Studying the impact of innovation on business and society

Community is Much More Than Belonging to Something; It’s About Doing Something Together That Makes Belonging Matter


Viginia Coutinho is a dear friend who just released a new book (in Portuguese) that helps strategists think differently about social media. She is also the organizer of Upload Lisboa, a fantastic event in Portugal that focuses on innovation and disruptive technologies. Earlier in the year, she surprised me by asking if I would consider writing the foreword. Even though I don’t write much about social media these days, I couldn’t let her down.  Now that her book is available, I wanted to share the English version of the foreword with you here.

I hope it helps or makes a difference…


Maybe we’re antisocial with our approach to social media today.

Social media is one of the most profound technological and societal advancements of our time. It is this generation’s telephone, television, and in many ways, its printing press, democratizing information and elevating and uniting the people who create and share it. The socialization of media has connected billions of people around the world, thrust humankind into a real-time world, and forever changed how we communicate, discover, share and work.

This human network has evolved into one of the most efficient, expeditious, expansive, and approachable media networks to date. But we still have a lot to learn as users learning to balance these new found platforms between accidental narcissism and individual empowerment. We also have much to learn as professionals seeking new ways to connect, learn and grow in a transparent and much more human era.

Yet with these advancements, with the pervasiveness of social media in many lives, with the rise of entirely new categories of everyday influencers and decision-makers, executives and social media strategies still largely see only channels and not the people, cultures and norms that define them.

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Trendiness trumps relevance. Quantity eclipses quality. Executive agendas upstage consumer expectations and needs.

Unfortunately many see it for its novelty and not for the revolution it feeds. They bring to it a legacy mindset and expect these new networks and the communities they foster to regress rather than progress. Said another way, we do not change to earn relevance in new paradigms we expect them to change for us.


Welcome to the EGOsystem

These social networks and the communities of human beings they support have not only connected information and people, they have forged new connected societies where people band together based on interests and passions. Indeed, there are real people on the other side of those screen. We too, are real people who forget that our needs as individuals are willfully forgotten when we become the strategists who market to ourselves.

Real people form tribes. They build relationships. But more importantly, they become informed. And, as we have learned, information is power. See, with information, people are empowered. With empowerment, people become more demanding. We want information delivered to us. We want it personalized. We especially, want it in real time….our time. We are after all, at the center of our own #EGOsystem.

If social media is so disruptive, so important, so transformational, why then do today’s experts fail to see social media as our industrial revolution? Why do executives see it as some passing fad that will vanish into geek obscurity like Pac Man, Rubiks Cube, Friendster and Myspace? Why do decision makers underestimate connected consumers and brush off connectedness as tech distractions, causes of introverted societies or the downfall of youthful conduct and education?

Many simply do not use these technologies to have an informed perspective, which prevents them from seeing a true vision for its purpose and promise. They either disregard it or they experiment with it. Few though, embrace it for its potential because they are part of it in a way that also becomes part of them.

This is where you can help.

Social media is just that…it’s social.You don’t own it. I don’t own it. Instead, it’s shared.

On Facebook, for example, when a company invests in an official presence, they tend to forget or overlook that Facebook is a shared space. It’s not a web site. It is not a captive forum. A Like is not an opt-in. It’s not an email subscription for marketing or lame content or real-time marketing. It’s still a page on a social network, the world’s largest social network at that, with over one billion users. Although it’s immense and unprecedented, it’s a democracy. It’s owned by the people for the people. As a brand, we must be of the people to earn the attention, respect, and loyalty among the very people we hope to reach.

But no…brand and social strategists instead complain that Facebook is forcing them to pay for attention. Their vocal discontent around the loss of reach aimed at Facebook’s decision to change the algorithm says everything. Complaints about the advertising platform reveals that traditional ads don’t really work in social but instead of trying something new, we’ll direct budgets elsewhere and stomp our feet on the way out.

We’re always ready to point out what doesn’t work, but we’re rarely so willing to fix the problem. Change inevitably starts with us.

All This Technology is Making Us Antisocial

Social media is not just another channel to broadcast marketing content at audiences. That ideology is anti-social in my book.

It takes a different approach.

