Brian Solis at ConnectNow on The Human Network in an Interconnected World

These are my notes from a presentation by Brian Solis at the ConnectNow conference in Sydney.

Engage or Die by Hugh MacLeod


New media is affecting the culture of business to make us more front-facing and dynamic with the public we're engaging with. We are all in this room because we're change agents; we're the people effecting change from within, and at some point we get this massive dent in our forehead from smacking our heads against the door of the executive suite. What it comes down to is this: everything you know about social media could be wrong.

The truth is that we are paying attention to how people are talking about all these great case studies about Zappos and Dell (and Dell and Zappos), but we're starting from the position of "Everything begins with me..." It's Social "Me"dia. We come to it with our personal experiences -- the passion we have for what we've been doing on Facebook and Twitter on our own, and that doesn't have very much to do with business. We really don't understand the dynamics of new media as they fit within the culture of business.

All those blog posts about how to use social media for business are people's opinions: "I will write about this until it sounds correct." We are looking to others as if they were more qualified to answer these questions that we're actually totally qualified to answer ourselves.

At the end of the day, this is the real world, and businesses have things they have to do every day -- we have to fit what we're learning to how they see the world, and that's not a bad thing, it's an opportunity for us. We are defining a new era of society and how we ultimately connect and communicate with one another.

He doesn't see a 140-character, asynchronous conversation as the same thing as a nice warm hug. Are we really talking about relationships with those hundreds of thousands of fans? Dunbar said we can only maintain 150 -- so what is the engagement? "Thanks for the tweet..." What we call a relationship is changing, and that's okay.

But we have a lot of assholes out there who don't necessarily see the opportunity for what it is, so instead of embracing change, we challenge it. The reality is that we all have to go back to a job, and that job is going to be dependent on connecting what we learn here today with what we have to do at work tomorrow. We're hoping executives have an "A-ha!" moment, but he doesn't get hired from the "A-ha!" moment -- he gets hired from the "Uh-oh!" moment :-)

Here's a myth about social media: it's free and easy! It's not. We know there are hard costs to all of this -- your time is not free! So he looks at this as a conductor. The thing about social media is that, because it's so "free and easy", there's no shortage of rogues across the organization who take it upon themselves to create a Twitter profile or Facebook fan page for the company. But without a conductor to say, "This is how we want to appear as a company, this is our mission, this is where we're going," you have a bunch of jazz improvisationalists. You don't want to risk that kind of brand dilution on such powerful media.

Social networks are for conversations, not customers. Social media engagement affects every step of discovery, purchasing and buyer's experiences.

Here's another myth: if we don't create these social media profiles, we won't have to hear our customers complain. (Again, a reference that resonates with my Social Media Insider post this morning!) Customer service is the new marketing -- it's not just about engaging with customers who are having problems, it's about connecting with customers at every step of the process, so you can influence the decision in your favor.

Here's a myth straight from BusinessWeek: "Some of the most avid users of Facebook and MySpace are pimply adolescents and goth teenagers." The average age of a Twitter user is 39 years old. The average age of a Twitter user is 38.

People spend 7 hours a day on Facebook, and if you're not engaging with them there you're missing the opportunity to earn relevance.

Another myth: increased Twitter usage decreases productivity. Brian ran a poll: 49% said they don't get distracted, a quarter said yes they do get distracted, and the rest said they're not sure either way. But what's really the difference between that and phones, PCs, instant messaging, etc?

We now possess the ability to steer and shape perception and conversations. Do not mistake this for control, or the illusion of control. You never had control! It's just a myth! You had it all the way up until your messages were disseminated. The second they left your hands you lost control over them. Social media is so powerful precisely because you can continue to engage with people and determine whether or not your participation is going to steer the conversation in a direction you want.

His favorite myth: viral marketing. There is no such thing as a viral video. You can't make a viral video. They don't become viral until they become viral. Viral marketing doesn't work; tell everyone you know. Even if they do go viral, what does it mean? What does having a million YouTube views mean to you?

How do you define influence? He defines it as the ability to inspire action and measure it. Hugh MacLeod said, "Word of mouth marketing is not created, it's co-created." You have to be open to that, and that's why the culture of an organization needs to open up and shift.

The other discussion he loves having is ROI -- Return on Ignorance vs. Return on Investment. There's this power shift in organisations, that if they can ask the question about ROI and you can't answer it, then that gives them a basis to not fund it. So Brian came up with the Conversation Prism:

The Conversation Prism


The Prism is a map of all the social networks. Money doesn't grow on trees, but it does grow on Tweets. 80% of consumers in a recent survey stated that following a brand on Twitter results in referrals. For businesses the opportunity is everything because referrals are shifting online.

