Dans le cadre de L’université Internationale du Multimédia, j’étais invité hier à présenter une réflexion à propos des médias sociaux devant une centaine d’universitaires, chercheurs et étudiants français, mais aussi chinois, brésiliens, tunisiens, réunionnais, … Sachant que ce public allait participer le lendemain à une « webjam » pour inventer de nouveaux services web, j’ai choisi d’aborder la relation qu’il peut exister entre la dimension sociale et technique du lien dans les imaginaires d’Internet, pour donner des pistes sur les différentes manières de connecter l’offre à la demande via les réseaux sociaux . En effet, la notion de lien est probablement la clé de voûte de toute réflexion lorsque l’on est professionnel du web. Du point de vue technique, le lien est l’élément unitaire de la performance et de la visibilité (SEO) et du point de vue social, le lien est la base relationnelle du marketing communautaire (SMO). La mise à disposition d’APIs par les principaux médias sociaux permet ainsi aux marques d’accéder aux informations partagées par les internautes pour en tirer partie et créer de la valeur, avec pour imaginaire sous-tendu la contraction de la distance sociale et l’interconnexion des systèmes comme si « des cerveaux se connectaient à d’autres cerveaux ».
At the beginning of the 60’s, Marshall Mc Luhan described how the globe has been contracted into a village by electric technology and the instantaneous movement of information from every quarter to every point at the same time. He said “The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village.” As a futurist, Marshall McLuhan predicted the internet as an « extension of consciousness », thirty years before its invention. “The next medium, whatever it is – it may be the extension of consciousness – will include television as its content, not as its environment, and will transform television into an art form. A computer as a research and communication instrument could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organization, retrieve the individual’s encyclopedic function and flip into a private line to speedily tailored data of a saleable kind.”
This sudden awareness has happened the 23th of august 1966 when Lunar Orbiter 1 has taken the picture of the earth from the moon orbit. For the first time, mankind observed itself. Humanity became aware of others existence in a perfect “mise-en-abime” from outer space by confirming Copernic and Galileo’s theories expressed for several centuries. Moreover, the continuity of Apollo missions strengthened the imaginary of a world and humanity set up as a global village in the occidental societies. When Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon and said his famous words “This is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” He probably expressed more the social progress that will impact mankind in the next years than the technical exploit to set a foot on another star.
According to Marshall McLuhan, the communication process of a society plays a dynamic role in the transformations of social life. A medium affects the society in which it plays a role not by the content delivered over the medium, but by the characteristics of the medium itself. His most famous quotation, “the medium is the message” reveals the experience of the media is more important than the message. The medium is a sensorial and sensitive experience as an extension of our senses. As a disciple of Marshall McLuhan, David Cronenberg illustrates the rhetorician thoughts, in the key scene of his famous movie “Videodrome”. The protagonist is entering in the “mediasphere”, or the matrix of information feeds; he’s absorbed by the information pointing a finger to the emergence of the new era of touch allowed by electronic communication.
Probably finding an echo in the Marshall McLuhan concepts, the father of the hypertext link, Tim Berners Lee describes the support of its invention as a social network that not just connecting machines, but connecting people. Internet is a revolution TO remote relationships allowing people to connect together. However, marketers and innovators have begun to deal with the “social web” concept in 2005 when Tim O’Reilly evoked the web as a platform; the web version 2.0 defined as an intersection of applications and websites allowing users to share information and collaborate more easily together. “Web 1.0 was all about connecting people. It was an interactive space, and I think Web 2.0 is of course a piece of jargon, nobody even knows what it means. If Web 2.0 for you is blogs and wikis, then that is people to people. But that was what the Web was supposed to be all along. What’s very important from my point of view is that there is one web …” (Tim Berners Lee)
The Internet history is closely linked to the development of communities. It’s wrong, or simply a piece of jargon, to speak about a major break of the internet adding a new layer of “social services”. The first experiments of the network were already social; The “Community project” of Lee Felsenstein in 1973 demonstrates it. “Community memory is a convivial project incentive to participation. It’s an open information system, allowing direct communication between users without a centralized publishing system, without control on data exchanged. This system is a precise alternative to the main electronic media uses that spread messages centrally designed for a passive audience”
Lee Felsenstein described Community Memory as a product of countercultural ideals and contexts and as an epitome of the idea that communication technology makes users into producers of information. His work is premised on the principle that if one succeeds in establishing a more manageable system of communication, where every participant has equal access to the means of producing communication flows, and gains personal control over them, the social system sustained by these flows will become more « communitarian, » i.e., will make people want to connect to other people. As he put it, in a computer conferencing environment: « People do NOT want to be subjected to centralized information. They DO want to be able to explore the social space”. This vision became partly true with the emergence of best players as Facebook or Google. Among the 47 millions of French websurfers, about 80% of them visit social networking sites, with a permanent increase in term of time spending. For instance, a half of daily Facebook members connect and spent about 60 min per day on the network. Social networks monopolize the daily media consumption uses.
However, the global village is a smoke-screen. Hierarchical control and centralization are, in the given production and diffusion context, still a reality. Even if the emerging markets are in love with social media, the most part of information on social networks is still produced in western countries, by webservices with hegemonic positions as Facebook or Google. The interactions aren’t produced by the entire community. Some members are more active, as “influential bloggers”, than the majority of the community. Content producers generally represents 1 or 2% of the community members. Guy Debord criticized Marshal McLuhan vision, “Villages, unlike towns, have always been ruled by conformism, isolation, petty surveillance, boredom and repetitive malicious gossip about the same families. Which is a precise enough description of the global spectacle’s present vulgarity.”
Social network activity represents a new intelligence for retailers to monitor their businesses. For instance, on Facebook, the 850 millions active daily users interact with their average 145 friends and share more than 3.5 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) each week. It’s a huge amount of conversations that could be qualified to identify key brand influencers, to propose personal recommendations and enrich the CRM databases. Then, activities on networks will improve the buying experience on portal. As long as friend recommendations are more efficient than other communication channels, brands try to generate peer recommendations for their product through social media. Online media became the main prescription channel while the physical store remained the main purchase channel. However, there is a difference between brands vision of their online communities and real customers expectations. Customers expect material advantages of their interactions with brands, while the marketers generally think they want to be informed about new product. The online customer is basically responding to the same needs than the one who visit physical stores : he wants to make economy, try, evaluate and buy.
As an opportunity for brands, the best players of social networking market opened their source codes to third parties. They expect to enrich their services thanks to creative applications programmed by freelance developers and become essential web platforms by exporting their features and methods. It’s an opportunity for brands to access public data posted by social network users among a rich ecosystem of services on 4 main area:
– Media consumption
– Evaluation & selection of content / products & offers
– Buying experience
Speech was followed by usecases presentations.