Rethinking “Social” in 2012


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I am passionate. Passionate in all things that allow us all, the humanity, to make the world a better place. But since that’s kind of a tall order and a huge field to work in, I chose Customer Relationship Management back in 2000; don’t ask me why. It was a visceral pull, not something that I thought through much. I really believed in the R for relationship. But soon, as I began getting involved in real world projects I got to see that R stood little more than Revenue, for the most part.

And then came along Social Media, with its promise of being able to get the customer into not only the conversation but also in almost all aspects of a business – building customer relationships, developing new products and services, and producing and distributing them.

But the frenzy around social media by the so called gurus, the hype from the marketers and the buzz from many well meaning yet misguided analysts meant that “social” has been relegated to either a feature that you add to your apps or a layer that you drape over your platforms. And thus I think, time has come to rethink “social”.

My team works at building and delivering solutions and services around social enablement (for the most part using online social/community platforms), social analytics (think social listening and command centers powered by dashboards and reports), gamification (reputation, influencing behaviors, those kind of things), enterprise social, etc. A little plug, here is where I have say I feel pretty bullish about the strategy workshop workbench we created this year that allows the various groups in an organization to look at the whole big picture and create a strategic intent for the organization. That is their focus for 2012.

I want to look beyond, not beyond 2012, but beyond these concepts. I am looking at two major themes, and both of them needs us to rethink “social”:

  1. social design, social modeling, that is thought up front, at the strategy level, rather than as a feature or a layer, post facto
  2. social that incorporates the meaning of societal – values, humanity – into the vision of the organization

Social Design
Evan Doll, cofounder of Flipboard, the hugely successful iPad app, says it pretty succinctly:

“Every industry, every type of business we think about needs to be fundamentally reinvented in the face of social. Social isn’t a type of layer you slap on after the fact–it needs to be part of the product at the point of inception.”

In his post titled “Stop talking about Social“, Paul Adams, the man who came up with the concept of facets, which we see as circles in Google+, criticizes George Colony, the CEO Forrester for having got “social” wrong:

“George misunderstands the shift with the social web. … Social is not a feature. Social is not an application. Social is a deep human motivation that drives our behaviour almost every second that we’re awake. It doesn’t matter if we’re online or offline, on a browser or using an app. Humans are social creatures.”

Which is why we need to think beyond social enablement, analytics dashboards, gamification, enterprise social features and layers, and get into Social Design & Modeling.

Source: i* wiki

No, I am not talking about mere Social Design Patterns for designing social interfaces or participation design, though they are important and necessary too, I am talking about how the whole requirements gathering and designing process needs rethinking. Where, in addition to static models of Entity Relationship diagrams and dynamic models of process workflows, swimlanes & BPMN, we also need to think about social & value networks, strategic dependency between the various actors and strategic rationale behind these dependencies. Where we not only look at systems of record, but also look at systems of engagement.

I have been talking about these in 2011, but I was merely learning the basics. I hope that I can put them to use in 2012. And get my team to learn them too.

Social as in Societal
Early this year Michael Porter and Mark Kramer taught us about “Creating Shared Value” in HBR where they talk about the blurring profit/non profit boundary as well as a shift from CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) to CSV (Creating Shared Value):

“The concept rests on the premise that both economic and social progress must be addressed using value principles. … businesses have rarely approached societal issues from a value perspective but have treated them as peripheral matters. This has obscured the connections between economic and social concerns.”

Source: HBR Big Idea – Creating Shared Value

While Porter and Kramer talk about Value, last year (2010) in his book, Marketing 3.0, Philip Kotler says now is the time when we need to look beyond Customers into values (not mere value). The book says Marketing 1.0 was product centric, Marketing 2.0 is customer oriented and Marketing 3.0 should be values driven, with an objective of making the world a better place. And you know what I think about such objectives. 🙂

Of course, Kotler has been talking about Social Marketing since 1971, but now is a time when we can no longer ignore it. Not only is the trust in businesses dwindling in the recent years and viewed as a major cause of social, environmental, and economic problems, customers are demanding businesses to consider making the world a better place. And that is the crux of his Marketing 3.0.

This needs some deep thinking and research before we can even attempt incorporating into our current strategy workbench. Again, some work for me in 2012.


I never felt comfortable with the moniker given to me by my boss: “Evangelist – Social CRM“. Yes, I do talk a lot about Social CRM in various fora, but I am much more. I am a tinkerer, thinker and connector. Though I started as a tinkerer, of late, I am becoming more of a thinker. And a bit of connector, of ideas, of people, of resources, of markets. I learn and work by tinkering, thinking and connecting; and thus I innovate.

I also look ahead into the far future, much like a science fiction writer, maybe because I am in love with those books since a very young age. But I am not alone or without precedent. In fact, Intel Futurist Brian Johnson does just that! That’s someone who I can aim to be, a Futurist.

So what are your ideas for 2012? What are you working on? What else do you think I should be looking into? How can I help you in 2012?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Prem Kumar Aparanji
SCRM Evangelist @ Cognizant. Additional knowledge in BPM, QA, Innovations, Solutions, Offshoring from previous roles as developer, tester, consultant, manager. Interested in FLOSS, Social Media, Social Networks & Rice Writing. Love SF&F books. Blessed with a loving wife & a curious kid. :)


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