The economics of community-building

August 17, 2010

I should be doing something else right now. I have no time for this. By ‘this’ I mean ‘thinking about things that don’t directly contribute to my assessment tasks’. Lol. That’s what’s called informal learning. All hail informal learning; formal learning is dead! Or perhaps more accurately: formal learning is an oxymoron.

But what I want to talk about is this thing that keeps cropping up everywhere someone utters the words ‘social media’ these days: marketing. I posted a comment on a blog the other day that had to do with employing a social media librarian so that you could market to your clientele. Today I came across David Lee King’s blog post about “supporting your community”, in which (let’s get the lineage of ideas right) he writes about a Dan Blank post that he found out about through Chris Brogan’s twitter feed. (phew. Is that social media’s version of a citation?). Dan’s original post is worth reading, because he puts a lot of heart into the idea that social media is not about marketing, it is about supporting, nurturing community. Real community. Not a fake community that you create around a product or a brand, or a community that is your product’s demographic. And he looks at this from a business point of view, surprisingly. And David Lee King looks at it from a library point of view. Good on him.

I have been railing lately against the fact that everything has been co-opted by economics. It has become the driving force of our civilisation and all our actions. What has been left behind is our humanity. Choking in the dust, drowing in the oil.

It’s good to read some voices coming from the heart that challenge the absolute authority of the merchant class in this most abject of ages. Dan Blank’s a decent bloke, it seems. In his latest post, Don’t be a social media rockstar, again he asks whether the motivating impulse behind your social media presence is sincere, altruistic: “Is your purpose to change people’s lives, or merely grab their attention?” And in the end:

“I don’t want to be a rockstar. I want to be a teacher. Not because of what students learn from me, but what I learn from them. Not because of how they empower me, but how I empower them.”

Now that I can relate to.

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