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Do You Question Social Media Culture? You Should

Posted on Oct 17, 2012 by in ThiNK First | 32 comments


Culture is a fascinating topic. As is Social Media Anthropology. How are we questioning and shaping the culture of Social Media? How do you experience these changes? As a consumer or producer?

 What’s Your Culture Mindset?
  • Do you accept culture as it is? –  Culture is Input = You are a consumer
  • Do you seek to shape culture? – Culture is Output  = You are a producer

Are you accepting social media and culture for the way it is? Or are you seeking to shape it? Do you believe culture can be shaped? Do you ever challenge the status quo?

This post begins with some questions on generosity and then connects those questions to a methodology in Ric Dragon’s book “Social Marketology”. It ends with a whack on the head.

If this post does not make you think, I’ve failed. It’s not a short read. Go grab a coffee. Grab a notepad.

If you don’t have a page of questions for your company when you’re done reading, I’ve failed to express my thought that social media is not about tools and features, it’s about culture and setting norms. How you use the tools is your choice. You can set and own the norms that your encourage from your community.

I sense most people accept culture (they consume) , when they can become a culture producer (they create).

So let me begin asking some questions about generosity.

What does it mean to be Generous?

There’s many ways to interpret this question. There are many ways to act generously. There are many ways that you can receive generosity. For me generosity is one of the core pillars of Social Media, it if it isn’t, it should be.

Let’s take a look at how we act. We often think we are generous, but it’s often not how we act.

Are you a Social Squirrel? Do you collect? Do you store things for later? Or do you share? Do you wait to reach a conclusion or to you share your journey? What determines your norms?

Some words carry positive connotations, some negative. This cartoon made me think. Should we focus on collective wealth and not on personal wealth. I think so. When it comes to Social Media we are all collectors and hoarders? Are we bookmark rich and connection poor?

We collect to improve our existence. We collect for a better tomorrow.

  • We collect content (links)
  • We collect people (followers, friends & subscribers)
  • We collect connections (between content and people)

My question: Who benefits from your time invested in search and researching. Is it just you?

Search: try to find something by looking or otherwise seeking carefully and thoroughly.


Research : The systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.

We use the term “Google” as a proxy for “Search“. Research is the useful things you find as you search and the connections you make in the process. Good research shapes your future search activity. What makes something useful? For me it’s when something makes me open to rethink my position or something to support my current hypothesis.

I believe collectively we can do that much better than when we work in isolation. I’m sure most would agree. So why don’t we focus on group search? In many ways all sharing via Google is a group act. Google just doesn’t ask you to share your data, they just use the data from millions of people. It’s not just back links that drive SEO ranking. Google is in effect a massive crowdsourcing platform, but that’s another post.

Sharing for most it still a selfish act.

  • Do your shares say “look at me?”
  • Do you help people make connections?
  • Do you share to save others time?
  • Do you share to help others promote their content and brand?

Sharing should be like saying “Advance to Go, Collect $200”.

Sharing should facilitate others fast track their own discovery process. Sharing should be to save other repeating your failures. Sharing should be to elevate the good stuff. Great sharing  should include a reward and there should be fast tracking.

Collective Intelligence vs Solo Intelligence

I’ve been thinking about our social activity and social media anthropology How do we act? What’s our default behaviour. Is that good for society? What do we create? Who benefits and how? How is this changing over time?

We all spend a lot of time sifting the vast information pool that’s called the internet. We collect wisdom as we go. The knowledge we accumulate shapes out future journey.

  • How effective are we in this process?
  • Who benefits? How wasteful is our process?
  • Do you keep what you learn to yourself or do you share?
  • Does hoarding make you selfish?

We often collect stuff on a topic that we never use. I know I do. We often place more value on what we collect, making it harder to share. We collect and group stuff in anticipation of it being useful to us, yet we never find that use. This got me thinking about defaults and how our cultural norms get defined.

  • Which social networks have a generous culture?
  • Which social networks have a selfish culture?

To me these are fascinating questions, which brings me to the focus of this post.

Social Marketology :  Social Media Anthropology

Have you thought about the culture of different networks and how they vary? I’ve recently read a book by my good friend Ric Dragon and his book: Social Marketology. I met Ric via Social Media via #usguys.

For me, Social Marketology has three audiences:

  1. Beginners & Executives – The book does an awesome job of collecting and connecting all the disciplines that have an impact on Social Media. There’s a lot. Read the book and you’ll find out just how many. It really is a solid primer and connect of all that’s connectable in social media.
  2. Software Implementation Strategist – See below for the diagram. The book provides a 9 segment model in the form of a pyramid. Ric has provided a cool way to compare and contrast any and all kinds of social media tools. As an implementor, it should make you think. Which tools should I used and what should I expect to get from each. I’ll drill into this below
  3. Social Network Architects & Product Managers – So this is the Software Development perspective. I use this model now to think about tools. In the case of Listly I think about who I want to compare us to and I use the nine categories to see where we are now and where we’d like to be relative to them tomorrow.

