So there I was, at my parents’ house , watching the Super Bowl with a collection of family friends and siblings.  Being the guy who researches mobile marketing and media, I was pulling out my iPhone to check out a few second screen applications. 

And that’s when I was confronted with the reality of “Social” and “social.”  Here I was trying to be “social” by hitting the social graph when more than a couple of people who were part of my “Social” context in meat-space suddenly gave me the dog eye (disapproving look).  They were not happy that the smartphone screen appeared more important to me than their conversation or what was going on on the big screen. 

 What does this little slice of life tell us? 

 While smartphones, tablets and other technologies have linked the offline and online worlds, there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done in identifying, building and exploiting the “Social” and “social” elements of today’s consumers.  As I mentioned in a previous post, the social contract between consumers, advertisers and media is still being formed when it comes to mobile.  Mobile technologies have built the bridge that links the two, but there’s still a heck of a lot of work to be done in designing and building the on- and off-ramps from that bridge.  I think one of the key approaches to these on-ramps and off-ramps is considering the notion of “cognitive offloading.” (I’m setting it up, here, people, wait a ‘graph or two.)

 Commerce is already working on its own path to rewriting the social contract implicit in shopping: fighting showrooming at first, but slowly understanding it as a new component of consumer behavior and working to exploit it.  But unlike showrooming behavior which is implicitly a real-time activity (the consumer is in the store now and is checking prices and perhaps entering the “social” world to look for recommendations or product reviews from friends), there are a whole series of consumer inquiries that form engagements points commerce providers can use to help the consumers can leverage to bridge the “social” and “Social” worlds. 

 Think about it. If showrooming is a real-time activity, then merely sending a message to a business to find out if they carry Product X, or calling a restaurant to see if there’s a common table or if customers can order entrees at the bar without reservations, is what kind of transaction? They’re non real-time and they’re reflective of a consumer that is perhaps in the Social context — meaning they don’t need to or want to lean-in to an app or website to fully engage and make the decision right then.  They’re looking for bit of information but want to defer the rest of the decision-making process.  Enabling this sort of “cognitive offloading” (here) is a bridging technique commerce folks should be exploiting.

 So, do you buy that the new social contract is about bridging “social” and “Social” in commerce — with the consumer controlling the interactions but open to offers or interaction points that are timely (occurring at an appropriate time and contextually relevant)?