It’s understandable that a new phenomenon will always be pegged to something tangible. In terms of social media, these are brands like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Foursquare.
Whilst it is understandable, it’s also limiting. It’s like saying the internet is only Google, AOL and Amazon and not being aware of the underlying changes that are currently demolishing the traditional models and industries such as high street shopping, banking, media consumption, travelling … you name it.
If it hasn’t changed yet, it will change now and it will change drastically. Let’s also remember at this stage, that the internet per se hasn’t change anything, but it has increased convenience and improved experience for the individual and that’s why it has such a big impact. Social Media will result in even greater convenience and better experience.
Social Media led transformation
Some might argue that social media is an extension of the internet revolution. Some might argue that it is a logical extension of marketing’s purpose. Some might argue that social media is only potent because of cloud computing. Other might argue, it’s mobile that is actually driving social media. All of these statements are certainly true, but to appreciate the importance and the impact of social media, let’s go further.
In a previous post, I wrote about social media being the next step in a business’ transformation from production led, to sales led, to marketing led to social media led.
Like marketing, social media is such vague term that it lends itself to misinterpretation and especially the “media” part of it really distorts its meaning even more so. I personally also don’t like “social” as it reminds me too much of “socialism” and “social democracy” – while the latter is a positive but is limiting, the former is such a negative as it translates into bureaucracy, status quo, oppression, immobility. But let’s stop here, before we drift into a political debate and ultimately, we’ve got what we’ve got, so let’s work with it.
Social Media as general behaviour
First and foremost Social Media stands for a different attitude to people and the way people communicate with each other and treat each other. We all heard the buzz words of sharing, engagement, micro-blogging, but if you strip all of this back a little, it’s about treating other people with respect, it’s about viewing others generally as equals and as self-determined adults, it’s about being responsible for our own words and actions, it’s about making the world smaller and every part more accessible, it’s about being open and confident, it’s about permanent change.
So ultimately, it’s about more freedom, based on trust and the understanding that people do know how to behave appropriately and that people generally want to partake in making their world a better place.
Funnily enough, Facebook is sometimes quite the opposite, because people can still remain in their cosy subgroups not appreciating the global world we live in and the rights and responsibilities that come with it for each one of us and the interconnectedness of everything.
Social Media citizens
From a business perspective, ultimately it isn’t about blocking social media sites at work, it isn’t about social media guidelines, it isn’t about which function is running the social media strategy or about the right balance between broadcast and engagement. It’s about the way you treat people – and these people include your employees and all internal stakeholders as well as all external stakeholders (that does include the way your structure, communication and innovation). It’s ultimately about treating everybody who engages with your brand and company as a citizen and to encourage and promote this citizenship.
Sounds difficult, but it’s just about treating other people like you really want to be treated and concentrating on delivering the most convenience and the best experience. It’s quite simple actually – give it a go! It’ll make your team more dedicated, independent, agile, dynamic and awesome.
Social Media mind reader
Now the delivering of convenience and experience is closely linked to gathering, interpreting and utilising data. So the more the individual engages digitally, the more static and dynamic data is available, and the more data is available the more tailored a company’s offering can become and therefore increases the convenience and the experience. The most exciting and important part – especially with the idea of citizenship in mind – is that ultimately the user owns the data. So if I decide not to give you my Twitter handle, try patching it all together and find a way to contact me that isn’t creepy and intrusive.
Companies that already have existing data sets are best positioned, especially if they can enrich their current data with social data. Now, let’s be clear, data isn’t a social media phenomenon, it existed beforehand and there are many companies, such as Amazon, that use it incredibly well.
Data here is collecting the way a user interacts with a company, what he/she does and doesn’t do. How this relates to the behaviour of other users. How this relates to past behaviours. And suddenly we can build recommendation and predictions. Whilst recommendations can be purely built on crowd-sourcing (social media), prediction is much more built on statistical analysis. Let’s not forget, it was never and will never be man versus machine but man and machine. For different outcomes, different weighting will be applied.
Social Media as a preference layer
The beauty of social media and the pièce de résistance of social media is the social graph or social closeness, the relationships of people with other people. Not what you do, but who you do it with. That gives us a completely different and new preference layer.
Let’s say I’m watching television on my own – and my kinetically enabled device knows that as it can scan the room. I’ll receive recommendations on my viewing pattern and viewing patterns of people like me. These recommendations will be different when my wife or my kids are with me – as we have a different ‘group preference’. Depending on the choice of movies in these groups, we might even be able to understand the influencing and power structures between the different members.
It can also be done without a kinetically enabled device, just by location and time of day. If I know you are in your office during opening hours, you will behave – most likely – in a different manner than when you are at home at night. You would want to see different banners on the sites you visit, you would not want to receive certain text messages, you would make different decisions and are in different emotional state. I think you get the drift.
This will happen and it’s fascinating. Maybe not every company can use it to this extent straight away and it might not even make sense, but everybody can collect and connect some customer data usefully.
Most certainly, however, everybody can start treating people the same way they want to be treated, can view and interact with people in a self-determined, brand citizenship encouraging way and can start appreciating the rights and responsibilities that come with living in this very small yet global world.