A Need to Define Social Media Settings
Some consider cultures that support the dominance of intellectual over social values and social over biological values superior to those that do not.  Although struggles exist over which of these different values will prevail, there is an inherent need for the patterns of intellect and the patterns of society to exist in harmony with biological patterns. Social patterns have their own role to play in keeping certain intellectual patterns in check, just as biological patterns keep certain social patterns under control. A mutual dependence among these patterns enables humankind to thrive.
Problems surface when the delicate balance between intellectual, social, and biological patterns goes awry amidst their struggle for dominance. M. Robert Pirsig, in his book Lila: An Enquiry into Morals,  describes a scenario in which no proper balance exists between these patterns and humankind ends up facing the consequences of the disorder they have inadvertently created.
“…today we are living in an intellectual and technological paradise and a moral and social nightmare because the intellectual level of evolution, in its struggle to become free of the social level, has ignored the social level’s role in keeping the biological level under control. One reason why fundamentalist Moslem cultures have become so fanatic in their hatred of the West is that it has released the biological forces of evil that Islam has fought for centuries to control.”—M. Robert Pirsig
With the kind of clout social media offers in enabling the domination of intellectual patterns over everything else, it is necessary to appropriately define social media settings—not only to help keep their balance right, but also, to characterize what makes a social media setting successful. Defining social media settings becomes even more important in contexts and regions where people hold cultural values in very high regard and social patterns have a very important role to play in keeping biological patterns in check.
A Case Study: HP Customer Care
I worked on a project for HP’s Customer Care division that involved researching and recommending a social media setting for HP.com. HP wanted user-generated content on the customer care section of their portal to enable users to make better decisions that would help them solve the technical problems that brought them to HP.com. This was part of HP’s Total Care initiative. Its goal was to build a business model around the idea that supporting user-generated content would engender trust and confidence that would draw users to their portal.
On HP.com, Customer Care is the go-to place for support and information on any HP product. Its primary objectives are to provide the following:
- 24/7 online support for HP’s Home and Home Office lines of products
- 24/7 service and support for both in-warranty and out-of-warranty products
- advice for customers—before, during, and after they make buying decisions
HP Customer Care has about 70 localized sites across several continents. Between HP and Compaq, which merged in 2002, users from almost every country in the world use HP products, which led us to this question: How, exactly, could we come up with a coherent set of recommendations for a social media setting that would work for all customers visiting the Customer Care portal? These users could be just about anyone—from any country on Earth, social background, or age group. They would come to HP Customer Care with just one basic qualification—they’ve run into some technical problem with an HP product they own or use and need HP’s help resolving it.