Big stories bringing people together and creating communities

Read an interesting post by Tim O’Reilly on LinkedIn recently entitled – It’s Not About You: The Truth About Social Media Marketing in which he looks back at the history of his technology publishing company and finds lessons just as relevant in the ‘new’ social marketing world.

Anyone who has worked across multiple fields and practices is familiar with that feeling of deja vu when you see similar ideas and themes being expressed in slightly different language but espoused as being unique to one community – or individual.  I’ve had the opportunity to work across many different horizontal and vertical markets in my career and am often frustrated by the communication issues which arise between people who insist on looking at things through an inward looking, narrow, ‘tribe’ perspective.

Similar challenges arise when you are trying to market a general or horizontal solution – most people would prefer to see an out of the box, recognisable vertical solution rather than having to put the effort into applying the general solution to their specific circumstance.

When I have seen positive results, it has usually been with the promotion of a cross cutting concern which is of interest to a wide variety of people but which has not yet become ‘core’ to any one tribe. I believe that there is a unique inflection point where a new concept can act as an intervention to bring people together and, with sufficient momentum, create a new community of interest. Sometimes, the intervention involves introducing a bigger concept which encompasses and unifies multiple fields. As long as the higher level is not too abstract to appear as another horizontal solution, there is an opportunity to create a new, broader, composite vertical market.

In Tim’s words:

We tell big stories that matter to a community of users, and together we use those stories to amplify a message that we all care about. Framing ideas in such a way that they include and reinforce the identity of a group of people who might not previously have seen themselves as part of the same community allows everyone to tell their own story in a way that adds up to something bigger than any one of them might tell alone.

While he is using the language of the broad technology community, I believe the same sentiment applies across the evolution of all fields of human endeavour. Indeed, in hindsight, I’d say that most of my career has been driven by the pursuit of such emerging big stories, looking for opportunities to bridge entrenched domains into that ‘something bigger’. Trying, wherever possible “to find people and technologies that are worth paying attention to, and to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with others, who then carry it even further.”

Sometimes the big stories are not compelling enough to generate the energy required to form a new community. Sometimes the stories are taken up and amplified beyond anyone’s imagination. Either way, it’s a fantastic journey and one which social media will accelerate.

In Tim’s view, “the secret of promotion in the age of social media isn’t to promote yourself.  It’s to promote others.” Well, I guess, I’m doing my bit by promoting Tim!

Who are you promoting?

 

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