The Cost of Convenience on Social Networks

October 11, 2012

Introduction

Technology can do great things. It can save you time and save you money. With social media, it can connect you (via the device in your pocket) to people around the world – people you otherwise would never have “met.” But is there a drawback or cost to the convenience that technology provides?

An Example: The GPS

Consider the GPS (Global Positioning System). When I purchased my first GPS unit in 2005, I thought it was the world’s finest invention. Whether I was driving near home or in a remote town, I could plug in a street address and this magical device would take me there, turn by turn.

When I moved to the West Coast a few years later, my handy GPS helped me get around my new surroundings, from the department store to the movie theater to my new favorite restaurants. But now that I’ve been out West for five years, I’m finding a “cost” for the GPS that goes beyond the retail cost.

The “cost” was a dependence on this technological marvel, which meant that I didn’t truly know my own surroundings. Instead, I’d have the radio on, take the turns that the GPS called out, but not pay attention to the route I was taking (and, as a side note, I’ve since switched from a GPS device to the excellent Waze app on my iPhone).

Now, if I’m driving locally to a place I’ve never been before, I’ll plug the destination address into Google Maps and review the route. Then, I’ll drive to my destination without any technological guidance. And I find that curbing my dependence on the GPS has helped me better learn the local roads and routes. And not to worry, Waze – you’ll still come along for the ride when I go out of town.

Now, let’s consider the cost of convenience on social networks.

Liking a Comment on Facebook.

In 2010, Facebook rolled out the “Like” button on Comments. At first, I found this a bit curious: you have a button to “Like” the original post and now, Facebook is allowing you to “Like” interactions beneath that post. As I started using it, however, I discovered its elegance: you (the poster) could acknowledge interesting or witty comments with the click of a mouse.

The person whose Comment you Liked would see your action and perhaps they’d become more inclined to comment on your subsequent posts. There have been occasions where I ponder how to respond to a comment I’ve received. If it was a witty comment, I feel the need to return the favor with something equally witty. I’ll occasionally get “stuck,” and not know what to say. So instead I simply click “Like” (on the comment) and I’m done.

So what’s the cost? More substantial and meaningful interactions between you and the commenter.

Twitter’s Retweet Button.

In 2009, Twitter rolled out the retweet button (and function). The retweet (or, “RT” for short) was a capability conceived by Twitter’s users. And prior to the retweet button (or, the equivalent function in Twitter clients), users had to manually compose retweet’s by copying the tweet content, then sticking a “RT @USER” in front of the tweet.

The retweet function made it super convenient. With two clicks of the mouse (the first to retweet, the second to confirm it), you just published a tweet, while promoting the original tweet content. Because the retweet preserves 100% of the original tweet, the cost of this convenience is an absence of commentary (from you).

When I want to add my own thoughts (e.g. “Great post” or “Excellent points”) on a retweet, I’ll manually compose it (with a copy/paste of the original tweet), then change the “RT” to “MT” (for “Modified Tweet”). This makes the process less convenient, but I find the additional commentary worth it (and I bet the original tweeter may as well).

Location-based Checkins.

Location-based check-ins began on services like Foursquare. Their purpose was to alert friends (on the service) of your location. Perhaps you’re at Happy Hour and you see that some friends just checked in from the watering hole down the street. So you go there to find them.

So that was the original point – and a fine point it was. Soon, services such as Foursquare enabled you to broadcast your check-in to your social media accounts. And our tweet stream started to get filled up with tweets, like those shown above.

So the cost of the check-in convenience is a proliferation of rather trivial tweets. If I’m following you on Foursquare, then yes, a check-in is meaningful. However, if I’m following you on Twitter (only), your location at this particular point in time isn’t meaningful.

Facebook Check-ins

Similarly, Facebook has a check-in feature that enables you to list your location, along with tagging Facebook friends that you happen to be with. For friends and family on Facebook, I am, in fact, more interested in where you happen to be.

But, the convenience of the check-in means that more significant and meaningful descriptions (of  your location) go by the wayside. For instance, compare these two Facebook posts:

And here’s the more convenient one:

“Climbing to the peak – at Mount Everest”

Photo Uploads.

Don’t get me wrong: photos are great and pictures are, in fact, worth 1,000 words (or more). Sometimes, however, the convenience of uploading 50 pictures (to an album on Facebook) gives you the “excuse” that the pictures can tell the story (on their own). If a picture is worth 1,000 words, couldn’t you at least tag each one with 140 characters?

Conclusion

On the social web, we’re able to make connections and have interactions with people from across the globe. For me, that makes old fashioned, face-to-face interactions all the more meaningful. Similarly, the ease with which we can post, share, re-post and re-share on social networks means that we miss out on more meaningful dialog and interactions. This “cost tradeoff” is something to keep in mind as social networks continue to grow and evolve.

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .


Event Planners “Check In” To Location Based Services

July 26, 2010

Introduction

Due to the rising popularity of Foursquare, Gowalla and related apps, location based services (LBS) is quite the buzzword both in consumer and technology circles.  Logically, the ability to “check in” at venues, connect with friends/associates and make new contacts has relevance to events and event planners.

Let’s highlight some of last week’s articles and blog postings on this topic.

Trade Show News Network

Michelle Bruno (@michellebruno) wrote an article in Trade Show News Network (@TSNN_com_US) titled “Checking Out ‘Checking In’ for Events“.  The article references Foursquare and Gowalla and then profiles a technology provider named Double Dutch.  According to its web site, Double Dutch provides “White label geolocation apps for your brand”.

Michelle references a key point regarding hybrid events, in which event planners support both physical and virtual venues.  Michelle writes, “If a virtual event is also taking place, live attendees can check in at the online and offline events for more recognition”.

Tracking and supporting check-ins across physical and virtual locations can build a more cohesive and compelling hybrid event.  In fact, it can serve to bridge the physical and virtual venues.

Virtual event platforms should look into this.  In fact, I blogged about location based services and virtual events previously.

Cisco Live

In Cisco’s Virtual Environments blog, Dannette Veale (@dveale) writes about virtual technologies that Cisco has incorporated into their Cisco Live (@CiscoLive) annual conference.  The 2010 Cisco Live event concluded recently – the physical component was hosted in Las Vegas, while a virtual component ran concurrently.

Disclosure: My employer (@INXPO) provided the virtual platform for Cisco Live

Dannette describes an innovative use  of Foursquare by Cisco Live’s event planners – a type of scavenger hunt, in which conference attendees received a clue (via social media channels) about a check-in location.  The first 75 attendees to check in at that location (and complete an additional task) would receive buttons, which could be used to redeem a daily prize at the Cisco Store.

The contest generated 802 checkins and allowed conference attendees to network and make connections with one another.

SCVNGR (Mashable)

SCVNGR, “a game about doing challenges at places”, this week announced the social check-in.  Two or more users can bump phones (or, wave them at each other in close proximity) and check in at the same time and place.  There are many ways event planners can leverage this technology.

In a trade show, attendees could be encouraged to perform social check-ins with each other – or, with exhibitors.  In a user conference, the social check-in could be used as a back-drop to a game that encouraged attendees to network with one another.  In a corporate setting, social check-ins could be used to encourage team building.

Conclusion

The concepts of “check ins”, location awareness and location tracking have natural uses for events.  While they’re a great fit for physical events, think about tie-ins between physical and virtual for your hybrid event.  And, think about ways in which “location tracking” (in a virtual event) can create connections, engagement and interaction.

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