do.

Good-bye, “social media.” You were a nice first love. You’re not going to die, you’re becoming bigger and better. But with upgraded capabilities come better titles. I’m moving on to Networked Communications. ‘Cause that’s what we do.

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About Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

23 Responses to Good-bye, Social Media – Hello, Networked Communications

  1. I like it. I’m in the business of helping SMB clients build and maintain their online presence. Naturally, “social media” has been an increasingly important topic. But the “social” in social media is often a turn off for business people. It conjures up (in their minds) an image of teenagers babbling online. But I’ll bet “networked communication” would resonate. I’m going to start experimenting with that terminology.

  2. Doug Wick says:

    Hi Steve, this is a nice post and I agree with you about the transitory nature of the “social media” term. This type of communication is new to us, but eventually it’ll be as natural for everyone as picking up the phone (and if not for us, then for our kids!).

    A side note in defense of blogging – to me it has always been the place to share thoughts that are too big for shorter-form mediums. I don’t think I’ll ever stop because I like exploring certain topics that deeply. Paul Graham’s blog-essays are great examples of really getting into something interesting.

    I wish Steve wouldn’t ascribe his decision to stop blogging to him being ahead of the curve (though in general he is), as I feel it really is a personal decision based on how one wants to spend one’s time.

  3. Paul Chaney says:

    Yet again, you have transcended the obvious and taken the conversation on the topic of social media to a higher level. It’s true, terminology is fleeting at best, but your term, “Networked Communications,” is one that I think will resonate with business people very well.

    From my perspective, no matter how the content is presented, whether via long-form blogging or 140 character Tweets, the issue (for me at least) is that it be both “findable” and “sharable.”

  4. @Paul – exactly.
    @Doug – I agree. I don’t believe that long-form idea presentation will disappear, and I (in fact) like it just as much or more as micro-communications. What we should see is the unhelpful labels drop off – we’re just sharing, connecting, and communicating, and it’s all converging. Fact is, we’ll stop subscribing to Paul’s “blog” (Twitter, Flickr, etc.), and we’ll increasingly subscribe to Paul.
    @Andy – since I am trying to do evangelistic work in a highly regulated corporate marketplace, I’m very sensitive to how terminology impacts the openness of people’s minds. “Social media” as a term is full of unnecessary alarm bells. That’s one reason (beside the fact that’s it’s too limiting, and non-scalable) that I don’t like it.

  5. mackcollier says:

    This is what many people are moving toward, a central hub for all the content they create and interact with in this space. This is exactly why I recently created MackCollier.com, cause my ‘social media footprint’(or whatever silly term we want to give it), had moved past The Viral Garden.

    And blogging is only ‘old’ to the people that have started using other tools. The early adopters tend to get very bored with new tools very quickly. A year from now we’ll probably be hearing these same people talk about how ‘old’ Twitter and Friendfeed seem.

    BTW Doug kinda touched on a larger point, but what’s really getting old to me is the people that seem to want to be the first ones to ‘call’ something. Like the first guy to say that blogs are dying, or Twitter is dying, or Facebook is where it’s at, or this, or that. iJustine and others have been talking about ‘lifestreaming’ for years.

    Don’t focus on being the guy that coins the new term, focus on teaching and sharing. That’s how you build credibility in this space.

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  7. Great observation, Steve. It makes perfect sense, the evolution of lexicon will be fascinating to watch. I agree social media already feels dated, and I’ve been using social networking as an alternative. Networked communications is good, but has alot of overlap with the technology space of networking and may end up creating confusion with editors and others in that space. It certainly will overlap, no doubt. But your point is a good one, and we should not rest our laurels on the terminology today as it’s only scratching the surface of what social networks and networked communications will bring to bear in the business world. We’re still fighting the age old “Solutions” vs. words like products, systems, etc, and still don’t have a good suggestion for that. The goal for all these terms is to simplify how we describe what’s what. But please, no acronyms….! Thanks again for a thoughtful discussion.

  8. Scott Monty says:

    Whatever we call it – social media, networked communications, etc. – your point is correct: it’s about understanding the broad aspects and not focusing on the tools.

