If you’ve seen our recent Press Release, you may have noticed that we are talking about social access where you might have expected us to talk about ‘social media’ or ‘social networking’.
So what gives? And what is this social access business?
Broadly speaking, social media is the name for a category of platforms that enable social networking. And social networking, in principle, is the ability to socialize with other human beings virtually. There’s something comforting about the phrase social networking – it feels like it could just as reasonably describe making new acquaintances at a party or in the stands of the big game.
In the beginning social networking actually was even more restrictive than that. You’d connect to people you already knew in some way, like as classmates (Friendster), family members (Facebook), or colleagues (LinkedIn). Once connected, your contacts could see the things you posted, and you could see the things that they posted. By being relatively insular, these platforms got us online, rekindling friendships from high school, sharing kid photos with grandparents, and staying in touch with co-workers even as we switched jobs.
But then two fundamental things happened: first, we realized we were also interested in people we didn’t even know yet; and the platforms realized that they couldn’t continue without revenue forever. The meeting of these two trends resulted in an unholy union that produced algorithmic feeds: a way to slake our desire to see posts from people we don’t know, in return for a steady stream of advertisements that enriched the platform operator.
Suddenly, we had to start thinking about what we shared, who we allowed to see it, and whether it would be stored forever somewhere we couldn’t control. More importantly, social networking stopped being social: instead of a party where we could chat with all the other guests, it became more like a variety show, where we could chat to the other audience members but were stuck behind a fourth wall separating us from the talent. Even if you find the Holderness Family delightful, and see them all the time in your Facebook feed, they are not part of your social circle, nor can you reasonably use Facebook to change that (for the record, everyone at QP wants to be real-life friends with the Holderness Family!).
And all this brings us to social access, a concept that probably shouldn’t even exist, if social media could fulfill its promise.
A social access app is exactly what it sounds like: it connects people so that they can actually connect, one-to-one. Creators, influencer, and thought leaders don’t just create channels to publish generic content to a separated crowd – rather than invite their most enthusiastic followers and fans to build a relationship that includes getting to know them better, as people. Experts don’t just create channels to publish how-to videos that earn them minimal residual ad dollars, but to connect with individuals who would like their direct advice. Followers don’t just doom scroll through a bunch of undifferentiated content: they deliberately interact with creators they have a specific desire to be connected to, without having to wade through a sea of advertising dross.
The scenarios are almost infinite:
- An author releases a new book and creates a channel for readers to interact, ask the questions they’re interested in, and be inspired to plan their next outing
- An athlete provides unique perspective on their life doing what they love, giving their fans an opportunity to experience the season right alongside them
- A Broadway actor shares an inside view on what it takes to get a role, perform the role, and try to be re-employed before the run of their current show is over
- A crypto expert shares their thoughts on where the market is headed, and provides personalized perspective to channel subscribers as they plan their own strategies
- A serial entrepreneur shares the trials and tribulations (and triumphs!) of startup life, and helps others just starting out to understand how to get it done right
These influential voices, then, move from the broadcast world of social networking to direct connections by opening up their social access – literally inviting folks into their virtual social circle.
If there’s anything more social than that, we don’t know what it is.