Bringing Meaning to "Social"

The ubiquity of technology and its ability to accelerate the adoption of behaviors have created enormous opportunity for marketers to reach target consumers. On the other hand, however, it has also made it simultaneously more difficult to “break through.” This paradox challenges the conventional approaches to marketing communications and puts more emphasis on leveraging social media technologies as a means to engage target consumers and propagate messages, ideas, products and behaviors. Perhaps then we need an updated perspective as to how we view "social" to better inform how we apply its power. Let's give it a shot, shall we?

The scripture says, "write the vision; make it plain." And I'm a huge fan of radical simplicity, so this particular verse ranks highly as one of my favorites. In industry, far too often we find ourselves swirling in abstractions, jargon, and buzzwords, so much so that we tend to lose sight of concreteness. It's hardly ever simple and rarely ever plain. Ask 10 people to define "social media," and you'll get 20 different answers, most of which tend to describe its characteristic or run a laundry list of its benefits. Hardly do we get to a plain definition, so maybe this is a good place to start. "Social," by definition, is all about people. "Social" work. "Social" action. "Social" welfare. They are all 100% centered on people. That's because "social" denotes people. So is the same when we think about "social media." If "social" is all about people then "social media" must be the media of people. That is, people are the vehicle by which information, communications, products, behaviors, and messages are transmitted. The Facebooks and Twitters of the world are the environments in which these exchanges take place, facilitating the media of people.

This ties nicely to "social media marketing." The core function of marketing is meant to influence behavior; therefore, all marketing efforts should be in the service of exciting a population of people to take action. Considering people rely on people more than any form of marketing communication, it is incumbent upon marketers to ensure that our ideas are socially designed – with people at the center – and built to share. That is, of course, if we are to successfully “move people.” Whether it be campaigns (messaging and communications), content (film, GIFs, flat images, audio, code) or experiences (both online or offline), the aim is to excite a desired behavior – from conversations to pass-along, purchase to search, and everything in between. 

Simple, right?

If we calibrate the way we think about and talk about "social" within our industry, then our efforts to operationalize its power would prove far more consistent than today's status quo.