The discussion in conference rooms and in meetings across the business world is “we need to be more social.” Usually sometime in that meeting someone also says “this social business trend is huge, we need more of that.” In both statements there is an unhealthy dose of me-too and trend-following. What both statements miss is what social is and looking at the brand’s activities with relation to social.
The title of this post sums up my thoughts about social and what all brands and companies need to understand. Social was not created for brands and companies. Commerce can happen in social, but that is not the first purpose. When the first message was transmitted over the internet in 1969, it’s sender did not foresee or plan for all the possibilities of that. He was just trying to solve a problem.
Facebook was created initially as a universal face book within Harvard. While I take the dramatization in “The Social Network” with a grain of salt, I think it is safe to assume that Zuckerberg didn’t plan in those early days for how sponsored stories would improve the P&L sheets of a company that had just barely been formed. He, and his friends just wanted a way for people to establish contact with each other.
While I do think that there is value in looking back at history just for history stake, I think companies that are trying to crack the nut of social business need to do it even more. If you don’t understand deeply the platform on which you are engaging your customers and users you will never maximize your potential there.
Social is all about engagement, right. Why do business leaders forget this premise when they do things like offer free farmville credits for merely liking their brand? Where is the engagement there? Engaging with your customers means more than just doing what you are doing in other channels. If you took your mobile web and framed it as a Facebook app and put it up, you are missing the point.
Your brand will never be just like your consumer’s friends on social. If you can provide them experiences that deepen their loyalty by solving problems early, by giving them information (without worrying about the ‘R’ of ROI) that helps them in their life, or that enlightens/enriches their life with content, they will be stronger customers, though.
Social and word-of-mouth marketing may be only additive to the traditional funnel model, but doing it wrong will be a waste of your money. I think the topic of social metrics is quite interesting and how you translate those metrics to P&L entries is black magic. But what the numbers do prove out is your loyal users spend more money with you. This has been true down through the ages. Just watch the Coke fan at a restaurant when the waitress tells them that they only have Pepsi. Engaged users is another phrase for loyal users, though the reach of them is greater these days.
If you don’t have people in those meetings who get the social and its foundations, its purpose and its goals, you need to find them in your organization. If your social business plans haven’t been looked over by those same people, it will miss the mark. Remember, social was created by the users, for the users and of the users. Forget that at your peril. Don’t live the reality of this Onion Video: