Why We Engage

In trying to understand better just why and how social media is better at engaging us as individual users, I have been looking into several different theories often applied to education technology. So here is a first shot and please feel free to put in your two cents, as this is just the start of what will be far more extensive research.

Engagement theory (Kearsley & Schneiderman, 1999) uses the base structure of Relate, Create Donate, assuming we are talking about engaging both the teacher and the student. As participants in user based media we are both the teacher (sender) and the student (receiver). We therefore all benefit and become more engaged based on participation as we contribute to of all the three areas (Relate, Create, Donate). Perhaps it is more cyclical in the open collaborative model version of how we interact online today. Instead of creating one final product of research, it is ongoing and dynamic. So we are engaged, but how do we stay there?

So, now let’s look at the psychoanalytical perspective to understand Social Representation (Serge Moscovici in 1961), a “system of values, ideas and practices with a twofold function; first, to establish an order which will enable individuals to orientate themselves in their material and social world and to master it; and secondly to enable communication to take place among the members of a community by providing them with a code for social exchange and a code for naming and classifying unambiguously the various aspects of their world and their individual and group history”. Here we must have rules established in order to engage as the interaction is based on TRUST. It is generally agreed that we must have this trust in order for user based tools to be successful.

Outside of the academic sphere and into the multifaceted global realm, we have new rules and codes that are being created. The rules are evolving and are being created collaboratively. With each new evolution of the tools we use the codes of interaction evolve. And yet, the sharing and learning continues. Are we engaging simply for the sake of curiosity, the need to learn and to share? Even Wikipedia struggles to find a general collaboration theory that explains it. What we do know is that it is happening and users are engaging. In the quest of understanding effectively interaction for maximum benefit for both the receiver and the sender, I put this out there as a seed for discussion. What are your experiences with engagement and how do you feel that the rules have changed to make it more effective?

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Social Media ABCs for Dinosaurs

Okay, so perhaps we do not need to go to the extreme of calling them or us dinosaurs. In fact, many clients referring to themselves as “dinosaurs” are not so old. They simply have a comfort level with the tools they are familiar with: paper calendars, email and newspapers. They may have adapted to the online version of their newspaper, and even do research using search engines. They might even order a book or two online. Their reference to dinosaurs being unfounded, for what they need is not savvy but comfort. So what is more comfortable than going back to being reminded that the base rules lie in what we already know, the ABCs:

A Authenticity
B Be Present where your intended audience is
C Consistancy encourages following
D Dynamic content is more engaging
E Edit entries before submitting
F Filter, you do not need to see everything
G Global reach, there is a big world out there
H Help others who are in need of answers
I Ideas, test them
J Just what you need, be selective about where and when to avoid “overindulgence”
K Knowledge is for sharing
L Link to that which adds mutual value
M Monitor what is being said about you (your brand)
N Networking, start with the ones you already have (face to face) and go from there
O Objectives, be clear on what you hope to achieve
P Policy, know what you want kept private and when
Q Questions, ask them
R Reputation, maintain yours with integrity
S Share
T Tools, use ones that simplify and automate where applicable
U User, all users ultimately are individuals
V Video, use it if you have it
W Watch your statistics
X Xenophobia, be wary of your own fear of the unknown, be open
Y You are a multidimensional being/organisation, expressing this is an asset
Z Zenith, you can achieve your maximum potential through more effective interactions

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Get Social

During the Summer I had both the traumatic and delightful experience of being offline for nearly five weeks. Usually connected to the Internet every waking minute, I experienced what felt close to withdrawal when both my computer and Smartphone broke. Given my location being very remote, I took this as an opportunity to organise my thoughts and do the other part of social optimisation.

Yes, I got social face to face. I interviewed others on their professional and personal experiences with online social media and face to face social networks. I listened, reflected and responded. The beauty of faces and their expressiveness when they spoke with passion was profound. Having the unusual opportunity to being among a hugely diverse community in fields, levels, interests, ages, expertise and technical savvy was the perfect setting for testing theories on social optimisation and building relationships.

Amy Domini, CEO of Domini Social Investments (pictured above, as we headed out for a sail), said it well, there is no better way to get to the heart of things. With salt water splashing in your face and the sun beaming down, laughter and genuine experience is shared amidst conversations saving the problems of the world and sharing knowledge.

So, now I am back at the office with a repaired computer and replacement mobile phone. With weeks of mail to catch up on and meetings and trainings to prepare for, there is not much social for the next bit. I thank those who shared such wonderful social moments. I hope that others have had similar experiences, if not you should try and please share your insights. I am glad for the reminder of the power of the face to face connection of really being social.

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