We all thought social media was a wondrous new utopia of democracy and free self-expression
Turns out, of course, people are still people; not only are the lambs not quite as lamby as we might like (London Riots, Arab Spring) but the powerful still oppress those beneath them in the food chain – they get to use this technology too (Arab Spring repercussions, All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace).
But perhaps more dangerously, it can make us complacent. We think we’re being big brave lions, when really we’re lazy kittens, reassuring ourselves that we’re being innovative and creative when really we’re sleepwalking.
Hence the title of this presentation, which I thought was particularly pertinent considering we’re in a sort of Eden right now (and is also inspired by the fact that, pretentious little Geek that I am, I think you can learn pretty much anything you need from Shakespeare, John Milton and Al Swearengen). Where are we right now with our thinking about social media, both personally and for business? What have we learnt over the past few years that it’s been around? And how can we move forward to something that is perhaps less hyped but certainly more grounded, useful and rooted in common sense, and which will continue to enhance our lives and businesses long after Facebook is a fuzzy blue memory?
So. Lets face the demon, briefly. No stats, no graphs, no likes, no follows, I promise.
Writing a book has been a revelation for me, because it has made me take a step back from the seductive busyness of social media, turn off my iPhone and my browser, and really think. Really try to innovate. A while back I took a train to a cottage to do some writing, and I wrote a blog about it. Here’s an extract: I got more done - in Moleskines on delayed Great Westerns crawling between rural villages; in the red-flecked blackness behind my closed eyes as I dozed on scratchy lawns - than I have Being Very Busy at my laptop for weeks. Because, rather than browsing, consuming, reacting and opining I was thinking, which was quite an odd sensation… One problem with my social media multitasking is the erosion of my attention span. Another is the echo chamber effect. Perhaps most dangerous of all is the self-important sense I have of always being part of something, always busy doing stuff that is urgent and important and worthy of my time, when really I am just tinkering around the edges of life - absorbing, organising and communicating, yes - but not creating, not with originality, or insight, or true, generous purpose. It got more hits than any post to date and a whole raft of interesting comments. Because I think we’re all being super seduced into thinking social platforms help us innovate, when really we aren’t using them that way,
This prompted a big question for me. One, are we using these innovations to actually create, or are we just *being creative*? One of the things I read was this: Making Ideas Happen by productivity guru Scott Belsky, who I believe actually gave a talk in the Like Minds book club in London earlier this year. The book claims to help creative types &quot;overcome the obstacles between vision and reality&quot;. For example: to confidently quell the resistance triggered by our lizard brains, we must choose our projects wisely and then execute without remorse. His point is what I was feeling my way towards on the train: coming up with ideas, creating, being innovative, is easy. Seeing it through to execution, thinking through all the fine details, working your ass off hard on one project after another, completing each before you move onto the next, is sodding difficult. Steve Jobs was not a genius because he had great ideas, but because he was by all accounts a seriously, maddeningly tenacious SOB who just kept producing rather than talking about it. To paraphrase Malcolm Gladwell’s Outlliers, genius comes from the hours you put in. That means in both creating innovation and using innovative platforms to create. Social media is dangerously indulgent of the lizard brain.
And there’s been a second challenge brewing in my brain, thanks to this. Yes, it’s awards season again – well, in fact it seems to be awards season every month nowadays. Of course Cannes Lions marketing awards is the big one, and a couple of months ago there was a lot of hype about a number of big social media campaigns. But there’s a bit of a feeling of the echo chamber here. Most of these campaigns are feted and circulated inside the marketing industry, but I wonder how many real people actually have their behaviour affected by this stuff. Take this blog post I found earlier this week, on Adaged.blogspot.com, where George Tennenbaum talks about the future of advertising. I'm 53 years old. My wife is a jot older. Together, we make more than 99.7% of the world's population. We have two kids. One's a Doctoral student in Psychology. The other is entering her Sophomore year at an elite private college. We live in 10028, one of the wealthiest zip codes in the country. We have in our household seven computers. We have high-speed connectivity. We are all on Facebook. We Skype each other. We IM. We even toss in an occasional tweet. We spend more time online than we do sleeping. We travel internationally. We read incessantly. We watch a modicum of television. In short, it might be expected that we are the people advertisers need to reach. With, I suppose few exceptions, none of us have seen anything that was featured and feted in Cannes over the last ten days. The irrelevant are creating and rewarding the irrelevant.
