Supercharged Human Social Networks: An Interview with Antony Mayfield


Professionally, Anthony Mayfield runs digital agency Brilliant Noise and is the author of best-selling book Me and My Web Shadow. Personally, as I find out, he's a man fascinated by the power and scope of what he calls the social media 'phenomenon'.

When asked, Antony describes this phenomenon in terms of collaboration, sharing and communicating. His overwhelmingly positive attitude surprises me somewhat. By far Antony's most successful writing on social media is his book Me and My Web Shadow; dealing with personal reputation management online. I had expected that because of this he might be more wary of the negative side of the digital world. But as it turns out, Antony is a self-confessed optimist. “I think [social media] helps to bring out the best in people,” he says, “it helps us to get things done faster, it helps us to innovate.

Something that Antony returns to a number of times is the idea of social media as being supercharged human social networks. He takes a fairly anthropological line here when he says “human social networks are what defines us a species, they're how we form our societies.” (Antony, you won't be surprised, has a degree in History). Channelling these human social networks into online platforms for Antony is simply to supercharge them, to create opportunities that wouldn't otherwise have been possible.

At SoCon2011 Antony will be speaking about social business, a concept he describes as a “useful piece of jargon.” Putting it into his own words, he talks about “organisations adapting to a world which is hyper-connected.” The shift for businesses into the information age is one that requires a great deal of change, but brings with it a number of opportunities. Antony believes that in order to be open to these opportunities, businesses and organisations need to take steps towards being more social.

For dealing with those organisations that haven't yet opened up to the possibilities of social, Antony has some great techniques. He advises them to develop an analysis of the impact the social web is having on their industry; be it political, economic, societal or technological. “It's due diligence,” he says, “to take into account something that seems to be as powerful and as widely used and as responsible for social change as social media seems to be. You can't not have an opinion on it.

Talking about the general state of social business in the UK, Antony discusses the many kinds of responses that are coming through. Some are still “equating it with the media they have done in the past,” whereas others are coming to understand that social media is a lot more complex than that. He says, “those businesses that are clearer about who they are, what their values are and what their purpose is are having the easiest time making sense of where social media fits in.

In short, Antony feels that “different businesses are arriving at [social business] in different ways,” but seems, of course, generally optimistic that they're moving in the right direction.

See Antony Mayfield and other industry leaders present at SoCon2011 on the 20th of October at The ICO, Central London

Chinwag readers gain £100 off the price of a conference ticket using the code CWAG100 

Interview by Katie Anderson. Photo (cc) Jarret Callahan.