3 Realities of Social Media

Guest post by Michael Brito. Follow him on Twitter, add him on Facebook or read his blog.


Source: Shutterstock

This post is a reflection of my personal experiences working in the enterprise and does not reflect the point of view of previous or current employer.

Reality #1: Consumers already get it; brands are still trying to figure it out

Consumers use the social web to talk about everything including products. Sometimes they are praiseworthy, sometimes not. There are no strategic meetings or secret gatherings where consumers discuss which products to talk about and when. They just happen, and happen organically. And at times – at the demise of some brands — these conversations can reach the mainstream media as it did with Motrin.

Brands want to be involved. They want to influence and change behavior. Some listen to the above conversations and some don’t. The smart ones not only listen but act on the collective feedback from the community. Unfortunately, some organizations aren’t structured internally to effectively manage social media externally. This makes it extremely difficult for brand marketers to take action. Brands are still learning; and are beginning to change internal processes in order to keep up with external market conditions, in this case the social web. The brands that are proactive like Starbucks and Dell are one step ahead of the brands that take a more reactive approach.

Reality #2: Brands should focus on the people first, tools last

Over the last 6 – 12 months, many brands have created Twitter accounts to engage with their constituency. While this isn’t a bad thing, I believe that brands should be trying to figure out which tool(s) their consumers will be using tomorrow. The reality is that social media tools and technologies change everyday. People change and the way people use these tools change everyday. Not everyone uses Twitter other than early adopters, influencers and celebrity stalkers. Brands today can now bypass influencers and engage directly with consumers, especially if they pay close attention to where they spend their time online.

I wonder how many brands are engaged in conversations in relevant blogs, forums and discussion boards. I believe that the conversations here may be even more valuable than the ones in Twitter, since they are probably closer down the purchase funnel. The Best Buy forums are a great example of where a multitude of conversations are taking place about various products.

Reality #3: There is no such thing as a social media expert quite yet

Yup, I said it and I believe it. First and foremost, social media is about humanity. It gives brands the opportunity to step from behind the corporate shadow and engage in real life dialogue with others. With that said, being an expert in human behavior is not something one can accomplish just from blogging, tweeting or speaking at conferences.

One form of an expert is a sociologist; and they spend many years researching human behavior, creating surveys, acquiring and analyzing data and then using the information to base logical predictions, conclusions and hypothesis. And, they usually have patients too. Not followers or subscribers, but real life patients. A two-minute video on how to increase your twitter followers and use Bit.ly links is probably not a viable comparison to an expert.

Additionally, branding one’s self with social media is much different than helping a brand connect with people online. Every organization has a different culture, business processes, policies & procedures, web infrastructure, perspectives on customers & marketing, human capital, etc. Not to mention that they have different products and services; and let’s not forget that the regulated industries too. Unless you have ever worked behind the firewall of an enterprise, you can only imagine the chaos that can ensue when trying to find the right opportunity to begin using social media and then doing it the right way. It’s a learning process and yes, there are times when you fail. I’ve been there.

A true “expert” in mind is someone who is always learning how consumers behave and interact within the social web; and then figuring out how a brand can leverage that moment in a meaningful way to create a memorable brand experience. And even then, they are still probably not an expert.

If you want to get to know me a little better, you can find me hanging out on Twitter for most of the day or writing in my social media blog.

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  • lizzymagvire

    Excellent. This is just the kind of exceptional service that many of us early believers and customers expected.
    fitflop

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  • justsail

    It's great to have the difference in advertising a brand through social media and having a brand connect with people though social media pointed out. Many people believe that social media is a way to reach consumers with their advertisements, but it's more than that. Social media users will quickly begin to disregard anything that that brand puts out once if it's merely ads, ads, ads; there has to be some element of personal connection there between the brand and its consumers.

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  • http://blog.thoughtpick.com/ Beiruta

    You are right: there are no social media experts yet, thus, there are no social media “gurus” as well! We are all still learning and developing through usage and trial/error.

    Although some know more than others, the truth remains that we are all still ignorant to the ins and outs of social media in a comprehensive organized manner!

