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Do Rules of The Internet Apply to Social Media?

Back in the early to mid 1990s, just after Al Gore invented the commercial Internet, we developed 3 rules that we found useful in explaining some of the characteristics of this new media to insurance professionals and executives.  We wondered how these fared in translation to Social Media.  Here are the rules and some links to the current environment.  We’d like to know what you think.

Rule #1 – No One Owns It/No One Controls It.  When the Internet was transitioning to the commercial space, a number of companies believed that with first mover status, they could ‘own’ a particular space.  Some governments have tried, and continue to try to legislate controls over the use of social media.  Some technology suppliers created applications that became overnight de facto standards.  In spite of some results, open technologies continue to be open business environments which morph quickly to subvert controls.  Remember, the Internet was originally built to continue running after nuclear blasts wiped out large chunks of its infrastructure.  Crowdsourced ideas seem to be a carbon-based parallel.

Rule # 2 – It is Multi-Media.  Virtually all of the 1993 vintage internet was text based.  The MIME standard for email attachments wasn’t formally released until 1996.  However, the world of Internet and Social Media users has always tested limits of multimedia.

Around the 1998 time frame, the community debated whether Internet based mail would be used for business.  A commentator was asked, “would email ever replace regular mail?”  He responded:  “It probably has already.  The people that should be worrying are phone companies with long distance call revenues.” People laughed.  Five years later, Skype came out of the labs.

This trend continues.  As we design for the future, we ignore cutting edge media (think  holograms) at our peril.

Rule #3 – Technology Enables/Content Rules.  As wonderful as technology is (and there are days where even this jaded scribe admires pure technology), the human imagination is greater.  Innovation in business and life is still largely an analog function.

There is increasing clutter in the Twitterverse, however, as the accompanying graph shows, content cut through that pretty quickly on the evening of May 1, 2011, starting when Sohaib Athar, an IT consultant in Pakistan started tweeting about a helicopter circling around Osama Bin Laden’s suspected compound in Abbottabad.

Fearless Conclusion.  We think that Social Media is having dramatic impact on the conduct of personal business relationships.  Some of the changes are unpredictable.  However, we believe we’ve seen some of this movie before, and can learn from its lessons, one of which is not to discount the impact of creative people deploying disruptive technology.  Humility is always in style.

What do you think?

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