Social Media; what is it good for?

Specifically, how can we build business value using social media in all its forms.

Lots of smart folk have been discussing the business models (esp Alan Patrick, Seth Godin, Fred Wilson, and Sean Park) and the use of social media (esp danah boyd, Chris BroganTara Hunt, and our own Nigel Legg), you could even check out my GReader shared stream or Friendfeed to see who I’ve been reading in particular.

This particular post was triggered by two events here in Bristol. The first was the launch of the Brrism Social Media Cafe, the second was a local Federation of Small Business event. Both were good in that they were fundamentally starting from outside the echo-chamber.

As a lapsed academic with a research background in systems theory, business processes and change management I think I have a useful perspective to consider these new tools. I’m also not promoting my own business solution so perhaps offer a degree of ‘independence’. I’m lucky in that I have the freedom to experiment and to try and span organisational & industry boundaries to figure out how these tools can be used.

And they are just tools. This may be heretical, but despite all the Gen-Y / Digital Native stuff, I don’t think social media is re-wiring our brains. That probably last took place around 60,000 years ago and even if it is taking place now, its a process that’ll take several biological generations (rather than internet generations which can take place over a weekend).

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Arthur C Clarke, Profiles of the Future, 1973, Ref. Wikipedia

Yes, the technology is remarkable, even amazing and close enough to Arthur C Clarke’s description of ‘magic’ as to be the best description in most circumstances. Even the humble SMS, when you actually try to break it down to fundmental processes, software and hardware, is magic.

So what can we do with this ‘magic’?

There was definitely more understanding of the community building potential for social media tools at the Brrism event (even the ‘money’ group spent most time talking about community & method rather than purpose) while the FSB folks were still making the leap from social media as a ‘free’ version of traditional marketing. However, all the talk about community, social, conversation, and similar terms took me back to a Young IoD event I went to a couple of years ago.

The speaker was Nick Drake-Knight and he has a very clear sales process. Nick advocated RapportUnderstandDemonstrateRecommend – Close. I think this provides an excellent strategy for social media usage in business, actually its a great strategy for being social in business. Over the next few days post my thoughts on how to do this and relating to real experiences that I’ve had.

2 replies on “Social Media; what is it good for?”

  1. John – good post. I find that many people don’t consider social media to be a valid communications channel – largely a result of belittling in mainstream media (“40% ogf twitter is babble”) – or are wary of it, due to inexperience with technolongy. I’m sure much the same thing happened when the telephone was first introduced a century ago. Working out how to use the medium – a difficult thing as it is, in itself, changing all the time – and make it work for you is the challenge businesses have. Developing a community, building rapport, and taking that to the next level is an important part of this, and I am increasingly, alongside the functional attributes of share, broadcast, and converse, thinking of social media in terms of the marketing / sales funnel.
    I look forward to reading your next post on the subject.

  2. Thanks for the comment Nigel, that’s very much where I was coming from with this series.

    Basic human psychology hasn’t changed fundamentally, so if we can apply those fundamentals without the blinkers of past technologies, perhaps we can find the potential of new technologies?

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