Thursday, August 6, 2009

Coherence essential to leveraging "social media"

Today I spent some time going through the "WTF is social media - one year later" presentation, which I find excellent. It's embedded below for your convenience and below are some of my thoughts on the matter.



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The WTF material is really good stuff full of common sense, good thinking and it provides a sobering view of what this thing called social media could be used for. Focusing on fundamentals of business and on phenomena we've been able to observe over the past few months and years, the authors actually help business people who are a bit lost with all the chatter about social media and collaborative workspace. Observations and statements of what "social media" (for lack of a better word) could be used for are excellent and it's a pitty there is only little content about concrete ways in which to leverage the different aspects of social media... but of course who wouldn't understand that the authors would gladly provide that as part of their services at Brand Infiltration ;)

Now the presentation is also excellent food for thought and here are a couple of those that emerged going through the slides:


  1. I am not entirely sure the method you use is what drives business value: I mean that whether you go for high tech "social online super dooper media"  or low tech "true caring for customers" the method will not built rapport let alone create a "mystique" for your brand. Look at Cirque du Soleil and how they went from a "spectacle de rue" in Qu├ębec to an amazing global business running over 15 shows on all continents and generating over 700 million USD in turnover by creating unique, magical, immersive and truly memorable experiences for their customers. Did they need social media to do that?

  2. this whole issue of genuine engagement of prospects and customers
    starts within and that modern tools and practices simply make an
    organization more transparent and more porous therefore exposing both
    what is coherent and beautiful about its way of dealing with customers
    and what is slightly less desirable which could be hidden from view in
    the old world. From that perspective tackling brand building, community
    management, customer acquisition and engagement or even intelligence
    gathering simply from the angle of tools and practices is futile. You
    need to achieve deeper transformation of cultures and that's quite
    another challenge that requires capabilities and authority no CMO has
    on her own today. It takes the whole corporate leadership team to
    commit to a radically different way of running the business... And I don't think it's about unleashing complete chaos but rather about combining opposites, transcending old discipline and including it in new forms of managerial practices, pretty much like the Obama
    presidential campaign did: central control of all mission critical
    aspects and complete delegation of authority for everything else,
    taking care to project an image of collaboration & participation.

  3. the mere fact that spending time on social media is one of the favorite online activities of Internet users today is not enough to demonstrate that from a business perspective you can actually do something useful in that space at an economically acceptable cost. It might only be a biased observation but, it does seem to me that:



  • people gladly engage when there's a worthy cause for which there could not possibly be the slightest suspicion of commercial manipulation or commercial

  • the rejection of initiatives that seem to be "remote-controlled" by major brands is almost immediate in many cases

  • when a space is new like for example the blogosphere a few years ago or Twitter a couple of months ago, the signal / noise ratio is good enough to derive value out of that space with spectacular returns on investment whereas things become much more difficult when more people bring more content and more potential interactions

  • the possibility of interactions does not means that there will be interactions, let alone true conversations where people actually listen to other people and truly seek to understand what they mean by what they say, an effort that requires focus of attention and that can be tedious enough to require far more time than is allowed by the culture of the immediate, fast and short of social media

  • interactions don't mean transactions let alone economically useful or even profitable transactions


So social media is probably an excellent phenomenon for specific businesses and for a whole range of purposes and not only marcoms as rightly pointed out by the authors of the presentation... But it's only a tool and as such it's only as good and relevant as the skill with which it's applied to the pursuit of coherent objectives by congruent organizations who will make more than half-hearted committments to the new world of open participation. And that may not be a world for everyone, so expect to see more established organizations die as their environment changes to the point of transforming some long established practices into deadly sins.

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