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Social Media Architecture Series – #3

Submitted by on October 10, 2011 – 10:00 amNo Comment

This post is part of an ongoing series taken from my eBook on Social Media Architecture.   You can download the entire book here.

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The Architect

The earliest surviving written work on the subject of architecture is De Architectura, by the Roman architect Vitruvius in the early 1st century CE.    According to Vitruvius, architecture should satisfy three core principles: utilitas, venustas and firmitas, which translate roughly as:

  • Utility – it should be useful and function well for the people using it
  • Beauty – it should delight people and raise their spirits
  • Durability – it should stand up robustly and remain in good condition

With very slight upgrades to the vernacular, these three core principles seem perfectly suited as operating principles within Social Media Architecture.

Utility – ensuring that your social media presence provides functional value and is designed around customer needs.

Beauty is self-evident; there should be something “remarkable” in how the user experiences the space they find themselves within. Remarkability speaks to the need to transcend functional requirements alone, and consider the emotional and spiritual lives of those that come to inhabit our social media spaces availing them of delight, meaning and connection.

Finally, durability in social media may seem like an oxymoron when designing for such a young medium. Yet durability is about considering how to maintain the principles of utility and beauty over time. This is particularly crucial when attempting to bring some semblance of planning to a decentralized force such as social media, and also moving from on/off communications to an ongoing dialogue.

Taking a cue from Vitruvius then, our working definition for a Social Media Architecture is as follows:

“A structure that brings harmony, utility and durability to the diverse elements of an organization’s social media presence”

A proper Social Media Architecture should, at a minimum, answer these questions:
1. What is my current footprint in social media?
If you are going to plan a Social Media Architecture, understanding the current state of affairs is the starting point.  A proper footprint that renders your social media presence as a powerful visualization (more on this in detail later) will allow your organization to come to terms with the specific issues that you need to address.

2. What constitutes a unique community?
This section explores what defines a community as unique. Doing so allows an organization to stop seeing social media as a reflection of marketing campaign structure (i.e. for every campaign there is a new Facebook page, Twitter feed, etc.) and to bring like communities together in larger, more powerful interest groups.

3. What community needs will I focus on?
While the potential for distinct communities is nearly endless, this section proposes five need states that are common in any community.  In order to be successful your organization should choose the needs on which you will focus  (hint – “all five” is not an appropriate answer).

4. What is our link and like structure?
At the heart of a Social Media Architecture is defining how people navigate (link) these various properties to find the community(ies) where they belong (like).  Thus a proper link and like structure helps define how people find their way and how valuable content flows through these properties.

5. How do I design for durability?
Durability in social media is about establishing the rules governing creation (what conditions warrant creating a new social media presence?), consolidation (when to bring two like communities together) and closure of social media properties.

An organization’s Social Media Architecture is always personal, tied to its brand identity, responsive to its reputation and bound by its organizational structure.   The next posts will go into more detail on each step in that journey.

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