Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Inventor of Social Currency

This post originally appeared on the MeetingsFocus Blog, where Building Blocks Social Media regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in events.


Based on the articles I have read by Douglas Rushkoff in the MPI One+ magazine, my impression of him was not favorable. I wonder if his strategy is to be thought provoking so he puts forth views on social media that are controversial. After viewing a couple of his sessions from WEC, I realized we actually agree on a few points.

In his session, “Social Currency: Creating Value Instead of Extracting It” Rushkoff claimed to have invented the term Social Currency. I wonder why he hasn’t taken credit for it on Wikipedia. Maybe he was testing us to see if anyone would question that statement. In the spirit of transparency, I think Rushkoff should use a more current picture in his bios and profiles. He might find that more people will trust him if they think he is older than 30.

I like his story about the history of branding: why it was necessary, and how the internet broke it. “Communications are becoming non-fiction again.” Your company (event) has to actually make something and have an authentic story to communicate. This session would have been a good keynote. “Success comes from tweeting about your culture instead of your product.” So, you have to either make something and talk about the story of how your product is made or get serious about CSR so that you have a positive culture to talk about. In case you are new to CSR, Corporate Social Responsibility in a company setting means they treat their employees well and they implement policies to make the operation more sustainable (better for the environment and people in need). If your organization has any of these positive stories, that is the kind of thing that is great for all of your employees to share on their social networks. My opinion on social media policies is: instead of creating a policy that just tells your employees what not to do with social media, help create good content (stories) and tell them how to share it.

There is a dark side to Facebook that people like to forget. Rushkoff reminds us that it is easy to know what the purpose of a tool is by who is using it. Facebook is free for users so they are the product, not the consumers. Most people believe they have a right to use Facebook and they like to complain when Facebook makes changes and yet they don’t pay a dime for this service that lets them stay connected to their family and friends. Many people are starting to realize they can’t hide behind Facebook’s privacy settings and they have transitioned their presence on social media to a more professional one. By the way, it is against Facebook’s terms of service to have more than one profile as an individual, just in case someone told you that was a good idea.

Predicting that most people will make the transition to a more professional presence and include their professional contacts on Facebook, he says “…once you are friends with everyone, what is the point? It just becomes a phone book.” He says it is less fun than it used to be. I have seen that happen with LinkedIn so it is hard to disagree completely with that statement. I believe the key to keeping it fun is keeping it real. If you choose to make your professional presence vanilla instead of including the details from your life that make you unique, then it will get boring.

Rushkoff says Google+ at least has circles so you can share specific content with different groups of people in your life. Facebook actually has this functionality; it just isn’t as easy to use as Google+. This is one reason you should be on Google+ if you are afraid of sharing the wrong information with the wrong people.

What challenges are you having with sharing your authentic story?