It’s inevitable that I will get the question. You’d think by now that I would learn to expect it…that I would prepare for it…or have a response that would be purely second nature. But I don’t. I’ve no standard answer that automatically inspires anyone in the moment to take action. And, to this day, I neither expect the question nor do I have a rehearsed or standard riposte committed to memory.
So what is “the question?”
Social media is a global phenomenon indeed. Certainly Facebook, Twitter, Google+, in their own way, each make the world a much smaller place. The distance between any two people is shrinking as the number of network connections continues to proliferate. I’m sure you’ve heard at one point or another, that the distance between two people in an offline world is six degrees. In a recent Facebook study for example, the average degree of separation between two people in the network is only 4.74. When focused on one country specifically, such as the U.S., Sweden, or Italy, among others, the number of hops between two people further shrinks to 3.74.
Marketers, educators, parents, it seems that almost anyone in the Generation X or Boomer demographic is scratching their heads trying to figure out Generation Y aka the Millennial. After all, it’s the first generation to seemingly possess digital prowess as part of their DNA. And, it’s the first generation to receive both a birth certificate and a social profile or presence upon delivery into this world.
With a looming $10 billion IPO on the horizon and a community that’s estimated to hit 1 billion users this Fall, Facebook seems unstoppable. Yet on one important front, the store front that is, Facebook has exposed an imperfection. People are not proving ready to actually buy goods and services in Facebook – at least not at the scale retailers are used to seeing through traditional e-commerce. And suddenly, many question the role Facebook actually plays in the monetization strategy of any business.
Social media is about social science not technology. As such, its value is not realized in the Likenomics of relationship status nor in the scores individuals earn by engaging in social networks. The value of social media comes down to people, relationships, and the meaningful actions between them. As such, its value is measured through the exchange of social currencies that contribute to one’s capital within each network. Through conversations, what we share, and the content we create, consume and curate, we individually invest in the commerce of information and the relationships that naturally unfold. It is in how these relationships take shape that is both in and out of your control. This is why, in the age of social networking, relevant engagement counts for everything.
In an era of Digital Darwinism, no business is too big to fail or too small to succeed…this is your time.
Many follow, but very few lead.
Many compete to survive, but few compete for relevance.
Do we listen to our customers? Do we truly understand them?
Do we create experiences or do we simply react?
The future of business comes down to one word…change.
This is a new era that redefines everything.
An era of empowered consumers and employees.
Will we fall to natural selection or will we rise to lead the revolution.
This is our time to make business relevant.
Because people, after all, are everything.
Digital Influence is one of the hottest trends in social media and it is also one of the least understood. Klout, PeerIndex, Kred among many others are investing millions of dollars to understand how our social media activity translates into influence. The market for influence is only heating up with more entrants expected to debut and acquisitions or mergers likely on the horizon. Within the last 90 days alone, Klout took in a Series C of $30 million from Kleiner Perkins at a whopping valuation of $200 million. PeerIndex also recently announced an investment of $3 million.
About three weeks ago, I celebrated my first anniversary as Principal Analyst of Altimeter Group. And, it is with great pride that I mark the occasion with the release of my first official Altimeter report, “The Rise of Digital Influence.” Not a traditional market report, it was written as both a primer and a how-to guide for businesses to spark desirable effects and outcomes through social media influence.
With all of the momentum social media has earned over the years, the reality is that still today, it is very much siloed in marketing. The aspiration of using social technology to build a social business is not yet within grasp. In many ways, social media is much more about media than it is about opening two-way channels for interaction where information, empathy, and resolution travel inward and outward with all parties walking away with a sense of value and affinity. For what is a relationship without benefit or bond?
In 2007, I wrote an article entitled, “Social Media is About Sociology Not Technology.” It’s a statement that after five years (and counting), I thankfully continue to see shared every day on Twitter. As time passed and experience matured, I amended that statement to now read, “Social media is about social science not technology.”
Why did I change such a powerful statement? I believe that it is not only stronger now, it is also truer.
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.