The headline calls attention to everything that’s wrong with how businesses measure engagement in social media today. Businesses that invest any level of marketing resources in networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and the like (get it?) are being groomed to focus on soft metrics instead of the relevant activity that signals the strength and worth of a community. By weighing conversations, interactions, and views, businesses are fed raw numbers that demonstrate KPIs but they do not offer the insights necessary to glean ROI or deep understanding of what people do and do not want, need, or value. And that’s part of the problem as marketers and developers are focusing on stimulating movement, which by default becomes a game of competing for attention, moment by moment.
I recently had the privilege of presenting at the GDOL Digital Talkfest in Istanbul. The focus of the event was very much in line with my current work. GDOL tracks the new generation of consumers who do everything online and the impact they now have on popular culture, society and ultimately business. I refer to this generation as Generation-C.
The digital landscape continues to undergo a significant shift that will have profound effects on business this year. The challenge is that hardly any business leaders noticed. That’s not their fault however. Even through the impact of technology on business and consumer behavior was widely reported, in depth reports on what to do next or how this will affect their business specifically were scant at best.
Disruptive technology is the bearer of tremendous opportunity and equally a harbinger of obsolescence. Technology’s impact on society and business is substantial, if not underestimated. As technology continues to become part of everyday life, it becomes disruptive in how people communicate, work, and connect. The evolution of society and technology happens with or without adaptation or understanding. And, it’s contributing to a very real phenomenon of Digital Darwinism, a situation where organizations are faced with a need to adapt to markets and customer behavior or risk a loss in favor, competitive advantage or worse, irrelevance.
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.
Brian Solis is principal at Altimeter Group, a research firm focused on disruptive technology. A digital analyst, anthropologist, and futurist, Solis has studied and influenced the effects of emerging technology on business, marketing, and culture. Solis is also globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders and published authors in new media. His new book, What's the Future of Business (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold and flourish 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. Prior to End of Business, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.