April 22, 2011

The Social Media Stratification

The massive adoption of social networks within the lives of billions of people has naturally created a new layer of social classification within today's digitally oriented society.

Access to inexpensive computers and mobile devices has given everyone a personal platform to express practically everything they do, see and hear instantly.

One of the most popular channels of expression come in the form of social networks.

Social networks started off quite simply as a way to share stuff.

They have quickly become refined into hyper focused channels of communication offering a wide array of ways to express and share extremely detailed and targeted information.

Social networks give its users the ability to easily acquire a new type of control over a resource that is quickly becoming more and more valuable.

This resource is a new type of social capital that can be gained, shared and returned.

This new form of capital has stimulated waves of investments and shifts in power within the realms of technology, politics, communications and entertainment.

It has ignited heated debates over the control of and valuations of platforms, services and channels that help facilitate the ability to attain this power.

The debate dujour is the overvaluation of companies that create and innovate these channels.

Networks that are focused more on ubiquity and usability than the ability to generate actual revenue, and to the dismay and confusion of many, receive record breaking valuations.

Most see this as a bubble waiting to burst. I disagree.

There is a new wave of visionaries who are pouring billions of dollars into companies like Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, Groupon, Instagram, Tumblr and other channels that are able to garner its users the ability to grow social capital.

These people have a vision and a belief that social capital will eventually be or is already as good as gold.

These vast digital plains are being mined for innovative ways to allow billions of users the ability to grow their social wealth.

To help stoke the desire to possess the power to control these social resources by building digital extensions of personalities, knowledge, insight and experience through apps, websites, games, services and devices.

We are essentially mining the human mind and soul and the precious ore that emanates is a new commodity that has a tremendous value.

My experience in both using and building social networks and extensions to social networks has driven me to try and codify some of what is going on.

I have attempted to identify a class system and have patterned it after Max Weber's famous Three Class System of Social Stratification.

This breakdown is based on my own attempt in identifying the highest tiers of the social network ladders.

I break it down as follows:

The Initiator: those who are able to effect wide spread interest in content, trends and discussions particularly in the realm of consumerism and purchasing influence.

The Celebrity: those who have gained celebrity status within their respected fields. Accomplished social climbers who are widely followed more for their antics than their opinions.

The Dynamo: people who use social media to help motivate others. Content is typically altruistic in nature however the widespread following inadvertently gains them strong social power.

This classification system is still very much a work in progress and will be something that I will be expounding on more in the coming weeks.

What I hope to achieve is to gain more insight and understanding into the new social structures that I find crystallizing around me every day.

As an advertising professional it gives me greater insight into how we communicate and share, how information flows and is interpreted based on its origin and the many paths it now takes to reach the masses.

We are now all a channel, a conduit, and it is up to us to decide how it is we want to refine the information through our personal spectrum and how valuable it is when we present it to the world.

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