I loved this pyramid. I think it has the potential to be an awesome dashboard for social media. I recreated the diagrams from the book in the form of gauges to let us track plan vs actual.

My example of Collecting / Hoarding touches so many of the 9 categories outline by Ric.

Headline for Social Marketology - Social Network Cultural Comparison Pyramid
9 items   8 followers   23 votes   932 views

Social Marketology - Social Network Cultural Comparison Pyramid




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a means for people within the system to communicate back and forth.



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a way for people to establish a relationship, such as friends, family, and coworkers.



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a means for people to engage in games with each other or the system.



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a means for people to know who is present or for people to allow their presence to be known, either online or physically.



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a means for people to give to one another, either very small tokens of status or recognition.



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a means of allowing individuals to identify themselves and see the identities of others. On most platforms, these are profiles



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a means for people to aggregate into affinity groups



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the ability for people to share and assemble, regroup and organize content.



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devices for the establishment of status. This does not mean Klout!

I’m using collecting and hoarding as just one example of exploring culture.  To me this is hugely useful. You can use the Pyramid to assess the cultural aspects that you believe your brand and your enterprise is best poised to influence. Comparing stuff is hard. Few do it well or with any rigor. What I love about this methodology is it lets you ask what to expect from each network.

  • I’ve extended it a little to ask what will you get today vs tomorrow.
  • Or how to you compare Tool A vs Tool B.
  • Or where are we today vs where do we want to be tomorrow.

Startups & Social Networks Take Note

Wearing my software startup hat, I think it’s awesome to be able to compare any two social networks and to be able to do that with only 9 criteria – or points of comparison.

How does Instagram compare to Flickr? They seem similar as are therefore easier to compare. How about Instrgram to Pinterest? They are very different, so how can your compare their essence

How does Twitter compare to Linkedin and to Facebook? That’s a question we all ask, but probably do a poor job of answering. Let’s be honest.

I think that’s what Ric is enabling. I’m taking the idea further than is outline in the book, but that’s just proof of the value that Ric has provided. He’s created some building blocks that we can all benefit from. That’s an example of generosity and true sharing.

Enterprise Beware : This Impacts You

Actually I think the impact is bigger when you wear your enterprise hat. How can this thinking change the way your enterprise views, selects and implements social media. That’s a big question. If you aren’t thinking big thoughts now I’ve missed the mark in this post.

Tools to teach us to compare relatively dissimilar things are immensely valuable. It lets us see existing tools in new ways. It gives us the keys to unlock new value.

Opportunity Costs

We all only have finite time and finite resources. We’re faced with seemingly infinite choice of social platforms. Nobody is telling us how to implement these tools in any really dramatic sense. We’re all following the herd. Stop. I say own your experience.

Choose your tools wisely. Choose the tools that your can use they way you want to achieve your goals

Don’t just view the tools/networks as features, view them as living cultures. These are cultures you can influence.

This is where your can really stand out. That’s the big opportunity.

Accepting or Impacting Culture : It’s not about features

For me culture begins with one action. One person does something once. They then repeat that. Others see that behaviour. They copy and repeat. Others follow. That’s how memes are spread and that’s how we morph culture.

So when you look at a new social media platform, what do you see?

Do you accept the existing cultures of that platform? Do you event think “What is the cultural norms of Tool X?”.  Or do you think how can that platform morph to suit my needs?

How generous is the culture on Facebook, for example? Or Instagram or Pinterest? How can I use it in a more generous fashion? Will others copy and emulate my actions. This is powerful.

Don’t accept networks at Face Value.

You can be a passenger on the social meda bus or you can be the driver. Even as the user, you can drive culture. You just need to give yourself permission.

Social Networks are alive and can be melded to suit your purpose. I’m focusing on generosity as it’s where my post began and I also happen to think generosity is one of the most morphable elements of a social platforms culture. Don’t get stuck on generosity. It’s simply an example.  Ask your self what behaviours do I need from these social networks. What behaviours match my audience?

Every blog has it’s own culture. And you can impact your own culture on networks you use. Even your page on Facebook has a unique culture. So don’t lose your personality to the borg. You own culture, not the next guy. Really you do.

That’s the genius that I take away from this book. These 9 categories really make you think. Or they should. Ask yourself what can I give and get from each social platform. What do I want to expect from relationships and groups and presence from Tool X?

  • You can ask these questions as a user of the tool.
  • You can ask these questions as a developer and architect of these platforms.

You don’t have to accept your current lot. This is a time of change. These platforms impact social change. So you can go with the current or create your own movement.

These comparisons let you think about which networks are right for your company. I’m not so much comparing features, but comparing cultures. To me any social network tool or app is far more defined by its culture than its features.

Culture is a reflection of how those features have been absorbed and distilled by the user community.

I’m not sure I’ve really done justice to the question. I began by framing a question I’ve been thinking about around generosity and sharing. I introducted Ric’s book and the pyramid. I then worked to open us the possibilities around how you choose and  adopt social networks.

I may be alone in this thinking. I’m a huge believer in the fact we shape culture. It works. It’s simple and it’s free. The ability to change culture will never be a premium feature.

