"Follow" if you "Like" #FF - the Phenomenon of Recognition in Social Media
by Toby Barazzuol on Friday Sep 2, 2011
If you’re reading this, you probably already know that social media has quickly infiltrated our society in complex and fascinating ways. It’s creating new social situations while also reflecting some of our most basic elements of being human. Online communities are both a reflection and an extension of our everyday worlds and they provide us with some useful insights into ourselves.
It’s interesting to see how in both Facebook and Twitter (and to some degree LinkedIn as well), recognition has prominently emerged as one of the defining features of each community. I’m referring to Facebook’s popular “Like” feature and the trio of recognition elements - follows, ReTweets and #followfridays - that help make Twitter unique.
One of the main elements of recognition involves publicly appreciating someone for doing something that is valued by your community. That community might be your business or organization, your industry, your social circle, your neighbourhood or even your society. However at any scale, being recognized in front of your peers can really make an impact. As people, we reinforce the things that we value by celebrating them...or at least we should. This is why we say “thank you”. This is how communities learn shared values, become focused and move forward.
On Facebook, this element of recognition is expressed with the "Like" button. Every time you “Like” a comment or photo, you’re letting both the poster and everyone else in that community know that you approve of what you’re seeing and that in fact, you might even like to see more of the same. The recognition comes quickly, as it should, usually within one or two days, we learn from it and then move on. On a personal level, we come to at least understand what kinds of things are liked and which aren’t. And we appreciate the recognition - who hasn’t smiled after seeing a comment, link or photo light up with “Likes”? We tend to do more of the things that are appreciated by our community and less of those that aren’t. So by “Liking” and recognizing the things that we appreciate and value, we are helping to guide ourselves forward.
On Twitter there are at least three elements of recognition that play a major role in the social media experience. The first is the recognition from someone that appreciates you enough to “follow” what you’re doing. By following you, they are saying that they find you interesting enough to pay attention to and apply some resources towards. The desire to earn more followers drives many people to behaviours they feel will earn them more followers. A second element of recognition is the idea of a Retweet or RT. When you select a comment to Retweet and share with your community, you’re again publicly recognizing that you value that comment (and person) in some way. You're also suggesting that you want to see more like it within your community. Lastly, there’s the reliable tradition of #FollowFriday (or the green focused #EcoMonday) where twitter users recommend other people to follow. As with good recognition, the #FF appreciation is direct, frequent and clear. #EcoMonday recommendations are like green awards, recognizing leadership in sustainability. Again, these are simply more examples of recognition - public confirmations that our values encourage this kind of behavior....whatever it may be.
Recognition can be a powerful source for changing cultures and performance - intuitively its something we all understand and want. The reality is however, that very few organizations understand how to recognize appropriately. In fact, most organizations don’t do any recognition at all.
Clearly recognition plays a prominent role in at least two of the largest social phenomenons in recent years. Why? Because it’s fundamental to any group of people - we all want to feel recognized and appreciated. So why isn’t a culture of recognition more common in businesses and non-profit organizations?
What are the things that you value at your company, or in your community? How do you celebrate the people who embody those values? How do you “like” the awesome things that they do? Let us know if you’re considering how your organization could use recognition to engage your people and create a common vision of the future...we’d be happy to help!