The separation between search and social media is melting away, and a new paradigm is taking hold. Finding the right content is as much about whom it comes from as where you find it. By building a network of credible sources via social media, we're able narrow our "searches" to a select group of people whom we trust. For brands, this means a host of new challenges and opportunities are emerging beyond the traditional search channel.
It's been said that "video killed the radio star." Maybe that's true, I'm not really sure. I am pretty sure, however, that advertising killed itself -- or, at the very least, took the wind out of its own sails. Advertising used to work, and work well. What do I mean by "work?" I mean that once upon a time, when products and services of obvious differentiated quality and value were popping up like weeds in a field, consumers were predisposed to believe advertising claims, both overt and subtle ones. Since belief leads to action, sales of those advertised goods increased as well.
Businesses work with suppliers, across divisions, and with distributors. In the age of relationships, when the art of conversation has made a big come back, and more and more people have access to search and publishing tools, the answer to the question "who are your customers?" may not be as straight forward. Break any one of those connections, make it less than smooth, and you have a hard time servicing the end customer. The answer never was straight forward, it just got easier to see inconsistencies.
I will try to demonstrate here the manner in which social acts and communication result in mediated social realities. And suggest that the relational connections and value-added associations which are the byproduct of social media use create a marketplace of content whose highest value, individually motivated subjective choices, we are only beginning to capture and mine.
I'd like to use the term "sustainability 2.0" to talk about this emerging space, in which the world of corporate social responsibility meets the world of brand communications. There's one fundamental difference between sustainability 2.0 and how we've approached things in the past. For some time now, people have recognized that sustainability can be a brand-builder. But using sustainability to build your brand can only be a successful strategy if it starts from a consumer perspective. Sustainability 2.0 is about organizations creating positive effects in the lives of people in three ways: as individuals, helping meet personal needs, goals and ambitions; within their communities, sparking cultural movements, supporting causes and making connections; and within the world at large, tackling environmental issues and enabling greener lifestyles. So what's shaping this new landscape? Five fundamental trends are influencing the sustainability 2.0 agenda.
With so much discussion — even panic — about privacy today, I fear that we risk losing the benefits of publicness, of the connections enabled by the internet and our interconnected world. If we shift to a default of private, we lose much and I argue that we should weigh that choice when we decide what to put behind a wall — and there are too many walls being build today. But we’re not discussing the benefits of the public vs. the private. I want to spark that discussion.
It took both the telephone and the mobile phone 15 years to amass 100 million users, but Facebook did it in 9 months. We see more and more people becoming connected on online social networks, and it seems our networks are growing exponentially. But the reality is, social networks rarely add to our number of connections. We’ve already met almost all the people we’re connected to on social networks. We’re already connected to these people offline. Social networks simply make the connections visible.
Some novel research on the social networking phenomenon has turned up a slightly surprising result: The most influential spreaders of news aren't necessarily those with the greatest number of online friends or followers.
What joy. This week, The Economist, every Capitalist’s favorite magazine, has published a special report on social networking: The Economist on social networking - world of connections. A World of Connections, provides an excellent overview of the current state of social media for those still trying to get to grips with it.
Though Google’s social strategy has been catch-up at best to date, the company does have a master plan — at least according to engineering director David Glazer, whom I spoke with last week at Google HQ. He said across a variety of products, Google wants to make it valuable and easy to harness social information. In 2010, Google plans to expose and elicit more of the social network built into the tools that many of us already use — Gmail, Google Talk, etc. If you use Google products, the company already knows who your most important contacts are, what your core interests are, and where your default locations are. Glazer said to expect many product and feature launches that start to connect that information in useful ways.
Amid some 200 analysts, investors and media last week, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent made a confession. "There was a period when our company did lose its way," he said. "We were too internally focused and not focused enough on the changes taking place with our consumers and customers. In essence, we were too busy looking at the dashboard and were not sufficiently paying attention to the world outside of our windshield." While Coca-Cola remains the dominant beverage company in the world, and controls nearly 51% of the global carbonated soft-drink business compared to Pepsi's 22%, according to Beverage Digest figures, it had, perhaps, been too focused on soft drinks at a time when other beverage categories were on the rise, said Bill Pecoriello, CEO at ConsumerEdge Research.
Social media is a humbling topic, one that I do not approach without deep study and reﬂection. On the surface, social media has democratized content, placing the power of publishing in the hands of every day people. Peeling back the collective layers, we realize something more profound however; social media has democratized and equalized inﬂuence and the ability to inspire action and establish vibrant and dedicated communities around a sense of purpose and belonging. Whether we’re consumers or brand advocates or both, we have been given a powerful gift in the form of real-time, uninhibited access to information and intelligence and the people who share their insights—the new inﬂuencers. It is how we choose to embrace this gift and as such employ it and also interact with new inﬂuencers that deﬁnes our presence and stature within the social landscape and in turn, the real world. Indeed social media is a privilege and with it comes great responsibility (and accountability).
In the October issue of Fast Company magazine, Linda Tishler profiles David Butler, who she describes as the man with a nearly uncontainable design challenge. Among other projects, Butler is behind the new Coca-Cola Freestyle fountain, which can serve up more than 100 varieties and brands of coke products - and style to boot. System thinking is what led him down that path - as in system that stimulates behavior that produces results. A chain of interdependencies and a a more expansive way of looking at problems, and to deal with complexity.
As neuroscience opens the brain to marketers' scrutiny, the electrical flashes that arise in response to stimuli make it increasingly apparent that what drives purchase decision making is actually a primal mechanism of the mind -- attachment. This signal of a potent emotional attachment is the foundation for brand success. It's a form of primal brand magic, built on a near-mythical brand story that unconsciously transports one from the mundane to the imaginational, transforming our inner world and inspiring us to buy.
Twitter, Facebook and the many other social networks that have emerged are reminding us exactly how small the planet is, and how seemingly mundane or personal issues (where you live, what you feel) have all kinds of ramifications. While Facebook is busy increasing our awareness of other people's lives around the world, it stamps on globally sensitive nerves with one apparently very simple question: where do you live?
You’re going to hear more and more people in the social media space start using the term “social business” in the coming months. It will likely replace “community building” as the corporate catch phrase of the moment. Trend setters in the industry like Charlene Li, Jeremiah Owyang, Peter Kim and random other former Forrester Research employees now cashing in are already tossing it around. It puts a prettier wrapping paper on the larger payoff for what social media thinkers do. What the term implies, at least from my perspective, is that the business in question, or what they’re trying to sell you, is one that is not driven by products or services.
Essentially, experts are purporting the use of new tools and not necessarily connecting businesses to their customers and influencers where and how they congregate and interact.
I accept that people and brands are going have a use for their own websites (I still do). Given that, the important questions are: What role will your website be playing within the overall context of the internet as a whole? Are you spending and an amount of money, effort, and time that is appropriate to that role? Would you be better off putting that money, effort, and time into developing content?
If you think about the tribes you belong to, most of them are side effects of experiences you had doing something slightly unrelated. We have friends from that summer we worked together on the fishing boat, or a network of people from college or sunday school. There's also that circle of people we connected with on a killer project at work a few years go. These tribes of people are arguably a more valuable creation than the fish that were caught or the physics that were learned, right?