We’re all looking to find our voice and express brand personality. Culture is the way to do it.

This book gives you a real framework to decide and translate that into meaningful action for your enterprise. I know it helps me think about Listly.

How about you? Did your coffee get cold? Did you fill your sheet of paper with questions?





Nick Kellet (164 Posts)

Nick is co-founder the social curation platform Listly, that combines crowdsourcing, content curation and embedable lists to drive high-level community engagement, live inside your blog posts. Connect with Nick on Twitter · Linkedin, Facebook and G+ and follow his writing via his other guest posts and on his blogs at and


  1. Wow nickkellet you’ve written a Dissertation of PhD caliber — great though provoking read.  Wonder what Fredmcclimans or SamFiorella might have to add?

    • Josepf nickkellet Fredmcclimans SamFiorella I’ll take an honorary Phd from the school of Josepf.

  2. My thoughts exactly, Josepf – was prepared to begin my comment with a “wow.” Nickkellet , you’ve taken the thoughts in my book and added a whole other layer on top of original thought. Great job indeed.

    • RicDragon Josepf Thanks – I don’t really feel like I added it. I was more sharing the experience and thoughts that I got when I read it. I guess it could be considered a layer. I just think the model is so applicable. High utility.

  3. Nick,
    I never really had given a lot of thought to the various cultures surrounding social networks. I now can admit there’s a huge difference in the way things are done through various networks. I know on my WordPress blog I can always count on people to come by and say hi and the culture surrounding it open and friendly. My tumblr blog is even more friendly though. I have people call me (that have my number) send me personal emails if I miss a day or two of posting and its a very tight knit community. I could also mention difference in so many other networks that I belong too.
    I never really have paid it a lot of mine because I am sharer. As a former social worker (now stay-at-home dad) I understand the importance of giving back. I am sure there are times I won’t share something until I am 100% positive about the subject. For myself though, I get so many rewards back from others by sharing and not being a hoarder.

    • dadblunders That’s so true. You get feedback and that drives you to find/ create and output more content. It’s a cycle

  4. Nick – I always love the way you look at things like this.  I know you have had the whole generosity factor on your mind for a while now and I appreciate how you have used it as a thread throughout this post and connected it to Ric’s book.  
    Culture is so critical.  Every single one of us have an opportunity to drive the culture of what we are creating and building on the various social networks. Yes, there are specific differences between the networks and it is important to know which ones work best for what we are trying to create.  We all have an opportunity to be a leader and model positive culture building. Don’t wait for permission to do this.
    To me generosity is the foundation that I start with…everything else comes after that.  I give to give and I support the people and companies that align with my values. I build relationships based on the human connection and do business with people that I respect, admire and that I feel are committed to making a difference.
    Thank you for this post Nick.  Your brilliance shines again.

    • boydjane Thanks Jane. It’s so true that you have been party to the evolution of my thinking around generosity.
      I really like the notion of “Generosity as a Foundation for Life”
      Sounds like a blog post:)

  5. @GettysburgGerry @NickKellet I don’t question social media culture. I question the people that use it.

    • @sasieiro @GettysburgGerry At least you are questioning:) Works for me. And what do they say when you question them?

      • @NickKellet @GettysburgGerry I think most people do not know if they are a culture consumer or a culture producer. Also brands can do better

        • I agree. rt @sasieiro @GettysburgGerry I think most people do not know if they are a culture consumer or a culture producer.

        • @NickKellet @sasieiro Are most ppl just screwing around with friends on here? LOL

        • @GettysburgGerry @NickKellet I believe people use SocMed for their own agenda which is why imp to question user not platform only

  6. Very interesting subjectRT@DannyIny @NickKellet

  7. @RicDragon Loved the diagrams. :@NickKellett

  8. Thanks @AmyDenim Takes a while, read it anyway –>Do You Question Social Media Culture? You Should | via @nickkellet

  9. Thanks:) @topgold bookmarked Shared links enhance social media culture: a conclusion I draw from @nickkellet’s post

  10. Thanks @socialmouths Do You Question Social Media Culture? You Should << probably the best post I read all week

    • @NickKellet Sure thing. Thank you, Nick! =)

  11. thanks rt @AstridDux Great food for thought – How are we questioning & shaping the culture of Social Media?

  12. Thanks:) rt @GabrielleNYC Great food for thought – How are we questioning & shaping the culture of Social Media?

  13. @teachmy Thank you much for the RT 🙂

  14. Thanks @RayProck Thx for blowing my brain up this morning… Do You Question Social Media Culture? You Should

  15. Excellent post Nick. Culture is the most difficult to change – and it can be changed intentionally (Producer). Culture is also a Habitat. Each Habitat will attract certain Inhabitants and will be repulsive to a different set of Inhabitants. Change the Habitat (Culture) change the Inhabitant (Consumer).

    • d_scott I like the habit piece. And the repulsion/attraction notion. Very insightful. And it really helps me connect some of my blog themes. Thanks

      • nickkellet d_scott Nick- A few thoughts on Culture=Habitat:


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