Why Don’t People Understand Social Web 101 Already?

7 Comments 02.11.15

How little do people understand about how social networks work and how should we relate to that reality?

Why don’t people understand Social Web 101 by now? I imagine the literal answer is “because they’re busy, success doesn’t seem accessible, there aren’t good role models, people are disinclined to experiment, etc.” But sometimes I’m still in shock.

This morning Gary Vaynerchuck put up a blog post pointing out that anyone can post to a hashtag and be discovered by people who click on that hashtag, whether their content is “on brand” or relevant to the originator of the hashtag or not. How little attention are people paying to the internet that they need to be told this? Are they talking about hashtags but never, ever clicking on one in the wild? (Here’s one for Twitter: #workingoutloud)

Well duh.

Last night I was listening to an episode of my new favorite podcast, the Geek Whisperers (“Social Media and the Employee Clone Army“) and Amy Lewis said that she talks to people regularly who ask her “people on the internet – how can I make them listen to me?”

Amy laughed and said the secret is clearly: be interesting.

But I don’t know that it’s a laughing matter. Is the networked social world so radically unlike everything that’s ever existed before that it’s unreasonable to expect people to pay attention and experiment a little?

Sometimes I think “this is a great opportunity to help people learn, there’s so much opportunity!” But other times I think like Amy Lewis said, let’s give people access to tools and get out of their way. Either they’ll embrace them or they won’t, there’s no sense trying to force horses to drink water.

Anyone else’s thoughts about how best to relate to the apparent mystery of all this would be much appreciated.


HEY: Carbon is a heat trapping gas. We are pumping huge amounts of carbon into the air. We have been humans for between 200k and 1.8m years and it's not clear we're going to make it another 200.

I'd say please send for help, but there's no other help to send for.

  • Big question to be sure.

    My take is that you can’t make anyone do anything. You can invite them to believe what you believe and collaborate from there, but tricking people into doing things that aren’t good for them or that conflict with core expressions of humanity is non-sustainable (even if you get the jump tactically). But I also don’t think it’s because people are terrible, awful beings. The average non-technically sophisticated user has been sold this idea that we’re all brands, and the only tools we’ve been provided to relate to each other aren’t that great. Following / subscribing, and friend-ing tons of people, or clicking like….understandable but not so impressive. Also the whole brands and identity thing is tricky, humans aren’t meant to be open books and no one’s optimizing their personal brand (a thing I don’t even believe in really) for “addict” or “bi-polar.”

  • RG

    You have raised an interesting question. Here are some thoughts:

    1. While the reach of “the Internet” is rapidly covering the whole world, most people are novice computer users and access the web for limited purposes. It will take a decade or two before we have a situation where almost everyone is from a generation that was born with computers and similar devices around them since childhood.

    2. So many people don’t know so many things that you (or I) do. Once we know something, the “curse of knowledge” phenomenon makes it almost impossible for us to truly imagine what it was like to not know it. Once I became a regular user of Twitter a few years ago, I noticed how many of my colleagues and friends were unaware of it.

    3. The sheer number of platforms/sites/tools makes it overwhelming for even a curious learner to keep up with all the trends. Yes, those investing in learning and using them effectively have a lot of gain but not many of these things have become compelling or essential parts of what people do in their lives.

    4. All of us are trapped in the “filter bubbles” created for us by algorithms within Google and Facebook so it is entirely possible for many large groups of individuals to stay within a set of known sites and subjects.

  • People don’t understand about social network just because they don’t know how social network is important at this time. Most people know about the concept of social network..however, just a little of them know how to work on that. Thanks for another helpful post, Marshall! by the way, if any one looking for web development services in Minneapolis, MN. please let me know!

  • Austin

    It’s a really interesting problem, i think, because, on one hand, people understand social as an extension–a new iteration–of what we traditionally think of as communication, and, on the other, as this frontier dominated to the point of oversaturation by big brands with big spend.

    Add to that the fact that most purported “introductory guides” articulate only the glaring basics of social media and end in a product pitch, and you have this space that’s at once familiar and inaccessible. There’s really an insinuation that social isn’t as simple as it is, and the average user’s failure to make anything impactful happen on social is a testament to that.

  • Austin, loved this comment but the 2nd half of the last sentence confused me. “There’s really an insinuation that social isn’t as simple as it is, and the average user’s failure to make anything impactful happen on social is a testament to that.” Testament to what? Thanks!

  • Austin

    Sorry for the ambiguity Marshall! What I mean here is that there’s an implication that the average user’s failure to kill it on social media is evidence that social media is difficult, which it isn’t, right? Social media is easy, so long as you understand the engagement and conversation trends of your desired audience.

  • nicole4744154

    I think there need so more time to know about the social media 101. People of all is now so aware about internet and they didn’t know about it’s necessary. So i think they also be interested so more about this one day.