The social media expert list wanted by business

The Conversation by Danielle Scott via FlickrClay Shirky talks about politics – what about social media and business?

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.

  1. Tracking mentions and sentiments is good.  It gets us started.  And most of us still have heaps to learn.
  2. 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.

Mirror, mirror on the wall . . . social media as a mirror?

Are we thinking about viral campaigns back-to-front?

At Bucks08, Toby Moores made the point, as did others, that social media amplifies what is already there.

Perhaps another important point is that social media allows us to measure what is already there.

Here is a report on the US Presidential candidates. What is noticeable is that our use of social media changes after a significant event.

Widget-capture goes up when a candidate has just won a major primary, and falls when they have consolidated their position – meaning, I think, that social media is not a result, but an action we take to make something happen. We are a sensible lot, so if McCain has won, there is no need to capture widgets! If we want to push our candidate on and they are winning, we join in.

Also note that 80-90% of Obama’s widgets are not captured from official sites. Hence my deduction that social media acts as a trace that allows us to understand our community better.

The value to someone investing in social media is increased clarity, rather than increased sales. They still need to get out there and do their thing – write good policy, give good speeches, recover from errors, build alliances, court super-delegates etc.

And if this theory is correct

Widget-capture should fall, when one of the Democratic candidates concedes, and widget-capture should fall for both of them unless at that point the competition with McCain hots up.

Comments??

Addendum

Just so I don’t lose it: after I posted this I commented on an HR blog on the Ron Paul effect – whatever that is!

“I think the return is like any group conversation. You have to be in it to influence it and you have to be willing to be influenced in turn. People trying to ‘use it’, ‘lose it’ at this juncture.

I don’t think the web is an echo chamber as much as a “broken telephone”. News goes out, it is picked up days later, it is repeated without checking, etc. etc. The onus is on the individual to verify information. The danger is in treating it like an authoritative source – we become the journalist – we have to check and double check.

So what do we get? We observe what people are willing to repeat?? That in itself is instructive and tells us a lot about a source. So we can tell three things a) competence b) popularity/fashion and c) network.”

Aloha coaching: 3 points for conversations

I have just rediscovered Aloha Coaching and found their post on conversations:

Bronze is earned from listening to our own voice.

Silver is earned from incomplete conversations.

Gold is earned from voices that are struggling to be heard.

And how do we do this?

In addition to aiming for gold: to hear the voice struggling to be heard,

2.  Be patient with silence.

1.  Still our own inner voice

Have you seen Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED lecture on her “stroke of insight”?

Jill is a brain scientist who had a stroke quite young.  She describes what it felt like to lose the left side of her brain which governs our serial processing – our inner voice.  She cries when describes what it was like to be fully aware of the world via the right parallel processing side of her brain.  I think they were tears of wonder (though I am sure it was pretty scary too).

I think implicitly she was advocating the idea that we put far too much emphasis on our left brain, serial processing, “I”, “to do” list brain, and not enough attention to what is happening almost imperceptibly around us.

Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho advocates similar idea.  I have found the idea of looking towards the horizon quite useful and particularly of listening to sounds as far as I can hear.

Galba Bright of TuneupyourEQ has been talking about reflection.

In my experience, some people who are very in tune with the world don’t reflect much.  I think that those of us who are have strong serial processors need to make time to relax, reflect and recreate.  In the hurly-burly of the world, we can become increasingly inefficient otherwise.

Does stilling our inner voice reduce our own motivation?

I don’t think so.  Indeed the opposite.  It allows us to hear ourselves too.

Our serial ‘doing’ brain is important.  It is what we use during “flow”, I think.  Maybe a neuro-scientist could comment on that.  When we are in the flow of action, we aren’t listening to anything outside that activity

We need both – action and stillness.

The big dilemma is when we get caught in one or the other!

I am just finishing a sabbatical and have the most awful resistance to getting going again.  I know from experience that the adrenaline high of action will take me away from the peace of reflection, and when I am in that place, I will resist coming down.

Have you experienced anything like that?