Social Games, Social Media and Innovation

04/15/2010
Courtesy of Jeremy Lim

Courtesy of Jeremy Lim

We were very happy to be a part of the F5 Expo featuring Malcolm Gladwell last week. Michael was on a panel titled, The Secret to Success: Avoiding Start-Up Pitfalls with Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite and Danny Robinson of Bootup Labs. As you could imagine, the CEOs gave their best advice to existing and future entrepreneurs about the how to avoid the pitfalls of start-up land. In Michael’s case, he advised the audience remember that as an entrepreneur you’re going to be judged not just on how well you succeed, but also how well you fail. Besides their insightful and entertaining panel though, there were a lot of refreshing ideas floating around at the day long event, so I wanted to share some of those with you.

To start, local business consultant and author Todd Maffin’s keynote expressed the importance of keeping a healthy balance between working in a highly demanding tech environment and your personal life. For him, 16-hour non-stop days took a toll, eventually leading him to crash-and-burn. His was an inspiring story of triumph to learn from. Thankfully, Todd is back better than ever.

The rest of the day’s agenda included panels about interactive marketing mostly. The cost effective ways to market online video were discussed as well as cloud computing and search engine marketing methods. I attended a panel on mobile applications and the message was clear: understand your business objectives, know your market and THEN see if building an app fits the MO (just because everyone has an app out there doesn’t mean that you need to build one too). To me, the most interesting topic was about social media and social networks and how we can use it as a tool to innovate (questions about social media marketing and the relevance of Twitter dominated most of the Q&A period). So it was no surprise that Malcolm Gladwell’s keynote addressed social media and social networking. Michael and I had a lengthy discussion about what we thought Gladwell’s main points were and we settled on this:

I think one important point he was making was this: Social media and social networking tools are very good at making connections that spread broadly through a population. This can be very good. It has the unintended consequence that the connections so created are not very deep. For this reason, it’s good at things like finding a job, or learning about how people are changing their behaviour around climate change. It’s bad at things that take high levels of trust, like revolutions. If we want to build deep trust relationships, of the type you need for revolutionary change, then we need to recognize the limitations of social networking technologies and find ways to account for those limitations.

Personally, I also agreed with others in the audience who suggested that maybe social media is not meant to start revolutions. However, when we examine how social games with a purpose, for example, could raise millions of dollars for Haiti relief or to save the rainforest, it’s a tool to improve engagement that you can’t ignore. When a simple game can call to action millions of users to make a big impact to real world problem, that is something more than being an “instrument of status quo,” as it is according to Gladwell. What do you think? As always you can leave us a comment or contact us.

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