Shared Experience vs. Isolated Experience Online

In the rapid-pace of social media, we often find ourselves trying to figure out how to best articulate what exactly social media is and the benefits. I’ve written on this before and have a new term I’d like to share with you. I often get the question why a company may need a Facebook page when it already has a website. The two are very complimentary and yet very different. The main difference is the user’s experience in terms of being a "shared experience" versus an "isolated experience."

Typically users interact with websites yet it is an isolated experience – no one knows what the viewer’s thoughts are on a particular webpage or whether they like a picture featured on the site. If the viewer wants to actively share the page or content on the page, he or she can make the effort to share the content whether through share buttons, emails, or posting links on social media sites. While this is very commonplace, it’s also an extra effort on the viewer’s behalf. Upon discovery of a website and basic interaction is typically an isolated experience.

There’s a middle-ground when it comes to blogs. Blogs can be an isolated experience or a shared experience among a limited group of people, not within a user’s social graph (friends directly connected to them through a social network). When the user comments on a blog it then becomes a shared experience among other viewers and other people who have commented on the post (with the exception of blogs that are imported into social networking sites or utilizing Facebook Connect or similar integrations). So in a sense a shared experience can be viewed as showing participation that is then seen among people that are participating in the web experience whether actively or passively by reading a blog post or visiting a website.

When it comes to social networking sites, the dynamic shifts tremendously. While Twitter, Myspace and a horde of other communities foster shared experiences too, I want to focus on Facebook fan pages because they are the epitome of a shared experience online, especially that brands can best leverage. If an aspect of a shared experience is showing participation and sharing it then Facebook makes this incredibly easy to do as users interact on the platform. When a user becomes a fan of a page (or public profile page if you want to be technical) then with no effort, that is broadcasted to all of that user’s social graph. The social graph is a more powerful community to share information among than the shared experience of a blog comment because users are tied more closely with their Facebook social graph due to the offline relationships.  The shared experience is among friends. After becoming a fan of a page, users can very easily interact with the page with minimal effort by “liking” a comment which is essentially with one-click of a button showing that a user likes something featured. Users can also share their thoughts about wall posts, pictures, links, video and other featured content by “commenting” which is seamlessly intergrated into the user experience of Facebook and easy to do with little effort. Each “like” or “comment” then is automatically shared with that users’ social graph making the interaction a shared experience.

For brands the “shared experience” that users have by interacting with you whether on a blog or on a Facebook fan page has a multitude of benefits (and requires another blog post!). In short, your brand is being endorsed by a friend that is then endorsing it to his or her friends automatically thus increasing the reach of your brand and spreading word of mouth that can’t be achieved from a website that’s detached - isolated- from the user’s social network.