Alchemix 4: Social energy powers up.. a summary of insights
The Alchemix Community of Innovation Practice
Session 4 brings together 6 speakers, 60 participants in Bangalore and over 500 viewers* around the globe via the live stream – for an interactive 2 hour discussion.
The focus this time was on businesses and organizations that are applying the power of social energy: social platforms, tools, media and connects in a way that impacted their core business model.
The Premise for the session: Organizations are starting to use social tools in innovative ways, going beyond just ‘online presence’ and this is defining the evolution in harnessing social energy. The session was designed to debate and discuss what these new evolutions are showing us as insights, and is social energy an innovation tool that can be applied for impact?
Here’s a quick summary of what each speaker highlighted as their learning. You can also go towards the end of the post to read a summary of the insights that emerged through the group discussion.
Shradha Sharma talked about YourStory.in leveraging social platforms as a low-cost, easy access approach to help Start-ups and new ventures in India get visibility and coverage. YourStory fills a gap left wide open by the organized PR machinery that does not see value in covering ‘very young’ or ‘still unsuccessful’ teams and first generation entrepreneurs. Social media provides the apt vehicle to not only connect and share – but to also build a large community of similar start-up entrepreneurs and teams and follow them through their journey to success.
Maya Hemant shared the social publishing approach that Pratham Books leveraged. Several platforms used simultaneously (Scribd/ Twitter/ Facebook/ Soundcloud/ Flickr/ YouTube) to engage with a range of different audiences in customized ways. An excellent example is the sharing of published content that Pratham Books may have printed in a few languages but does not have the bandwidth to cover more languages. By sharing content (via CreativeCommons) through Scribd, interested people can republish the books in local languages. So a teacher in Germany can take a book or an interesting story from India, created by Pratham Books, translate and publish a few books for her school in german. Neat. ‘Social Publishing’ indeed.
Shankar and Nathalia shared the secret behind the immensely popular mDhil Facebook page. With over a 100,000 fans on Facebook, the mDhil Team has blended the power of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on social media tools, with the original content that they create (over 70 videos on YouTube for example). And this blending of technology know-how and content helps them reach a very large number of youth interested in health information.
Sathy Joseph talked about Ashoka India’s approach. Still young with the social media efforts in India, the idea is to become a hub for information on social innovation, social enterprise and examples of change – leveraging the various platforms (such as Changemakers) that Ashoka works with in India and globally. With one of the largest networks of social entrepreneurs, Ashoka India can potentially leverage rich, authentic content, complemented by engagement through twitter chats and online engagements with social entrepreneurs. Ashoka India is hosting its 2nd Twitter chat next week on 22nd November 2011.
Sidhharth Mangaram provided an inside view into the architecture of the very popular FLOH network. It’s about changing the way urban singles meet and interact – powered by simple social rules that exist on Facebook. You log in through a Facebook application, automatically sharing basic details and allowing your social community to ‘know’ that you are joining the network. For people who are selected into the network, FLOH designs a set of very engaging real-world interactions that become the ground for people to meet and engage. Facebook then becomes a back up for continuing connects between people who like each other. Key message you cannot remove the real connect. Virtual connection is a critical ingredient – but without the real world meetings and engagement – this model wouldn’t work. So the key is getting the ‘blend’ right in a way that the experience stays rich.
Insights from the discussion…
Individual use vs. organized community usage: While we all started using social tools for personal interactions – organizations are now finding ways to leverage that connect in ways that are meaningful – both for the user AND the larger purpose/ objective. And this is probably the evolution we will see further in Social Media 2.0. Infact as Siddharth Mangaram highlighted, he personally does not like Facebook as a user, you cannot find him on Facebook even if you wanted to, the privacy settings are so high. But as a tool, he finds it to be incredibly useful in helping to connect similar communities. This leaves a question: will users start looking for more ‘orchestrated’ ‘meaningful’ ways to connect online – rather than just ‘be online’?
User Generated content is still a small part of the content – and as the debate on this progressed, it appeared that many of the current models are still in the ‘development’ stage, picking on early evolutions in communities and user engagement. Therefore most of the ideas we heard are creating their own content. As in any self-organizing system it is feasible to see a point in the near future where a lot of these communities are large enough to become self-generating?
What about user experience? How do we make that a focus in the design and development of social content and platforms? Currently the medium (Facebook/ Twitter/ Scribd…) defines its own user experience in many ways through the format – but will that change? Do companies need to create a layer above this that blends all the tools under a specific context?
While all this is evolving, so is the Social Media user. Low and middle-income families with meager means, with young adults in colleges who are new subscribers to Facebook. Youth who find it easier to be ‘social’ online than in real life. All in transformation, simultaneously.
The debate is still open on many of these points and the Alchemix Community will look forward to connecting again in a few months to focus on similar innovation tools and challenges, as they emerge and evolve.
Thank you for joining in and engaging – in person, via twitter, on Facebook and by catching us through the live stream
Send in comments or connect for more discussion with @innovalchemy and @parvathimenon
* 550 viewers via the live stream at peak points, with an average of 40 viewers at all times.