Because it’s also important to remember that the vast majority of word of mouth – that thing, according to McKinsey, that drives from between 20 and 50& of our purchases, still occurs offline. Yes, online platforms help to amplify and spread that WOM, but the emotional experiences that drive it nearly always occur in the real world.
So businesses using social media are tending to fall into two traps. One is the over-reliance on the spike. The hit of buzz.The viral. The idea of having one cool gimmick or event (think Tmobile flashmobs, Old Spice man) which stirs up loads of buzz but then – kind of – goes nowhere. It wastes all the energy it generates. And it usually relies on either a lot of money, or a lot of luck.
The second trap is that of the lovely shiny thing. We see this everywhere in the music industry, and indeed in every industry. Lots of pretty Facebook pages and Twitter feeds tied to beautiful websites with plenty of followers, pumping out lots and lots of content. Hoorah! Content! But often no-one running the pages is able to quite define exactly what this stuff is doing for them, business-wise. We have all this – stuff. What do we do with it now?
So. Lets face the demon, briefly. No stats, no graphs, no likes, no follows, I promise.
Anyone know what this means? Shameful level of ancient Greek in the room. This is the word for ‘I fasten onto’ or ‘I touch’ and it had been adopted to denote the field of haptics – things defined through their function to touch people. What you need to be aiming for in today’s highly social, interconnected, transmedia, on and offline world is haptic impact. Moving the emotional dial. Making people feel something, which in terms stimulates real emotional reactivity, word of mouth, and ultimately commercial action.
Here’s an example of one way we achieved this for Nokia. Their navigation tools and accessories are industry leaders, but get very little social attention. They’re just not as conversational as the handsets. And they didn’t just want mobile tech nerds to be evangelising them – they wanted recommendations out there from a range of folk, dads, car fans, musos. So we created an immersive on and offline experience that brought true haptic impact to the simple trial programme.
But where do you even start if you want to create something with this real emotional or haptic impact? Not by setting up a Facebook page or creating a funny YouTube video, that’s for sure. You have to reach behind the reactions and understand the univeral psychological and behavioural drivers that make people talk, share and recommend. So I’m going to quickly run you through four of the best which we use at 1000heads every day, with case studies of how businesses are harnessing them with real results.
First up is authenticity, surely the buzzword of social marketing. In a quote from their excellent book book ‘Authenticity’: What consumers really want’, Jim Gilmore and Jo Pine explain that “Individuals long for authenticity, but struggle with how to gain it. Businesses long to fulfil that need by selling authenticity, but cannot really provide it. Yet consumers do perceive many inherently inauthentic offerings – as they do countries, cities, places, and nature – as undeniably authentic; so enterprises must learn the discipline of rendering their offerings as real” One company that does this really effectively is Starbucks. Their CEO Howard Schulz puts authenticity at the heart of their business philosophy; a few years back, when they were really struggling, he outlined to his company that “ Authenticity is what we stand for. It ’ s part of who we are. If we compromise who we are to achieve higher profits, what have we accomplished? Eventually all our customers would figure it out…Let ’ s get back to the core. ” But he ’ s really careful to focus on what feels authentic to them, to listen to how they talk and how trends move and adapt quickly. So, first coffee shop to provide a loyalty card. First to use all free trade coffee. When people craved something more personal, he started to redesign local cafes. Then with the advent of social media they created the My Starbucks Idea crowdsourcing forum and blog. They are constantly evolving and adapting to *remain* authentic, which is a moving goalpost.
Next up, disruption. Disruption does not mean surprise. It goes beyond that, it is a specific term explaining how our brains normalise. RC Anderson, a US educational psychologist, first wrote about brain schemas, the webs of association we set in our brains to allow us to get on with living life. When those schemas are disrupted we simply have to talk to others to make sense of this topsy turvy world. It is the original thinking behind the talking cure. We heal by sharing. Brain schemas are great at saving time and energy for higher evolutionary purposes – we trust that gravity will keep us on the earth, we know what an egg means and how to behave around it – but terrible for marketing. We filter ruthlessly. Disrupting context – what we expect to happen in certain locations – can be very powerful, as this next case study shows. So, the following case study went viral on social, but only because of a real experience fuelled by behavioural science aimed at achieving haptic impact.
