I was stunned when I listened to Clay Shirky on the Middle East uprising. Not stunned by what Clay Shirky said – I’ve always believed that social media will rock the political world. I was stunned because when I stopped to go behind Clay Shirky’s words, and more importantly, relate them to business, I arrived at a view about social media pundits might consider heresy.
Social media may be bad for dictators. But, social media is not always good for business. Not, because we are dictators. We can’t be dictators in business. But, because consumers have constant choice.
Consumers can love us, or leave us, with a lot less effort than they can love and leave their governments. And frankly, your service or mine is a lot less important to them than the way they are treated by an all-powerful government.
In short, good people, social media is not always good for business because what we offer and sell is not always that important to our customers. I am not being rude. I am making an important point.
We have to listen to people because we our role in their lives is so small
Our consumers have lives, and their lives are much bigger than our businesses
Dictators need to listen to their people because they take over a person’s whole life. We have to listen to people because we our role in their lives is so small.
Where dictators swamp every detail of a person’s life; the details of a person’s life swamp the use of our product.
What do we want to know before we know whether social media is good for business?
We want to know how the details of their lives swamp us. Phrased positively, we want to know how we fit in to the bigger picture of their lives.
Social media has made niche conversational analysis important
Lifestyle analysis is not new in marketing Coca-Cola has people going around watching where they can put a cold box full of Coke to create a new channel and they find surprising places like commuter Kombis in Johannesburg.
What is new, A.SM. – after social media, is that social media has put the spotlight on lifestyle analysis and conversational analysis, in particular.
But not every conversation that is possible will happen. Nor is every conversation important. Our conversations may be ridiculously important to dictators, who are easily destabilized by the sudden connectedness of their people.
Business simply doesn’t need to worry in the same way as unpopular governments. People in Inverness don’t necessarily want to suddenly start chatting about baked beans to someone in Brighton. Nor are people in Invercargill going to start talking about baked beans with each other just because they can. Nor will students in Brighton make baked beans the subject of Facebook. There has to be a reason why they might want to.
I got to spell this out. With dictators, the reason was already there. Waiting. Simmering. With business, because consumers have choice and are already doing what they want to do, changes are going to be a lot more subtle. And probably a lot more unexpected, and a lot more counter-intuitive.
Easy solutions are not readily found. Someone trying to take advantage of your market share online has to work just as hard as they do offline. Perhaps harder. Online audiences aren’t captive. They click away fast. When we are capturing attention online, we can think of 0.5% as baseline, 2% as good and 10% as marvelous.
The outfit that captures your market through social media – the outfit that beats you to your own market has, by chance, or keen acumen, understood that there is something about your baked beans that consumers want to talk about. And, they provided your consumers with the social media facilities to talk about something they want to talk about.
This feels hard. So it should. Most Marketing students skip the lecture on analysis. So let me give you examples.
Example 1: Baked beans may be the advance party
When consumers buy baked beans – what problem are they solving? Are they students trying to fill up on a tight budget? Do they have kids who are picky eaters? Are they going camping and need something edible ready in 5 minutes on an open fire?
A challenger to our business might reconstruct the market around a more viable segment: student meals, mums with troublesome kids, dads organizing active holidays.
Example 2: Frugality with style
In the great recession of the 21st century, we are eating out less. Have you noticed that we talk about eating out a lot less than we used to on Twitter? When did you last see someone bragging about buying takeaways in London? When did you last see ‘nom nom’?
We are eating at home more, but really, when we are planning a private party, why would we broadcast it? Wouldn’t that be rude?
Conversations change in purpose
Our conversations have a purpose – a social purpose. Who are we talking to? Why? And what do we hope to achieve?
In politics, the conversation is obvious. In business, we have to get thinking. Consumers are as inventive as they are choosy.
How to use social media in business
Social media offers the possibility of completely new conversations with a completely new purpose. That’s the danger (and excitement) of social media.
- Tracking mentions and sentiments is good. It gets us started. And most of us still have heaps to learn.
- Tracking how the conversation is morphing and understanding what the consumer is doing socially when they Tweet, Facebook and blog – thats where the opportunity lies.
That’s where challengers with a keen eye for social science are going to seize the opportunity with two hands and make inroads into our markets!
Social Scientists and Social Media in UK
This is what has changed.
- Social media specialists who can track activity and sentiment
- Social scientists who analyze the conversation and tell us what punters are trying to achieve socially when they talk online. That is where the opportunities lie.
So who are the expert social scientists in UK?
So who are the expert social scientists in UK who can track morphing conversations? That’s the list we need to compile for business customers.
Would you drop a comment saying who you think are the most expert social scientists studying new conversations emerging out of social media?
That’s the list that businesses would like to have.