Simply put, it is in our DNA to be social. We like sharing, engaging and having fun, cocktail parties, backyard Bar-B-ques, name your favorite. When something good happens, we want to tell the world, when something bad, we need a shoulder to lean on. We want to be heard, on our terms, in our voice. However, Social does not equate to group, it is more than that.
The Social Individual
We have been doing this for a very long time. Up until very recently, we only did this face to face, one on one and in small groups. We then we scattered; moved away from friends, moved away from family and it was/is a bit traumatic. We worked to fill the void, we needed the social part. We wrote letters, then we used the phone; good not great. Then the Internet happened, email, chat, AOL, we were stuck behind our computers, 9600 baud and still struggling, getting closer… Then Web 2.0 happened, along with increased bandwidth, FaceBook, YouTube, Twitter and everything became clear, or did it?
We are substituting technology for proximity. However, there is simply nothing like being there, sorry, it just is. A handshake, eye contact, body language and tone cannot be replaced, no matter how hard we try. It all begs the question, how close can technology get us? Answer: It is a asymptotic relationship, we will progress, but there is a ceiling and we will never get there (Not until you can say, “beam me up Scotty”). To some, the direction we are headed is not quite correct.
Enter the Social Customer
Individually-empowered customers are the ultimate greenfield for business and culture. Starting with the social keeps us from working on empowering individuals natively. That most of the social action is in silos and pipes of hot and/or giant companies slows things down even more. They may look impressive now, but they are a drag on the future. Doc Searls
Somehow in the Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 transition we moved from one on one interactions to a focus on many to many. Parts of the switch are good, but some need to work themselves out. Friend and colleague, Graham Hill, makes the following statement (In his Manifesto for Social Business).
No.1 From Individual Customers…to Networks of Customers
The emphasis for business today is still on managing customers as individuals. But we have evolved as social animals with highly developed and highly influential social networks. For example, research by Christakis & Fowler suggests that we are highly influenced by three degrees of influence – friends, friends’ friends and friends’ friends’ friends. It’s not about ‘influencers’ per se, but the social networks in which influence happens. If we are to be successful in Social Business we must recognise the power of customers’ social networks to shape customers’ behaviour.
At first, these statements, made by very smart individuals, seem to contradict each other. But, read deeper, there is something more valuable here, from my perspective. While we struggle to manage the individual customer (we may or may not succeed), we must recognize the customer as an individual and empower them in everything we do, from strategy to design and then finally in execution – fostering the individual within the crowd, that sounds hard.
How can you empower the Social Customer?
The first step is to assemble your team – first empower yourself!. I am a big fan of Friendsourcing; Crowdsourcing focused on people you know and trust. I highly recommend this approach. In other words, this is complicated stuff, and no one person has all the answers, sorry, it just is… Friendsourcing can be accomplished either by leveraging your own personal network (friends) or by reputation (friends of friends). We are in fast moving, fast changing times, and sometimes it is just too easy to believe the hype about that shiny new object. My peers should certainly expect this to appear here, ‘there is no one size fits all answer to these questions’. You can only answer the crucial questions: ‘How’, ‘What’, ‘Where’ and ‘When’, with a combination of a deep understanding of your business, your value proposition, dedication to your customers and a better knowledge of your industry than anyone else. Fill-in the gaps appropriately, with people you trust.
I am leveraging people I trust, all the time. For example Esteban Kolsky is busy writing a 5 part series on the Roadmap to SCRM (Social CRM), which I highly recommend. Like Graham, Esteban is a friend and a trusted advisor. The following is taken from part 4 of his series.
Remember when you read those “social media experts” and “social gurus” telling you to just try it? that if you start listening you will be ahead of the game? I know you know this already, but they are way wrong. Way wrong. Just listening without a purpose can hurt more than it can help. Biggest problem is that once you are committed to a channel (listening) it is very easy to get in, but extremely hard to get out. You can lose reputation, trust, customers, and business if you pull out of a channel because you never took the time to figure out if it was the right one for you.
The key message here is to be cautious, all too often the “gurus” and “experts” pretend to be King, as did the the one-eyed man in the land of the blind. Challenge the gurus with the Social Media strategies, not just to challenge, but to ask them how they did it. How many times have they done it, if they have done it. These experts need to have a solid grounding in Marketing, and Media (not necessarily ‘Social’) first.
The current hype cycle that is Social (Media and by extension Networking) is very much about creating that feeling of closeness (emotions) and changing behaviors, between your organization and your customers. Make no mistake, while there is some hype, there is a new bar, and expectations have been set and reset.
Your customers are building their trust networks, I have my trusted advisors, who are yours? No need to make the journey solo, after all, we are all Social, we just are….