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Social Media is a Conversation

3p Contributor | Monday October 31st, 2011 | 3 Comments

Part Two of the Green Festival Series

By: Jonathan Mariano

Social Media is growing more and more in popularity. Social and economic movements are building on these networks. Political candidates are taking to the screens to campaign. It has become one of the easiest, go-to mediums for companies to forge relationships with customers. It is our daily source (if not by the hour, minute, or second) for information on our friends and colleagues. As pervasive as social media may be, what does social media really do? How can it benefit sustainability?

If we abstract away the technology of Facebook, Twitter, or any social media service, what are we left with?  We find that social media is a conversation. It’s a way for folks to talk about anything in a public, ranging from current events, life’s successes and failures, or even about our passions like sustainability. It’s just another medium to have a conversation.

Some may say that social media isn’t a conversation at all, but rather a form of publication. It is a way for anyone to publish anything from anywhere on the Internet.  While publication is an important part of social media, more so, social media itself thrives not on the act of publication, but rather on sharing and conversing about that publication, whether it be an article, photo, video, funny comic, political opinion, or anything that one may share while perusing the world wide web.

It is as if social media is a worldwide virtual coffee lounge, open 24 hours a day. Some folks pop their head in for a few minutes and just people watch. Others may converse for hours on end.  You can listen in on other people talk. (It’s probably more accurate to say you can look on to what other other people typed.)  Or, drop in on a conversation you may find fascinating.

If the conversation doesn’t hold your interest, you can meander and find others. Or if you are savvy enough, you can be in two or more conversations at once. You can tag and hashtag your way to pulling in others, even if you have no direct connection other than the topic you are sharing. You can be following multiple #hashtags on Twitter, or keeping up with your wall and comments Facebook. It’s an endless stream of information sharing and dialogue.

But in order to have that social media conversation, you need to know to speak the language, i.e. how to use social media. The best way to learn is to just do it and learn from others who do it.  Observe and pay attention to how others are using the medium, then start contributing to the conversation. Like in a coffee shop, you can people watch first, then jump in when you feel comfortable. Learn not to talk at the screen but through it, to the real folks at the other end of your virtual networks.

Social media is an ongoing conversation, shaped through the topics we share on our walls and feeds, and through our likes, comments, shares, invites, +1s, tweets and more.

What social media sustainability conversations have you been a part of?  What did you take away from it? How else can we use social media to converse about sustainability?

***

Los Angeles Green Festival this weekend is joining in on the social media fun. It has a stage dedicated to all things related to social media, the Social Media Hub specifically geared towards sustainability. One can learn how to utilize the power of the social media to move the conversation towards sustainability for our environment, for the economy, and for us as a people.

Green Festival, the nation’s premier sustainability event,  features renowned authors, leaders, educators, eco-friendly businesses, workshops, social justice films and kids’ activities to celebrate sustainable topics and ideas at the Los Angeles Convention Center October 29-30 and at the San Francisco Concourse Exhibition Center November 12-13. A project of Global Exchange and Green America, Green Festival hosts over 300 local, regional and national green businesses who model their products, services and practices on an ethical responsibility of sustainability, minimal environmental impact, and Fair Trade. Green Festival also provides hundreds of speakers with a platform for education, debate and conversation, featuring many presentations on living a healthier, more impactful and sustainable life and making a difference in one’s community.

Image Credit: 3ammo on Flickr


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  • raden

    Could you describe the dferent between Social Media and Social networking?

    • Jonathan Mariano

      @Raden, that is a good question. There is crossover and confusion between both terms.

      From my perspective, I try to use social NETWORKING in the non-technological sense, referring to the network of people we know. However, in terms of technology, it usually refers to sites such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, to name a few, as each of these sites help to keep track of our social NETWORK.

      Social MEDIA usually refers to web technology that allows us to communicate and converse about news and ideas. Yes, the social NETWORKING sites like Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn, play a role, but also news aggregator and community sites such as Reddit, Digg, and StumbleUpon. Of course, the ultimate in social MEDIA is Twitter. Some may argue all of these are also NETWORKS.

      Perhaps others have a clearer explanation?

  • http://buttrfly-effect.appspot.com Buttrfly Effect 4 Twitter

    We agree with you completely. So much so, that we have developed a free application for Android that allows you to search for any topic on Twitter.
    The application will identify the users and hashtags that are part of the conversation so that you create meaningful relations with your followers.
    We would recommend trying it out for yourselves.