Social web literacy and brands

Jul. 20, 2009 | by Antony Mayfield

Last week iCrossing ran a webinar in partnership with WOMMA (the Word of Mouth Marketing Association) which I had the privilege of presenting. I chose a theme which I’d been fasincated by since about the beginning of this year: social web literacy.

You can take a look at the slides here:

The idea is one I came across in the writing of Howard Rheingold one of the finest thinkers about web culture and all things digital.

Sadly I missed a couple of chances to see or meet Howard when he was in the UK recently with the Traveling Geeks, but you can find out more about his ideas around “21st century literacies” as he puts it, in two videos, which I have embedded at the bottom of this post. The first is a six minute interview on the topic and the second is a full presentation from the Reboot Britain event.

Really it is an idea which a lot bigger than media or marketing, it is about how we will all live with the web as part of our lives. But there are two imperatives for media and brand owners in relation to this:

  1. Understanding how the web works requires social web literacy
  2. Social web literacy, or literacies, need to be widespread in our organisation, not simply

Here are some of the themes I tried to address in the presentation:

  • Revolutions aren’t about technologies they are about how people use them: Thinking about the print revolution. It wasn’t the printing press that was the real revolution – it was when everybody learned to read and write.
  • Literacy takes time to develop: We need to be prepared to commit time and effort to becoming literate.
  • Be wary of knee-jerk reactions new platforms: I use the example of Twitter. People think they understand it and that it is trivial, but that is because they think they are seeing an inbox for email or SMS messages, something like that. Only by using it for some time can they understand how useful and powerful it really is.
  • Organisations need to become institutionally literate in the social web: There are probably two aspects to this point – in part it is about “understanding your networks”, as we say at iCrossing. The other is about making sure that the organisation is learning and acquiring the literacies that mean that it can understand and operate in a world where the web is becoming an important part of our lives. Barriers like IT preventing access to social websites (very common in big companies), legal issues, HR concerns and PR / brand controls on external communications exist, but can be overcome – and there are increasing numbers of examples of this.
  • Build tribes not scribes: We need to resist the temptation to think that social media is a niche skill, that we can become or delegate to expert individuals or teams and agencies when it comes to this. The former feels like a cul-de-sac for progress, like we are creating 21st century scribes who read and write for others as a living. The role of specialists and agencies needs to be to spread these skills, develop these literacies in their colleagues and client organsiations.
  • Grass roots and frameworks: Some organisations, I’ve seen it in NGOs, campaigning groups, start-ups and high growth organisations mostly, develop their social web literacy organically, from the grassroots. They have a lot of people who understand social media and are sharing skills, finding new ways to use social computing tools in the way they work and communicate. But most large organisations need to look at a combination of encouraging grassroots networks of people spreading social web literacy and developing framework approaches that help them tackle big barriers like managing risk, changing the way their external communications processes work and how they think about brand marketing generally. This is what we developed the iCrossing Social Spaces Framework to address.

21st century media literacies from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

If you’re interested in reading more, you can see what I have been reading on the subject at . Let me know if you have thoughts or useful links on the subject too…

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    Comment (1)

    • Back in my day we didnt have any of this internet thing (5 of the best) « Qubemedia’s Weblog

      [...] Social web literacy and brands [...]Jul 29, 2009 03:48 pm

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