    Great read… Thanks

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  • http://twitter.com/teasastips LaTease Rikard

    This represents a first in the mind of corporate America, “people get it, brands don't”—the internet is evolving into a people driven entity, where our behaviors, our interests are driving search and consumerism. It will be interesting to watch the trends this Christmas as reports are being released that consumers will again shop less this holiday season. I predict consumers will look for more online deals than ever before, and social media will be used as a conduit to find the best deals.

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  • seantmcvey

    I agree most with the fact that nobody is yet a social media expert. Every company is different, technology is constantly changing, and the adapters will prevail. It appears the conversations online are replacing old school branding and marketing techniques which makes sense. The problem is that social media and online conversations take time to develop and it is difficult to connect these methods to the bottom line. How do I convince old school clients to invest a year or more in social media without concrete results? I have had many discussions on this topic and I am continually experimenting with metrics and analytics. Just curious though, how do you all convince the old school to invest?

  • Scarlett PencilPoint

    Just an FYI, in point number 2, it should read “every day” — two words. “Everyday” written as one word is an adjective, as in “this is my everyday coat, not my dressy coat.” Hope that helps.

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  • http://www.hotmailemail.us hotmail email

    I am actually more concerned with 79% SMBs spending less than $5,000 a year in marketing,
    which is probably the one thing typical about these respondents and all SMBs. This indicates they don’t believe in spending on marketing or marketing is worth the money.

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  • http://www.jetsetplumbing.com.au/ Bullaman

    Organisations have a long way to go to even remotely understanding social media…even those actively engaged in online marketing activties. And with this lack of understanding, anyone presenting themselves as an “expert” will often be accepted as one.

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  • http://twitter.com/eggmarketing Susan Payton

    Great post. I'm excited to see how these realities shift in a few years. More and more, I'm seeing Twitter mentioned in mainstream media, like on the UFC fight, or in Travel + Leisure magazine. I like that. I want more of it, because Twitter and social media are my language. And I like businesses that speak my language.

  • http://www.twitterthoughts.com RogerJH

    Good post, Michael, thank you for sharing. How interesting that most of your comments are around your assertion that there are no experts. I think I get what you are trying to say. The problem is that if you look at the definition of expert, it's hard to argue that some people in social media are more “expert” than others. That is, the word can be an adjective as well as a noun. Of course, we don't want to bog down in semantics! That said, when transparency and integrity online are so important today (in this age of spammers and e-charlatans), if someone calls themselves an expert, they need to justify that. So if Brian Solis (himself an expert?) says there is no such thing, it throws a negative light on those peoples' reputations and sense of worth. So I would say that some people are more expert than others but whether they call themselves an expert or not is a moot point. It's just a label.

  • smartwomenstupidcomputers

    I love this post and I agree wholeheartedly. We do not have any social media “experts” quite yet.
    This is still in it's infancy and evolving. I am a web/blog designer, teacher and speaker so I am often asked my advice in these areas.
    I try to warn my clients to use caution when hiring “social media experts”, just as some of my clients have gotten so burned with so called “SEO” experts.
    Finally I have found great success, and new clients, by participation in relevant forums and actually developing trust and helping others. I advise my clients to do the same. I still believe in the end, it is all about relationships and building trust and great customer service.

    • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

      Smartwomenstupidcomputers: your point about relationship and building trust and customer service is right on the money. Hotmail e-mail is right when she says that small business may not spend much money on marketing but the challenge is to know:

      a) where to spend the money for marketing most effectively, AND
      b) where and how social media comes in for a smaller company doing B2B

      Moreover, why should small businesses even know better if the big luxury brands fail miserably at this as well?

      http://commetrics.com/articles/engaging-for-rea

      Brian thanks for this post, nice and to-the-point as usual.

      Urs
      @ComMetrics

  • http://www.twitter.com/ladyleet ladyleet

    awesome post, michael! way to put things frankly.

  • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

    Smartwomenstupidcomputers: your point about relationship and building trust and customer service is right on the money. Hotmail e-mail is right when she says that small business may not spend much money on marketing but the challenge is to know:

    a) where to spend the money for marketing most effectively, AND
    b) where and how social media comes in for a smaller company doing B2B

    Moreover, why should small businesses even know better if the big luxury brands fail miserably at this as well?

    http://commetrics.com/articles/engaging-for-rea

    Brian thanks for this post, nice and to-the-point as usual.

    Urs
    @ComMetrics

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ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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