The Social Lego Principles

Hello there, Feeding The Puppy readers… fancy working together on a wee project?  OK, read on…

Over the last few months, there’s been a couple of recurring themes here on Feeding The Puppy.  Firstly, Twitter has been cropping up almost weekly, from Dell’s $2m Twitter revenue stream to the use of it to power events like SXSW

It’s safe to say that it’s stepped beyond ‘fad’ – microblogging is teaching people that the sharing of small pieces of information not only connects them to other people, it can create something very useful too. 

You may remember that we like connecting and useful things.


Secondly, my ongoing Lego obsession shows no sign of abating; it’s probably a combination of the fact that I grew up with it, and that as a company they’ve embraced their community to continually deliver a whole raft of interesting, engaging and delightful ideas about how to add even more magic to their products…

For instance, I was in Brighton with Helen and Dad on Sunday, and I took them into the Lego shop there to look at the augmented reality boxes they have… the look on the faces of all the kids & their parents in the store was brilliant. 

(Basically you hold up the box in front of the screen, and the model magically appears on top of the box to show you what it will look like in 3D… get yourself along to a Lego store and give it a shot)


…see, I’ve gone off in another Lego trip again.  If you want to know all about how ‘Lego caught the Cluetrain’, you should spend 40 minutes over lunch watching the brilliant Jake McKee talk about his 5 years there as Lego Community Manager:

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Anyway, beyond ‘Lego the company’, I think ‘Lego the concept’ could well make for a brilliant analogy for how you can think about Twitter and other social media. 

So I’ve started to pull together the following, which I’m going to call…


The purpose of these principles is to create something that’s very easy for people who perhaps aren’t as au fait with the social media landscape to ‘get it’, and start thinking about it themselves.  Because if more people start to understand what’s going on, I think our world will be a better place for it.


I’ve created three principles as a start point – please comment, improve, refine, develop those initial three. 

Then there are obviously more principles than that, so how would you extend the analogy?  As a form, I think it works ok as…

– a short title

– an example from the world of Lego play

– how that example works in the world of social media

So here’s my first three…


If you pick up a single block, it’s a not a very interesting thing.  Even a few of them together just look like a vaguely similar collection of objects.  The really cool stuff starts when you have enough blocks available to start building something meaningful.

Which is why it’s hard to understand what the fuss is with something like Twitter by just looking at one person’s account, or looking at individual tweets.  The more blocks you connect together, the more interesting things become.


No kid in the world has ever sat down with a box of Lego for the first time and built a scale replica of the Death Star.  It takes a while to figure out what blocks go together, what looks good, what works, how many of each type of block you’ll find.

Building something in social media takes time and practice.  The more small things you learn to create along the way, the more tips and tricks you’ll pick up for the future.  If you build a person, then a car, then a house and a street, soon you’ll have a good idea how to build a town.


Everyone in the world owns a unique Lego set.  It’s made up of the models they own, the pieces they’ve lost and the ones they’ve acquired.  They also like putting things together in their own unique, creative, individual way.  As a result, if you ask everyone to build a car, each car will look different.

Coming from the mass media age where everything looked the same, worked along the same rules, this is a big change to get your head around.  Controlled consistency is out, homogeneous case studies pointless; embrace the wonder of differentiation.

…and now, over to the other people posting below… I’ve brought thier principles up here, and made an image & title for them…

From David Wilding


DW: “It’s all well and good having a safari set and a motorway set or whatever, [but] it actually gets really fun when you merge the sets together to create bigger “uber-lego”; the sort of lego hybrid that the people who designed the sets hadn’t imagined you would make when they created it… point I’m making here is about how social networks and apps all crunch together to create something quite cool

I totally agree.  Think about the boxes of Lego you were given as a kid.  When they all found themselves in the big central bucket, that’s when things really got interesting.  Equally, when Twitter links to a blog or to Facebook or to Google Maps… wonderful things can happen; better than anything any one social media tool can do on its own.

From Carrie Morley


CM: “When I was little, my cousin and my brother used to spend hours at my grannies making battle ships out of lego. They would then put them in the hallway at the bottom of the stairs and drop ‘bombs’ (also make from lego…) and break them to pieces… perhaps what gets constructed quickly is so thrilling because of the speed and ease by which it can be deconstructed, pulled to pieces, and (perhaps) then made better the next time around…”

An excellent point that contains a lot of what social media allows you to do… get small, fast projects started, refine and improve on the hoof, learn new tips and tricks and quickly make the next version just that bit better than the last.  ‘Always In Beta’, as Russell Davies would say.

From Justin Gibbons @ Work


JG: “get kids involved and it takes on a new dimension, things you’d never think of like making a cake from lego, really raw creativity”

Kids don’t stop to ask things like ‘but why would people join in?’, ‘how long will it take?’, and especially not ‘what’s the ROI likely to be?’.  Kids build lots of things, and they build them because, well, it looks fun to do.  Some work, some don’t, but they learn lessons quickly and move on.

If you can tap into that mindset, and involve your customers and fans, where you’re building things in social media, you’re more likely to build something that other people want to play with too.

From Mat Riches


MR: “I also love the fact that there was Duplo for beginners and Lego and then Lego Technics.  You could get as involved and as deep into it as you wanted, and as you got more and more dextrous or nimble fingered…”

Mat rightly points out Lego have successfully realised with the extension of the main blocks into a simpler form for toddlers, and a more complex form for teens.  There are a raft of different capabilities around social media, both for companies and the people they wish to connect with. 

If you’re connecting to a really web savvy, passionate audience you could build a Ning site to set up your own social network.  If you’re connecting to my mum, you may be better off with a simple Facebook group.  But bear in mind technology is just the means to an end… unless there’s something there that people actually want to do, no matter how suitable the technology they won’t join in.

From Clare de Burca


CdB: “No kid I know has the patience / skills to do lego on their own.  As such it gets used as a joint activity – eg a friend of mine recently gave his 7 year old a model of the death star for xmas and spent a few hours each weekend working through it with him.  They finished it in march.  Its a very cool thing but 90% of the point was the time spent together doing it.”

Collaboration is a huge lesson from Lego, thanks Clare.  If you build things together, you all learn faster.  You all believe in the models and projects you build, so don’t tear each other’s stuff down.  And the more you do together, the faster and more impressive it gets.  And if one person gets too dominant and controlling, it damages the project, and everyone starts to drift away…


Start contributing in the comments below, and I’ll start pulling them up into the main body of the post here.  Then I’ll compile as a slideshare deck when we’re done…

…we’re obviously missing principles on collaboration, sharing, combining platforms and more besides… if you want a spot more inspiration to get you started, then you can do infinitely worse than look through Mashable’s newly collated Twitter Guidebook