A term I have been using with increasing frequently is â€œsocial architecture,â€� particularly in the context of explaining an area of my expertise. To me, social architecture is best thought of as a cross between three elements: interface design, social media functionality and user engagement strategy.
The roots of social architecture are in sociology principles, especially relating to community. Social architecture is a sub segment within the growing field of technology, specifically social media. Social media itself spans many genres; from marketing (SMM) to optimization (SMO), to design to PR to communications to development. In my opinion, social architecture most often refers to the use of social media tools (sometime synonymous with web 2.0) and UX strategy in order to create or enhance any type of online entity â€“ from platforms to websites to widgets.
The most obvious application of social architecture is within the framework of social networks and online communities. However social networks themselves are an aggregation of tools and strategies that can be dissected and broken into individual components. Profiles, folksonomy, crowd sourcing, voting, analytics, platforms, openness and search are all elements that can exist on their own and outside of a conventional â€˜walled’ or â€˜siloed’ setting.
Among interactive agencies, social media is a growing segment of business; everyone is clamoring for the top talent and innovations. However, to most agencies and brand managers social media only means contact strategy, viral marketing or the current hot, in-demand trend (Facebook applications anyone?). While related, social architecture encompasses a much broader set of principles and strategies.
Social media architects (those applying SA principles) are the developers and product conceptualization gurus. They are the guys and gals working to design new applications, assist startups in user-experience and enhance or grow existing online portals (AOL, Yahoo, Facebook). With the rising successes of social media, everyone wants in. The demand for these people has only just begun.
In the past two weeks I have advised several digital agencies on campaigns requiring social architecture expertise. How do we make something truly viral? How can we provide for a user experience where the community has a clear sense of ownership? How can we gain insights from our tremendous user base?
The opportunities for brands, campaigns and new startups who are tremendous. We are in the midst of the socialization of the web and it’s a great place to be.