DorobekInsider: Gov 2.0 moves beyond ’social media’ — and why it’s more than semantics

Wednesday - 11/18/2009, 2:38pm EST

Social networking — it is a term that has increasingly grown to make me cringe. And it is more then just semantics.

Regular DorobekInsider readers and listeners to Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris know it has been something of a campaign. In fact, I originally wrote about it back in September under the headline The era of social media is over – long live collaboration tools — and it is the subject of my column in AFCEA’s Signal magazine that will hit the streets on Dec. 1.

Last night, Web 2.0 guru Debbie Weil hosted a marvelous event titled Social Networking: the Two Dirtiest Words in Gov 2.0 (a Sweets and Tweets event) — the event was held at Baked & Wired in DC’s Georgetown, so we were surrounded by amazing cupcakes… and spirited yet very healthy debate. (David Harrity was kind enough to credit me with spurring the discussion, which is very kind. I actually credit Weil and Drapeau and the people in the room who were all interested in collaborating around this topic — in having a healthy debate.)

The main speaker was Mark Drapeau, who has an impressive bio — and an impressive following on Twitter. Drapeau is no stranger to listeners of Federal News Radio 1500 AM. He is one of a handful of government 2.0 thought leaders. And, as Drapeau acknowledged, he disagrees with me. (Drapeau and I disagree on things regularly — my guess is he does with many people — but he is also fascinated by a spirited debate on an issue and takes very little personally.  Additionally, he is unusually intelligent, which makes the debate even more refreshing.)

And I should say that Drapeau — and most of the people in the room — are interested in helping the government do its job better, and many of people there believe these tools offer real potential. The question at hand: Does the term “social media” and “social networking” help or hinder the cause of helping the government do its job better and more effectively.

Drapeau argued — and argues — that social networking is… well, social — and it is the socialness — the connections that people can make using these tools — and is empowering. In the end, these tools are much more then collaboration, he argues. It used to be about who you know, he says. Today, it’s about who knows you — and that, increasingly, the people who are the most connected are the most influential. And he argues that while social networking is… well, social, there is a lot of good and important work being done.

Further, he argued that these tools have connected him with many people he never would have met otherwise. But I would argue that comes from the sharing of information. That information sharing spurred collaboration. In work instances, the social aspects come later.

Both Drapeau and I agree that too often, people start with a tool or tactic. Instead, they need to have a goal in mind — what are you trying to accomplish, he said.

In many respects, Drapeau and I agree — but I continue to believe that the term “social networking” and “social media” are, in fact, detrimental. My co-anchor, Amy Morris, argues that my argument is largely about semantics. And, perhaps as a writer, I’m biased to believing that words are powerful and that they matter.

To me, the term social media is simply inaccurate. In the end, I don’t think that these tools are “media,” but beyond that, they aren’t really about being social.Socialness is the side benefit. Socialness is tantamount to the increased energy you get when you exercise — in the end, it isn’t the main purpose of exercise, but it sure is nice.