Social media and cultural currency

Social media usage is beginning to divide opinion with 2 strong cultures appearing.

In one corner are the majority, those who don’t see the point. They might have a Facebook presence but their stock answer to any mention of social networking is “I don’t want to know what so-and-so had for breakfast.” This reluctance to take part shouldn’t be confused with internet take-up though. Many of these people are happy emailers, web surfers, texters and phoners. It’s just that they have no use for e-friendships.

Across the ring we have the always on brigade. Those who appreciate the instant connection to hundreds of peers and use it to inform their purchase decisions or just to while away the odd bus journey. These people come from a broad cross-section of society and aren’t easily pigeon-holed, aside from their love of status updates.

Cultural Currency

Both camps are becoming well enough established to have developed their own cultural currency. For the non-networkers the glue that binds them is their collective distrust of social media. Just as with high and low culture, there is an indoctrination about what makes their stance the right one. They are told by their peers how to interpret social media and they use this knowledge to judge anything that it associated with it.

If that’s the case, if I am to carry on my analogy, the social networkers are the pop-culture crowd. Looking for meaning on a case by case basis and not drawing on a collective response to any one stimulus. They are well placed to appreciate the fast-moving landscape, enjoying new networks, apps and memes for their own merits and, crucially, sharing their opinions for others to weave into their own thoughts.


I doubt if we’ll see these two camps move together very much. They will develop separately and evolve their own methods of coping with the modern world. So what does that mean for social media?

Am I pushing a technology that is never going to appeal to everyone? Is the promised land where marketing becomes more about peer recommendation than about brand messages inaccessible?

I think the answer to that is yes, but that’s OK. I see the worth in pushing modern methods of engagement based internet marketing, so that’s the basket I’m putting my eggs in. I’ll go on trying to convince people that they will benefit from engaging the minority because they are, in effect, engaging a huge network rather than a mass of individuals.

What do you think?

Image credit: Andy Steel


4 thoughts on “Social media and cultural currency

  1. This does sound like Square Mile vs Carnaby Street and they don’t tend to meet except for mutual advantage. When a company finds that it needs a fashionable push it may refer to Bond Street rather than Carnaby, but Bond takes cues from the grass roots.

    The overlap then is in the media players – those who understand both sides. These are PR companies, marketing strategists, web companies, advertising agencies – those who ‘get it’ and can put it in terms that the social media novices can understand.

    When city types – or anyone else from the ‘not on’ side – find that there’s a reason to get connected and to use it for something that benefits them, they’ll do it. Before that there’s no point.

    I can speak Bowler Hat. Can you?

  2. I think some of these opposers arn’t against social media as such, but more the idea of social media. Maybe the key is to use a platform which can slip under their radar. The likes of twitter, facebook, 4square are all blatantly social media platforms. LinkedIn is almost middle ground, i’m sure many users would have previously have sweared never to use social media. Maybe we just need to find that truely ‘stealth’ social media platform (shhhhh! lets not call it social media though).

  3. LinkedIn is a business network that isn’t very social. It’s a misnomer to call it social as there’s not much in the way of engagement – or if there is it’s in some other culture.

    Some people just prefer to communicate with what they know and that’s fine with me. Reach people where they’re at with the appropriate channels and don’t put them at a disadvantage for not being on Facebook or Twitter. Updates via email are still by far the most accepted way of driving visitors back to your core online offering.

  4. You know, I don’t find LinkedIn all that social if I’m honest. I barely use the groups, I don’t link my Twitter and hardly ever update my status. I don’t engage with people and I wouldn’t use it as a place for trusted info because everyone’s got something to sell.

    I know we include it in our social media lexicon but it’s not changed enough to be a proper social network in my opinion.

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