I love you like a Shinto shrine.

Now there’s a new Valentine.

As I forged ahead in Clay Shirky‘s Here Comes Everybody, I learned that the Japanese Ise Shrine is old. Like 1,300 years old. Plus, the shrine gets reconstructed every 20 years or so because it’s wooden. While the original edifice has been replaced dozens of times, the indigenous forest still provides the timber, and Shinto priests ensure its preservation on the same grounds. It’s symbolic of renewal, collaboration, and as Shirky puts it, love.

Not many social media gurus can relate to the dedication required for the upkeep of a primitive shrine, but they can relate to the passion that that it takes to keep a community going. Mommy bloggers spend hours to produce fresh content for their fans each week. Wikiheads comb thousands of posts for accuracy and apply references. Utility companies respond to myriad tweets during a power outage. Why keep at? Because they care. 

The term social media has been used so flippantly and incessantly that its meaning has become lackluster. A generation ago, being social just implied that someone enjoyed the company of others. Today, it’s a broad yet powerful word. At 2011’s South by Southwest, Jay Rosen juxtaposed the traditional perspectives of journalists and media with insights behind modern self-publishers. He noted that the Internet’s disruption of the news industry has caused angst for journo veterans and businesses. Yet, they can adapt!

Discovering different narratives that resonate with readers could be a start. Tinkering with every available platform to reach an untapped 1% could be worth it. Whatever the method, I’m convinced that being responsive to other people is the best approach; because that’s the social thing to do. An app developer can try to guess what teenagers would like to play next, but letting them test a few versions could make the answer surface sooner. (Stanford’s d.school and other innovation evangelists teach this methodology; it’s quite relevant!) Get to the heart of the user, and you’ll be set for the fast lane.

In sum, people love collaborating because bigger triumphs are possible. Whether it’s rebuilding a temple over and over again or assembling an online community, it’s the verve behind the interactions that make everything worthwhile.

balloons

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