    What’s interesting to me is that the social media inner circle pats itself on the back for major milestones – Scoble lives on Friendfeed, Rubel on Posterous, Owyang gives up blogging – yet most of mainstream users are either just discovering Facebook, or (perish the thought) perfectly comfortable with email.

    To me, when something like Google Wave comes along, using the email interface as the basis for tranformative change in communications, then we’ve got an innovation worthy of our attention. Until then, I’ll watch the early adopters hopping from platform to platform and concur with you that what’s more important is the process and the fundamentals, rather than the tactical details.

  9. @mack – Here’s the thing: what we’re doing (connecting, expressing, networking) is what we’ve always done, before these on-line tools, with the current crop of systems, and it’s what we’ll do with the next generation. I just think we’re better off calling it what it is and always has been/will be. Then we don’t have to waste so much time explaining, defining, and defending…

  10. Jay Ehret says:

    So, I guess I’ll be the contrarian here. Lifestreaming? It’s rather narcissistic, don’t you think? Do I really need to know all of Steve’s, or anyone’s, every thought, link? I’d rather just know the best of the best.

    Marketers are getting to wrapped up in the publish-immediately tools. Thinking that just because they exist, they ought to be used. And just because we have a thought, a link, an epiphany or indigestion, everyone needs to know about it. They don’t.

    Marketers, step away from the kool-aid. Please invoke the “most normal people” rule.

  11. Steve, the evolution you describe makes sense, and the term ‘networked communications’ elevates what’s next. As much as I’ve been energized by the social tools we are immersed in, I’m even more jazzed by what it paves the way for. I love the glimpse that Steven Berlin Johnson offered us during the MProfs B2B Forum.

    However, I wouldn’t yet say goodbye to social media as some people are only now starting to discover the tools and the concepts and I don’t want to see them frightened away when this is very much a journey in progress about, as Paul says, being both findable and sharable.

    Thanks for -as usual- synthesizing the possibilities.

  12. edwardboches says:

    I don’t think it matters what we call it. In fact it’s best expressed visually. Years ago, the brand was in the middle and it broadcast its message. Now there’s a circle, it’s filled with people creating their own conversations, and connecting in whatever makes sense for the individual and the specific community and if a brand or marketer wants to talk, or communicate, or share or engage or, god forbid, sell, it doesn’t care whether it’s called social media, or networked communication (which, by the way is a term used by Digital Equipment Corp 20 years ago) or the next new buzzword ju jour. All it should care about is how it gets into the circle, where it can listen, learn, and maybe even inspire or mobilize the folks there. As for the rest of us connecting to each other, it’s just technology replacing the town square, or the cafes of the Left Bank, or the wittiness of the Algonquin Roundtable. Plain old people connecting with our neighbors. They just don’t happen to live anywhere near us. That’s where technology comes in.

  13. Karen Swim says:

    Steve, very insightful points. I am not so hung up on the terms but am increasingly annoyed by a focus on the inanimate tools and not the core issues – connecting with other people. If we keep the focus on the human beings the platforms will continue to grow and evolve in ways that we may never imagine.

  14. @CB, @Edward, @Jay, @Karen – great points. I freely confess that I’m a word geek and I get antsy about terminology that seems to be a mismatch. But you’re touching on the thing that really does matter – we’re using this stuff to connect and collaborate and share in (let’s hope) much BETTER ways.

    Maybe we should just call the whole thing “The Roundtable” and be done with it! :>}

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  18. Patrick Curl says:

    I actually believe a day is coming soon – where a twitter like service will popup that will be a social network protocal – people will share media, information, experiences, files, and more via a network protocal like bit torrent – or maybe something like Gnutella – where there’s basically no central network, the software will have api’s but with no central network – no api limits, like Twitter’s annoying API limits. There will be websites that will take the ‘stream’ and display it in many different ways.

    Social Media is about to evolve to a whole new level – way beyond twitter, and facebook.

    I could be wrong, but I’m hoping.

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  23. aaronnrj says:

    Hey everyone!

    You should check this site out: http://fbliker.net …it pretty much lets you like anything you want on facebook. Kinda cool!

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