Gamers are no longer grubby boys sitting in their pants playing WoW. There’s an incredible shift. Nearly one-half of US social network users now play social games, making it the fifth most popular social networking activity, ahead of watching videos or searching for new contacts. 28% of all female internet users play games such as FarmVille and Mafia Wars. Gaming is well and truly mainstream; we are addicted. But that doesn’t mean you should go out and make some Facebook games and iPad apps. What’s really interesting here is *why* games are so addictive, why we are so eager to share them. There is a whole academic field in gaming mechanics – one of the best proponents is Prof Jane McGonigal, who you can see online delivering an awesome TED speech on games as happiness engines. She identifies four ways in which games are addictive: Connect with others in a collective experience Be part of something bigger than ourselves Actively do something concrete Feel we ’re good at something And if you start to really specifically build those pay-offs into your products and your marketing, you’re onto a winner. This is a fantastic case study of how they employed gaming mechanics to spark a social landslide pre-release of the movie The Dark Knight.
A guy called Emmett Rogers wrote a book Diffusion of Innovation in the 70s that is largely the model we follow in courting social influence today. Give something to an influencer and it is directly passed along his interconnected web of community. It’s how most blogger outreach programmes work. But in his recent book ‘Anatomy of a Trend, German psychologist Patrick Veiklgaard described something much more organic and amorphous: the trend process, where disconnected but likeminded and highly sensually sensitive individuals - usually musicians students, artists, directors, writers - collide in certain favourable contexts – Borlange’s Peace & Love festival, maybe, or Shoreditch in London – and absorb and adapt the tastes and mashups others are pioneering. Usually brands come in at the very end of this process, when it is all but dead, so how can we get them there when it is hot, healthy and flourishing? How can you use peoples’ front doors, pavements, drawing pencils, artistic districts to spread the experience of your music or your product? Mini’s Christmas box guerilla campaign is a good example.
I just want to conclude with a few words about what all this means for the future of how businesses will start to reconcile themselves to, and work with, the social influence that is becoming so global and powerful. I believe that social media departments and gurus and campaigns will fall away in favour of something called social business: an ethic of social influence, behaviour and technology that will be embedded into a company from inside out, from their internal comms to their HR, from their product development to their recruitment to, yes, their marketing. And this is totally transferable regardless of your size, location or industry
Much of the thinking behind social business is old – the idea that companies should be more like organisms than machines, that they should be transparent and constantly reaching outwards for dialogue and collaboration, that they should be driven by a sense of shared purpose as much as profit. It’s been around from Elton Mayo’s 1920s Hawthorne Experiments to the 1946 Tavistock Institute to Karl Weick in the 1970s. But two new factors are now in play: the general cultural hunger for this to happen – nay the demand from a new generation who won’t work any other way – and the technology to make it happen. So my one takeaway piece of advice an hour later would be: shut up. Take a step back. Think about people, and think about how everything you do can start to build an integrated model of communication and adaptation where your products, your people and the way you work are inherently social, both online and in the real world. That’s when the really exciting stuff starts to happen. Maybe Trigger 2012.
Book 12, Paradise Lost “ This having learnt, thou hast attained the sum Of Wisdom; hope no higher, though all the Stars Thou knew’st by name, and all th’ ethereal Powers, All secrets of the deep, all Nature’s works, Or works of God in Heav’n, Air, Earth, or Sea, And all riches of this World enjoy’dst, And all the rule, one Empire: only add Deeds to thy knowledge answerable, add Faith, Add Virtue, Patience, Temperance, add Love.” Talk less, do more.
Thank you very much.
Molly Flatt speaks at Ladies That Tweet
Paradise regained How we ’re learning to love social again. #LadiesThatTweet, Molly Flatt, 26/10/11
@mollyflatt #LadiesThatTweet 4. Social Business
HR Retail R&D Marketing Comms Flexible, mobile groups with a sense of shared purpose focusing on their customers, innovating together, and constantly reaching out Care @mollyflatt #LadiesThatTweet Social influence and participation