Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Social By Design

Social By Design

By Joe Marchese

Source: Online Spin (http://bit.ly/8jTrY)

> For marketers and publishers of the social Web, design matters.
Creative matters. Ideas matter. It is true that properly utilized data
can drive better decision making, but it is also true that all the data
in the world doesn't create innovation without interpretation, and data
doesn't always lead to great design (especially when the data is about
the wrong thing -- clicks, anyone?). Caroline McCarthy has a great post
on cnet titled "Facebook, Google, and the Data Design Disaster,"
> which makes a good case for the
need for digital players to balance the art vs. science of design. As
the Web becomes a more "social" experience, we are going to see a lot
more of the data vs. design discussion.

It's hard to overstate the importance of design to both marketers and
publishers on the social Web. Success is dependent on your ability to
design messages that people will want to share and environments that
enable, promote and reward sharing. There will be unparalleled amounts
of interaction data coming from the social Web, and it will be very
important to know how to interrupt the data for your business, whether
you are marketing soda or building an online community (or doing both of
those at the same time). But data doesn't make something social, data
just tells us what people think is worthy of being socialized. In short,
data gives us the "what," not the "why." In order to have data, we have
to give people something to react to, and if we want people to react to
something new, we have to create it.

The fuel of social media is people sharing content (that they or that
marketers/publisher create); people want to share things they consider
new, interesting, funny, sad, entertaining. If you could simply read the
data and create those things, movie studios would have a much greater
"hit to flop" ratio. Instead, movie studios continue to balance the art
of creation with the science of market research. A studio can take into
account all of the lessons learned from past films and research done
today, but eventually the studio puts the movie out and success is
dependent upon how people react.

The advantage marketers should have is the ability to constantly iterate
based on how people are reacting by watching the data. I say "should,"
because most marketers do not utilize their ability to iterate on design
during a campaign. Instead, marketing on the social Web is done much
more like a movie release: all the thought up front, trying to use a
wealth of social data like reading tea leaves, then a launch into the
fickle waters of the social Web, hoping the idea floats.

It is during the campaign, not before or after, that data has the
greatest potential to lead to better design. And the data can still only
do that if there are people with ideas and creativity to interrupt the
data. Data can lead to marketers creating a sort of "social spam" if
misused, while design can lead to impactful engagements.

Designing something to be social means to design something people are
going to appreciate and talk about (the emotional aspect of social). It
also means giving those people who want to talk about your content the
ability to do so easily (the utility aspect of social). Great design,
like great art, can be subjective, but the difference between "social
spam" and good social design, while hard to define, is like what the
politician said about the difference between art and pornography: "I
know it when I see it."

How do you think we can balance the data vs. design issue? Drop me a
line on twitter @joemarchese ( http://twitter.com/joemarchese
> ).

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