In November 2010, Firefly Millward Brown conducted and released the first global qualitative research on consumers’ general attitudes and behaviors towards brands in social media. The study included in-depth discussions with organizations as well as hundreds of consumers across 15 countries. The results are still valid and provide companies with valuable insights into the right way to navigate social media more effectively. In order to build up your brand through social media and use social media as a research tool, the following 10 rules for engaging customers in social media are recommended:
1. Let the consumer come to you.
2. Be interesting/exciting.
3. Listen first, then talk – foster dialogue.
4. Be relevant and personal.
5. Speak like a friend, not a corporate entity.
6. Offer something of real value.
7. Give up some control to the consumer.
8. Be open, honest and transparent.
9. Give the brand a face – humanize.
10. Let the consumer promote the brand for you.
It’s surely no coincidence but rather a paradox that the world’s youngest billionaire and founder of the world’s most influential social network Facebook where 500 million users from 207 countries socialize is an asocial personality driven by excessive ambition, obsessed with the cause of creating the world’s biggest party without ever being part of it.
“The social network” by David Fincher – in my opinion Fincher’s definitive comeback since “The fight club” – brilliantly depicts Mark Zuckerberg’s weird mind by exposing his innermost wish – to be cool – and his complete lack of ever reaching this coolness in front of the eyes of the world in movie theaters around the globe. Fincher and his genious screenwriter Aaron Sorkin do basically the same that Zuckerberg’s platform allows its users to do: They label Zuckerberg…Representing this label is the scene at the end of the movie where Zuckerberg has just moved to the Facebook offices in Palo Alto and has just lost his only friend Eduardo Saverin (by a very mean and dirty move – Saverin has been tricked into signing his own demise from the company – an intrigue by perfidious Napster founder Sean Parker and Zuckerberg himself): Zuckerberg sits at his table looking at boxes with facebook branding containing his first business cards. The labeling on the cards says: “I’m CEO, bitch!” These aren’t even Zuckerberg’s words: They’re Sean Parker’s propaganda. As with so many things, Zuckerberg takes other people’s ideas and labels them as his own.
And there is another very representative scene right at the movie’s end where Zuckerberg talks to his lawyers’s assitant who says: “I know that you’re not an asshole. You’re just trying so hard to be one.” Another labeling. Zuckerberg is not even an asshole, he’s just a fake, a wannabe.
The final seconds of “The social network” sum it up impressively: Zuckerberg sits all alone in the law firm’s offices meeting room and “facebooks” his only love Erica who he lost due to his disturbed and egocentric behavior. Zuckerberg sends Erica a friend request and keeps hitting the “refresh” button hoping for her to accept his request any second. We all know that this will never happen.
There he sits, the world’s youngest billionaire – with 500 million virtual friends on Facebook, but none whatsoever in real life.
P. S. I particularly like Andrew Garfield’s interpretation of Eduardo Saverin. I’m sure we’ll be seing more of this newbie actor very soon.
My two current courses at the Robert Kennedy Online College “E-commerce” and “Entrepreneurship” surely keep me more than busy. While reading a text from the inventor of the computer spreadsheet, Dan Bricklin, about the “Natural-Born Entrepreneur”, I came upon a passage treating the question what people will pay for. The author advanced the view that people would pay for the privilege of saying “hi”, flirting, chitchatting about their thoughts and days, and coordinating activities with their buddies and families:
“People engange in all sorts of seemingly mundane and trivial activities: forwarding jokes to people, recommending URLs, arranging dinner plans, and, yes, gossiping” (Bricklin, 2001:6).
It came to my mind how powerful the web 2.0 revolution has made us people in matters of expressing who we are and what we think. Web 2.0 has become the framework for bringing together the contributions of millions of people, no matter how small and inconsequential or huge and significant they are. Web 2.0 applications make everyone’s work, thoughts, opinions, and essentially their identity, matter. It’s like people getting married just to ensure that their lives don’t go unnoticed, that they have a witness for their lives, someone who follows one’s life’s events…no matter how insignificant they might be. Nowadays, there are several other tools for making yourself visible to a much bigger audience than the guests at your wedding and important to others: web 2.0.
If web 1.0 was organized around pages, software, technology and corporations, web 2.0 is organized around ordinary people and services: hobbyists, diarists, armchair pundits, people just sharing their two cents’ worth through blogs, wikies, social networks and videos using the web’s evolving conversation for the sheer joy of it. To me, web 2.0 is the hallmark of a youthful rebellion against the conventional social order and it is making many conventional media companies tremble given that it is a large and very powerful social experiment on a global scale. The question is: Will the web 2.0 influence truly benefit us or will we suffer because of it?
I tend towards the first possible answer: It will benefit us. Why? Because it increases democratization. Access to consumer-generated content facilitated by web 2.0 brings the web closer to the concept of the web as a democratic, personal, and do-it-yourself medium of communications. Web 2.0 is about everyday people (you and me) using the web for communication, collaboration and creation! With social media networks – the main expression of web 2.0 today – we tap into the collective creative intelligence of users. The more users contribute, the more popular and valuable a web 2.0 site becomes. Why? Because two heads are smarter than one, and four heads are smarter than two…The collective wisdom of the world comes together in social media to form a candid forum to which traditional organizations find it hard to adjust.
Social media is the most powerful democratization force: While traditional media content goes from the technology to the people, people create and control the content in social media. I found a very compelling overview of the ground rules of social media from Hinchcliffe (2007):
1. Communication in the form of conversation, not monologue: This implies that social media must facilitate two-way discussions, discourse, and debate with little or no moderation or censorship. In other words, the increasingly omnipresent comments sections of your website or local blog or media sharing site is NOT optional and must be open to everyone.
2. Participants in social media are PEOPLE, NOT ORGANIZATIONS! A third-person voice is discouraged. The source of ideas and participation is clearly identified and associated with the individuals that contributed them. Anonymity is discouraged! Force yourself to get personal, otherwise your users, surfers and followers won’t perceive your humanity and likeability. No one likes to talk to a soulless machine!
3. Honesty and transparency are CORE values. Don’t spin, control, manipulate or spam the conversation! Let people share their blatant opions, even if you, as a company, don’t like it. Opponent opinions are part of democracy, they are part of the dialogue, don’t shut them down!
4. It’s all about PULL, NOT PUSH: Push-based systems like one-way marketing, advertising and command-and-control management are nowhere near as efficient as pull systems. Pull systems let people bring to them the content and relationships that they want, instead of having an external entitiy force it upon them. One of the core techniques of shaping a social media community is understanding how to embrace the pull instead of push. In social media, people are in control of their conversations, not the pushers. If you recognize this fact, you will succeed in attracting communities.
5. Distribution instead of centralization: One often overlooked aspect of social media is the fact that the participants in the dialogue are many and varied. Gone are the doubts and fears of having just a few media organizations control the creation of content, thoughts, news and their distribution. Social media are highly distributed and made up of tens of millions of voices making it far more textured, rich and heterogenous than old media could ever be.
Web 2.0 gives ordinary people the opportunity to create a new form of person-to-person, citizen-to-citizen relationship. You and I have not only changed the world but we have also changed the way the world changes.