I’m reading Clay Shirky’s excellent book – Cognitive Surplus – at the moment. On page 176 he writes:

“Getting what we celebrate highlights the tension between maximizing individual freedom and maximizing social value. Social media introduces social dilemmas into a number of environments where they didn’t previously exist… Neither perfect individual freedom nor perfect social control is optimal…, so it falls to us to manage the tension between individual freedom and social value, a trade-off that follows the by-now-familiar pattern of having no solution, just different optimizations that create different kinds of value, and differnet kinds of problems that need to be managed.”

I love the idea of ‘having no solutions, just different optimizations’. For me, this gets right to the heart of what social is about. It is not simply a set of tools, a list of functionality. It is a way of thinking, an approach, a philosophy perhaps.

When doing something new we often look to the past. We seek comfort in existing examples and case studies. Benchmarks and industry best practice reassure us, while ROI affords us the perception that all will be ‘okay’. Few of us are willing to pioneer new paths. We repeat and regurgitate, duplicate and copy.

But with social, there are no leavings, no imprints, no traces of what has come before. We are drawing each line of the blueprint as we take the next uncertain step. We are caught in the liminal zone between the desire for what might be and the reality of what we know. Tension is ever present. It is one of the new social currencies.

It is here that we experiment. We try new things out. We try the same things out differently. We have licence to create our own social customer care playbooks. And yet, when given this licence to ‘create different kinds of value’, we revert to what we know.

The emergence of social media within customer service gives us all a brief glimpse of something different, something else, something possible. It is not that we should shun what already exists, for social does not contain all the answers, but at the very least we should seek to understand, to learn, to inform, to educate ourselves and be open to the uncertain possibilities of ‘different’.