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‘Creating’ vs. ‘Using’ Social Media

Most of the work I do is with organizations that want to ‘create’ social media tools to enable community. I think of myself as a community designer, sometimes. But as I’ve been thinking about social media and small business lately (for a project that’s in the germinal stage), I’ve come to an interesting thought: It may be more important to think about the active users of social media; the participants in communities than about the owners of the tools or founders of the communities.

I have a politics blog, where there are five or six relatively active authors. But there are fifteen or twenty very active and engaged commenters – and to an extent the community is as much about them as it is about me. Several of them comment across multiple blogs and have well-established online identities and reputations.

Looking at the landscape of small business, it obviously makes little sense for the corner locksmith to sponsor a community. But it makes a ton of sense for him to participate in communities – if the right ones exist.

So two things are worth thinking about: First have we created the communities which would attract and reward local small business? I know that several folks are trying, from Oneblock to Citysearch; and second, how do we build a body of knowledge that would help someone build identity and reputation in someone else’s community?