How much do you know about social interaction design?

Most workforces now rely on technology. That’s why investing in educating people to use the latest tech is of pressing importance

With every investment in educating young people for today’s workforce, we get closer and closer to bridging the skills gap.

Yet, a skills gap exists even within technological fields, where it is assumed that employees are or should be more than well-versed in how to handle their tools and equipment. There so much new technology constantly emerging, and it is often being used without a completely sound understanding. This is especially true of social media. A basic grasp of social interaction design will help you to better understand and utilise this technology.

What is Social Interaction Design?

Social interaction design is about understanding how people engage with each other and share knowledge online, and how platforms can be designed to optimise this type of behaviour. It is a matter of understanding a community in order to generate a design that steers and guides its interactions.

Designing social media platforms must go hand in hand with understanding social practices. This will also include other web design elements, such as Information Architecture (IA), Interaction Design (IxD), User Experience (UX), and general usability and navigational design. 

Social Interaction design expert, Adrian Chan, gives a solid summary of the practice on his website https://www.gravity7.com/what_is_sxd_1.html , in which he describes SID as…

“an approach to web 2.0 and social media that addresses the social interface: the interaction of web site with data/information where users provide the content, and interactions are social […] All of these individual actions and contributions together produce the content, which is to say, produce the experience also, that defines and becomes the identity of a social media service. Failure to provide for compelling user experiences and visible, recognizable, and compelling social practices, will result in failure of the site.”

So, why is it useful to know any of this outside of a design context? Ultimately, these communities hold immense opportunity for market research and targeting. If a company can tap into these communities, not only can they gain significant insight into their consumer base, but they can also target them with subtle online marketing strategies. Understanding the types of communities, and how they work and interact, can mean the difference between entering the community and succeeding with a research and marketing plan, or failing miserably and getting banned.

What Kinds of Communities and Interactions Exist?

Social communities represent a new cultural phenomenon and form of social interaction that only exists with the internet. Since we are all globally connected, social circles have a wider reach than ever before. In short, the internet gives people access to other people, as well as the knowledge that they are willing to share. Online communities offer something that often physical communities do not, whether it is being able to interact with likeminded people who share a common interest, experience, expertise, or goal, which cannot always be met in a physical circle. 

Community of Purpose

Members in these communities are trying to achieve the same objective or are going through the same process. They are there to help each other by sharing common experiences and to share strategies. These communities serve a practical function to achieve a particular goal. For example, a forum about travel and a thread about how to get a work and travel visa would fall into this category.

Community of Practice

Members in these communities share a common craft or profession. They are specific and usually emerge out of the members’ desires to gain knowledge in the related field, as well as to develop professionally or personally. Members in these communities share information, experiences, and learn from each other. A forum about web design and people sharing coding successes and failures and trying to learn from each other would fall into this category.

Community of Interest

Members in these communities share a common interest or passion. Often these communities are what we call “sticky”, meaning that members frequent them often, for longer periods of time, and they have a high return rate. Good examples of these kinds of communities are gaming communities, where people are there to discuss their passion, as well as to play. 

How are Social Communities Changing Social Interaction?

One of the most fascinating characteristics is the advent of a new market of information – amateur knowledge sharing. This stems from sharing tips and tricks in forums, to writing a blog or producing a vlog, to social media posts and website comments; the list goes on and on. People are searching less for information from “high sources of credibility,” and instead turning to and trusting in amateur knowledge sources. And now, in today’s day and age, where web hosting companies are offering a super simple process, similar to the package described here by 1&1, anyone has the power to create a blog in a matter of a few minutes. So, we are starting to see more and more channels for the sharing of amateur information. Whether they writing travel blogs, or producing makeup tutorial vlogs, these people have useful, practical knowledge to share because of their lived experiences, not because of some attribution of academic status, scholarship, or social standing of expertise. What’s more, the digital landscape is poised for them to proliferate.

This actually presents an interesting shift in power in terms of sharing and receiving information. Information and the value of it is changing. Before the rise of social communities and the interconnectivity of the internet, the majority of knowledge was monopolized by forms of academia and publications wherein information and knowledge was controlled and sold for a price. In the present day, however, this monopoly has shifted, in that more and more information and knowledge is freely available online.

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By studying how social interaction is currently changing and the driving factors behind how that social interaction functions, we will be able to understand where it is going and perhaps even influence it along its way.

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