Days late and somewhat hurriedly I’ve finally uploaded my NewComm Forum 09 slideshow to slideshare.net.
My talk was an overview of social interaction design, a framework and approach to social media that I’ve been developing for the past two or three years. Asked by one audience member to provide the “ten things” to know about social interaction design, my initial reaction is always to fist mourn the loss of the eleven, and then fret over the ten.
I’ll try to capture them now:
- Focus not on the tool, the design, technology, or product, but on the user experience and social practices. Focusing on the tool a) gives us the illusion that we can design what happens and b) keeps us away from what really matters.
- Social media are talk technologies. That’s the core interaction happening around social media.
- In any kind of talk situation (on or offline), we need to know what’s going on in order to know how to proceed. Themes (jobs, dating, friend networking, etc), contexts, social activities, and so on are how we know what to do on social media. We see this through the actions of other users — not by reading the About Us page.
- Social media audiences are made up of users, and users are different. We don’t have one “user” but many. We should think about different users as having not just needs, goals, and objectives, but interests, psychologies, personality, and social competencies also.
- The social interface can be thought of as having three modes: a mirroring mode (we see ourselves reflected), a surface mode (there’s content on the surface of the screen — as with tv, movies, print surfaces), and a window mode (the screen is transparent when we’re “talking” to somebody).
- Users are individuals, and so their personalities are unique. But we can think through the user experience better with the help of three kinds of “core” personalities centered around the Self, the Other, or the Relationship.
- Engaging audiences in social media means starting from the user experience, not the brand, product, message, image, or what have you. Users own their experience — we should try not to think about our own brand image or message, and how to communicate it, but think instead about perceptions and conversations users are engaged in already. Users have a vested interested in what they do with social media. That’s where we meet them.
- There is a great deal of ambiguity in communication over social media, as there is also disruption of relationships, interactions, time and timings, and so on. These are opportunities for design and for social media applications, as they become something that users work with and around. Whether the ambiguity is around what a person means, who s/he is, how much and what kind of trust is involved, ambiguity is a rich social lubricant, and communication is the social engine it fuels.
- Individual user actions make up what happens on social media, but it is the social practices that distill out over time that shape what a tool becomes, is used for, and by whom. We can’t design but we can anticipate these practices. The use of “best practices” in social media may be a bit of a cop out, an attempt to avoid failures and get results because what has worked in one site may work in ours also. Principles of social interaction design offer an alternative.
- Conversational media are flow apps, and should be viewed, and if possible analyzed, for conversational flow instead of traditional web traffic. Our analytics tools are getting better, but still focus on words, phrases, topics and their relationships. They don’t yet capture how people talk, to whom, about what, and why. If we are to use tools we should bear in mind that we find what we’re looking for, and this is not always what’s most important.