Anastasia Ashman
February 7, 2014

Use Social Context To Connect

Is it just me (and my timelines), or is everyone suddenly talking about the unignorable power of social context?

I often see patterns emerging across all my information feeds, from thousands of sources in my realms of culture, media and publishing, technology, marketing, entrepreneurship and leadership. What bubbles to the surface across multiple fields is what’s in my larger future.

A reminder: you’re the curator of your own timelines. Let them be your advance warning system for sea-changes and meaningful shifts of all kinds.

Besides social context, other strong signals I see are trends toward simplicity, anonymity, and finer control of our online expression

That’s what larger populations of people are looking for, and solving for, and choosing.

The fact that I know the direction my worlds are moving is a valuable insight into the cultures I’m part of and the communities I’m actively working on making connections in. Social context is culture.

Here are some examples of what the social context signal looked like to me last week.

In my inbox, one music tech startup’s newsletter critiqued the high profile launch of a new streaming service that fails in its playlist suggestions to incorporate all the social data its users have already shared online. 

“There’s no longer any excuse for service providers not to make use of the data and the technology for better connections,” says that startup founder, who also happens to be my husband.

There’s no longer any excuse for generic music suggestions, or for treating us like we’re interchangeable. We have taste and a unique combination of interests, experience and background. Show us you know what we like, and we’ll come closer.

Over at Social Fresh, Nick Cicero from real-time conversation service Livefyre was on a similar track. “If 2013 was the year of social content, 2014 is the year of social context,” he writes. Brands have more avenues to tell their stories, and consumers want to be an integral, relevant part of it.  

Then came CMO of Extreme Networks Vala Afshar’s tweet noting that your culture is your brand. Yes it is.


So imagine that each person out there you’d like to connect with has his or her own social context — or culture.


Each of those individual cultures are distinct and made by us.

That’s what Gina Rudan, author of Practical Genius, was talking about last week. She writes that we hack culture to make room for ourselves, to make our lives work and matter.

“What we’re experiencing isn’t a trend, it’s an anti-trend. Traditions aren’t being challenged, they’re being ignored. Rituals are no longer an expression of what ‘we’ do, but rather an intensely personal expression of who ‘I’ am,” says Rudan.

We’re not all cut from the same cloth. Many of us have been mixing and matching our own lives for years.

These days we’re hyperenabled to hack our own cultures online — and that’s where we want to connect to you.


We hack our way into online spaces and experiences that look and feel like our distinct combination of interests and inclinations and experiences. We do this by choosing where we go and who we interact with online, what brands we allow onto our timelines and which ones we are compelled to engage with, what newsletters we receive in our inboxes. Every day we’re creating our own individual culture with our online life.

When I glimpse my sister’s cat-infested Facebook feed I barely recognize the service. Hers is speckled with premium media from businesses and causes she follows and participates in, from animal rescue operations to Catster. It’s so different than my experience of Facebook filled with stories from photography blogs and journalism organizations. That’s because her feed is a reflection of her culture, not mine.

When we think about building online community, what we’re really thinking about is the culture we’re each creating for ourselves. That’s where we’re most alive. That’s where we are ready to connect. And that’s our social context.

What we should also be mindful of is where our culture intersects with the cultures of other people. That’s where communities are gathering.

Care to share a trend you see across your digital communities? How is it informing your particular online culture?


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Anastasia Ashman

Social Community Builder at Selfish, Inc.
Digital life trailblazer. Author/editor/producer agented by Foundry Literary & Media. Entrepreneur drawing on New York publishing & Hollywood entertainment industry experience with unique global dexterity from 14 years of international living. Connecting people through content and culture, empowering you around the web's new vulnerability, visibility and voice. Get my on-demand, self-paced GlobalNiche social web curriculum for free.

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  • judy

    Is there a risk that by creating our individual cultures we are also creating silos of people just like us? While I understand the need to focus, it’s also important to poke our heads up above the parapet occasionally and check in with what’s happening in the wider world.

    • You’ve hit the nail on the head, Judy. The majority of the content we see stays within small circles and so yes, silos are being created. The more cutting edge the thinking, the smaller the silo. People tend to speak to each other in terms only they understand. It’s another example of the importance of curation – taking messages to different audiences by changing the context. The real challenge is in making that audience the general public as opposed to another niche

  • Hi Judy, thanks for the comment!

    I think by creating our own cultures we are acknowledging all of our influences and attractions, and making room for them in our daily life. We don’t have to be only what the majority is. Our own culture is a combination of many other culture, and exists at an intersection unique to us. That’s a wider world right there — our wider world. It can include peeking over the parapet, as you say, but it only will include that if we choose it.

    Judy your point goes to what Ted Driscoll recently wrote at re/code about the “unforeseen consequence of the Internet”, of different groups existing in alternate realities that “explains the polarization of our politics, and even the rise of extremism around the world.”

  • Pingback: To Break Free From The Silo, Look Outside Of It - Curatti()

  • Love this. Absolutely get you and what you are saying in this post. I am my own culture. Loud and clear.

    • Thanks Silvana! We’re our own culture, and when we get clear on that it helps others know where to find us, how to move us, what we connect for.