Brian Solis, his point of view on social media

On Thursday 28th of June I attended the social business talk by Brian Solis in Antwerp, organized by the fusion marketing experience. For the record, Brian Solis is the Principal Analyst at Altimeter Group and the author of best-selling books such as “Engage!” and “The End of Business as Usual”.
From my perspective his 3 hour speech was actually divided in 2 big chapters: the first chapter was on the general impact of social media and the necessity of becoming a social business today. The second chapter revolved around applying the theory of a ‘social business’.
In the first chapter Mr. Solis was preaching to the already converted, given the very ‘digital’ audience that attended that day. People that believe in online don’t need to be shown numbers of internet and social media penetration anymore. People that think social media is the next big wave in marketing practice don’t need convincing anymore. With InSites Consulting being a conversation company itself, we don’t need to be proven that ‘social business’ is the way forward. We know and we try to apply this as much as possible. What we need is inspirational and actionable ideas that help us become a social business.
Then came the second chapter where he shared practices, ideas, concrete examples and some cases he worked on in the past. In this part he pretty much put forward his solid experience in the matter. Brian is really the data crunching guy-in-a-suit (this being said, his shoes were funky).
Back to the essence! Here’s, to me, the 3 main lessons of that part of his contribution:

1. Asking what a ‘Facebook Like’ means for your business is a hard question to answer because it’s the wrong question to ask

fb like maxThe example he gave was striking in its simplicity. For one of his clients he actually proved this point very concretely. He posted, on a hot summer day, a picture of a refreshingly looking golden draught beer in a cooled glass with the caption ‘cheers’ in the Facebook group of the client. As a result, thousands of so-called fans liked his update and even commented on it. The client was delighted. But not Brian, as he then asked ‘What do you think these people will remember of this action?’ Probably absolutely nothing. Furthermore: the client was not even active in the beverage industry so there was no link whatsoever with the brand. Point number one made: ‘Always look for the meaning of the like, rather than the like itself’. In addition it also means educating clients about the fact that a ‘Facebook Like’ is not an opt-in for advertising.

2. Don’t talk to people, talk through people

This might sound like a hollow one-liner specifically crafted for lazy Twitter users, but actually it’s not only that. Again, he made his point clear by demonstration. That day, on a hot summer Thursday in Antwerp he was not presenting to the 200+ attendees. He was talking to the networks of the 200+ attendees. He was not talking to us, he was talking through us. His one-liner actually made the point that his reach that day was not 200+ but rather 200.000+. More important than the one-liner itself, is that one can assume that ‘talking through people’ requires different skills than talking to people. The rules and codes are very different when you talk through people. Using good one-liners that are worth sharing to your network is just an example of this. Becoming more relevant and understanding how and when to use which social medium to expand your reach is another.

3. Forget demo-geo-psycho-socio-graphics and go for social graphics

Being a market research consultant for more than 13 years today I always have had a problem with segmentations. In a 21st century post-modern reality I simply don’t believe in boxing consumers in a segment (anymore). In the modern society of the eighties we believed in location/gender/age or ‘demo’-segmentations (tell me how old you are and where you live and I’ll tell you which brands you consume). In the nineties this was somewhat challenged by the psycho-sociographical segmentations (‘tell me by which values you live and I’ll tell you which brands you consume’). But let’s be honest: this doesn’t work anymore since we see people using and mixing brands that have no common grounds whatsoever: it is not exceptional to see in the work and research we do that the same person eats McDonalds as lunch and goes to a 2 Michelin star top restaurant the day after. Parking your premium BMW in front of a discounting supermarket cueing up for a 50 cent discount is also something very recognizable or even indulging on a sugar-stuffed chocolate paste sandwich while washing it down with a sugar free coke zero is something we all have done at some point.
Well, going for ‘social graphics’ is actually trying to understand and capture exactly those atypical and conflicting combinations by looking for them online. For the first time in history, thanks to social media, we are able to detect live, real, pure and uncut consumer behavior without needing to ask questions or ‘sampling’. The wet dream of every marketer. Consumer stories are abundantly available and ready to be followed up on in a social way. But this remains today still unused potential in most companies. Especially in companies that don’t think like a ‘social business’.
It seems like Brian Solis flew across the ocean to tell us in conclusion that with social media it’s not any different than with e-mail: it’s a channel that helps you do your job better. End of story! Nobody asks himself who should use e-mail within a company today, than why would we do that for social media? No, honestly. Tell me why if you doubt this statement?

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