Social media and the analysis of social movement are yielding important clues about what motivates groups of like-minded people, or persona. A rich vein of information derives that can drive more targeted marketing campaigns and improve everything from service processes to product development.
So far, so good. I think there are the beginnings of a clearer three way split between the tools that help consumers fuel their inner metaphysical solipsism, those that give an enterprise a laser focus on current and likely future state of customer need, and those that are about consumers seeking out the opinions of their peers.
In fact, the three types of social media products fit together: the first as a lure to the willing masses who participate herd-like in whatever is the narcotic Happy Days of the moment, the second is inside the corporate firewall where data can be thrown at specific business problems. The third is what folks like Lithium, Jive, Mzinga, GetSatisfaction and 50 other companies are helping with: connect peers seeking insight. This last piece is all about a search for honest, unambiguous and authentic opinion.
All are critical. Eliciting the participation of as many people as possible, across the broadest set of demographics and psychographics, is key to meaningful information, just as it is to the improvement of a search algorithm. It is an appeal to the webizens desire to be a part of something that makes them feel unique and recognized. Go with that. It is just the latest version of Marshall McLuhan’s, The Medium is the Message. Resistance is futile.
I am not concerned so much about ROI as some of my cohorts. I still don’t know the value of the mobile phone, iPad, email or plain old phone to the enterprise in terms of hard ROI, but I don’t see anyone shutting them off. Social Media and social tools are just another channel in this regard: Every enterprise must have a solution.
The next piece of work for many of us is to separate out the several social initiatives and understand how they fit together. They do fit together. Even the buzzy, narcissistic feeling bits are absolutely vital, and to dismiss them as infantile is to miss the point that it is there, and you can tap into it, and it matters to the participants. Old thinking says it is dumb, like pet rocks and hullahoops and Silly Bandz. Good luck with that. In play there is meaning. Analytics can find the patterns. Focused participation is driven from the insight about the patterns.
Three parts, one strategy, and none is trivial.