It takes a different perspective to see what’s possible.

It’s also not unheard of to not invest in a presence if you have nothing of value to offer.

Social networks represent the real world to many people. This of course sounds crazy. But, think about it. We live life with our phones as the first screen. There are rare moments of solitude in our lives as our devices prevent us from having a moment to ourselves. But who am I to judge. Just because I was brought up a certain way doesn’t mean that the rest of the world should see life through my biases.

Social is introducing an unbreakable and also productive digital gravity that pulls us toward our trusted networks without question.

It’s our epicenter.

It’s us.

As a brand, as a strategist, think of any social network as a physical community. Because, that’s what it is. They are tribes where people join one another because of shared interests, passions, challenges, and aspirations.

Before we can say anything, before we can build anything, we must listen. We must feel empathy. We must understand the culture and the dynamics of any community before we attempt to join it. Doing so, feeds us humility and empathy. And these very human qualities will in turn inspire engaging strategies that contribute value into the communities we wish to join.

Social is a gift.

Attention is a gift.

Engagement is a gift.

Therefore, we’ve much to earn

Therefore, we’ve much to learn.


To change, to make things matter to real people, everything must begin with a new perspective and approach. #WDYSF.


#WDYSF = An important question you must answer before expecting anyone to stand along side you.

What is the value you wish to add. What is the value you wish to take away? How does engagement make things better or create new possibilities and opportunities for all involved?

No matter how much we say or publish in social networks, it doesn’t matter. If we do not see it differently, we cannot approach it differently. If we cannot show up humble yet poised to offer value, we are just another person in this digital room talking, maybe even yelling, to get people to pay attention. That’s not what this is about.

This is about community. This is about standing for something. This is about seeing something that others are missing. This is about doing what others cannot or will not. This is about inspiring a movement and building a community to bring your vision to life. And, this is true for anything and everything…not just social media.

This is your community. This is our community.

Remember…Community is much more than belonging to something; it’s about doing something together that makes belonging matter.

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23 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Community is Much More Than Belonging to Something; It’s About Doing Something Together That Makes Belonging Matter”

  1. Lauranne Smith says:

    Wow, I was truly humbled by this. You brought me back to why social media came to the forefront – A meeting place, finding out about others and building communities. Listen, understand, empathize, receive from giving…

    Thank you for reminding me the true value of what social media can offer. Oh, and can you please start writing about social media again??

  2. Kymberlaine Banks says:

    Brian, thanks for this. Although I resist worrying about why others don’t get it, it’s not because I don’t care, it’s because I care deeply about making sure I get it myself and shine light on it once I know I do. Totally agree that it is very much about community and hope as these informed and empowered communities continue to evolve that it will also be about community doing and being good.

  3. Valentin says:

    Well said! In my opinion there need to be a change in perspective as marketeer to understand and use the power of the “EGOsytstem”. Every marketeer should be a Customer Experience Manager not a Digital Salesman.

  4. Love it Brian. To many companies still don’t understand the “new” way of marketing. Like you are saying “sharing experience”. I think the reason is because when we are focussing on experience, Youtility (Jay Baer), the outcome takes longer but will do life longer. To many companies are focusing on Direct marketing and every penny has to make lots of money. In The Netherlands I’m trying to change this perspective to teach people how to find the true value of businesses and how to use the customer journey as the new way of marketing. All this inspiration, thanks to you.

    P.s. Happy Birthday 😉

  5. Roman Herman says:

    great! thanks Brian for another inspiring reading journey! I am kinda seeing all you mentioned in our corporate culture. Fear of change.. Fear of future.. Know it all mentality.. Not understanding what is going on.. I’m loosing my motivation and I get frustrated from time to time– 🙂

  6. Jeff Korhan says:

    Nicely done. Interesting how small shifts in our perspective help us realize that (as you say) we are the center of our universe, and that means we are responsible for what’s working and what isn’t. We indeed have to be the change.

  7. Sierra Campbell says:

    Beautifully written, Brian. The diagram you built with JESS3 is overwhelming. Thank you for writing this and sharing your views on social media’s role in community and vice versa. Community is about doing something together – no egos needed. #WDYSF

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