For the few years that social media has been on the radar of marketers and agencies most social ‘thought-leadership’ has been of the “if you don’t get it you’re roadkill”, “we’re too cool for school” variety. In far too many cases being a leader in social is determined not by how strategic your thinking but by how many followers you have on Twitter or the fact that you launched your first blog in 1972. If you’re the geek from the big agency standing in a client presentation confusing the old timers with 1337 speak and how radical the lolcat phenomenon is, you’re in the club baby. You’re a hot date. Simon says yes, you’re going to Hollywood.
Well not so fast. Unfortunately for you tweet-uppers reality is about to bite. GNASH!
Social just got too important to be left to you. “What? What?” Let me explain. Clients are beginning to understand that social is about more than Facebook fan pages and Google maps mashups. Social is where the people are online. And not just techie kids. Everyone. Customers, prospects, shareholders, the media, government, the Chairman’s wife/husband – those kinds of everyone. Hmm. Sound like a job for the 22 year old boy-intern? No, didn’t think so.
Let’s tell it like it is. The web is social. Social is about psychology and ethnography, not technology. Yes, technology is an enabler, a platform. But many social ‘thought-leaders’ act as if it’s the entire point. In fact the opposite is true. Besides bandwidth the biggest driving force in online social adoption and utility is the constant evolutionary improvements in ‘user experience’ (meaning simplicity, elegance and intuitiveness). Social is now accessible and valued by people of ALL ages, not just hipsters under the age of 25 or those who act like it.
At the same time of course, the web is much more than just a communication channel. It’s increasingly the primary way in which companies of all kinds go to market – b2b, b2c, retail, automotive, technology, financial services – even healthcare. That means the importance of the web to corporations stretches far beyond marketing, let alone the marketing subset owned by the social ‘gurus’.
When consumers go online and engage in some way with a company, every single digital touchpoint results in either a positive or a negative experience. It could be a transaction, a download, a live chat with a CSR, reading a customer review or a branded content piece. Or yes, visiting a Facebook fan page or following a company employee on Twitter. Each one of those interactions could be the one that turns a customer or prospect off. Or all of them might work together holistically to ensure a consistent, positive consumer experience. I know what I’d want for my business.
And clients – I mean important ones like Presidents and CEO’s – are now beginning to understand this truth. Social is the web and the web is a hugely important part of their business. They’re paying attention to it. And asking hard questions.
Ultimately all businesses face a choice. They can treat the web strategically and mine enormously powerful consumer insight both inside and outside of their own architecture that can be employed as web strategies that radically improve their business. Or they can continue to treat the web as so much siloed ‘stuff’ (the platform, the campaign, the corporate blog, ‘social’). At best this approach will lead to missed opportunities. At worst it will cost sales, marketshare, and not least result in negative perceptions held and shared by a cast of millions.
This blog is about companies transforming to better understand and serve customers. Social is a key to making this happen. Allowing kids to play in the ‘social sandbox’ worked when the dollars were small and the damage unknown. That’s no longer the truth. Social just grew up.