We all report to someone who doesn't really care about transparency or authenticity, so we have to know how we're going to finish this sentence: we'd better be transparent, or...

The social landscape is emotional; it's affinity marketing. You need to connect with people based on their heart, their mind, their soul, their passion. All of those things are emotional attributes, and transparency isn't.

Who owns social media? If you're a champion for change, at some point you need to shift from being a champion for change to being a politician -- we need to be able to speak to the C-Suite and to business owners in the way they understand. It takes people like us who are not just passionate about it, but who can connect the dots for all the decision makers who are going to make the difference.

Who owns social media? Not PR, marketing, customer service... it's the entire company. It's like asking who owns email (ok, IT owns email).

How many of you have ever dealt with a brand style guide? Most of us... how many have a style guide for social media? (Missing Link does, and we define them for our clients!) If you don't have one, you're not doing your job, because you'll be diluting your brand.

Integration is confusing, especially when the lines get blurred between personal and professional. Think about Disneyland, where the staff go off to their secret stash places to take their masks off -- that's really profound. It means you never confuse who they are with the brand they represent.

There are conversations out there that say something that will make your case, each and every time, and it's up to you to put it all together and demonstrate the opportunity in a way that changes perception. That's how you learn to lead. Everything starts with listening and research.

That's where the Conversation Prism comes in. We think we only have these famous social networks -- but user boards and forums are HUGE! For some companies those outlets completely trump Twitter. The things you learn when you listen and do research is that you get opportunities to understand what people love about you and what you need to do better.

Social media is about sociology and psychology more so than technology. Engagement is altogether different -- it comes down to person-to-person interaction. If he sent a massive email blast to everyone in this room, would we appreciate it? Probably not. But some companeis are doing this. It's not so much about who's a fan today, it's about who isn't a fan that makes this such a wonderful opportunity, and in order to find those people we have to go where they are, we have to find comfort outside our comfort zone.

We need to understand the people we're trying to engage with before we connect with them -- are they conversationalists, producers, connectors, curators? If you can connect with them in a way that says you have understood them, you're satisfying one of the biggest needs people have: recognition. You have to understand what makes them tick, so they can appreciate the fact that you can answer the question, "Why should I listen to you?"

Most people, when they create content strategies, totally ignore the fact that it's real people on the other side. Our audience is looking for us to have empathy. If you can demonstrate to someone that you understand their challenges, their decisions, their hurdles, then you can be someone they'll pay attention to. You're no longer a marketer, you're a peer. All of this comes down to becoming the people we want to reach and inspire. If you're not understanding who these people are and what makes them tick, you're missing the point!

Attention becomes the major currency in content commerce. Tweetdeck and HootSuite are the slot machines where we consume media. We have to figure out how to get on the attention dashboard. It's about becoming the CNN of the marketplace -- anyone can be your buddy, but not everyone can be a resource. This is where a lot of companies fall down, on the creation of content, because nobody has time for it. If you're not giving them posts or relevant data, then you haven't earned anything from them.

We engage in a social ecosystem, but where do we send them? When people check out your profile and click that link, do they end up at a crappy Web 1.0 website where the engagement dies?

Be believable. That has nothing to do with social media -- it's just good business. That means you understand me and you're willing to help me. It takes work to earn that trust within social networks. That's why a lot of people call this a "Trust Economy". Trust makes people do something -- emotion is the last mile to true engagement.

We're measured by our actions, not our words. In the end, we earn the relationships, trust and reputation we deserve. At some point, we have to stop asking questions and start answering them for ourselves, and start writing our own. Start answering your own questions. You're the only person in the room who knows what you have to deal with when you leave here. Your life, your professional career, the decisions you have to make are unique to you, and those answers aren't on Google. Studying the social web to understand how your markets are conversing, that tells you everything about not just what they're saying but what moves them. And that's how we sway the C-Suite -- not by saying, "I don't know wy we should, but that's what Dell does!"

#ThisisYourTime -- this is your moment to change what you do and who you do it for based on intelligenece. All the answers lie in the research, and that research is free. You just need to do it.

Missing Link is a proud member of the Buy1GIVE1 community. By doing business with us, you provide speech therapy to hearing-impaired children in India. It's all part of improving understanding in the world.