Back in the early 2000s, there were visionaries who saw the promise of social and what it could be, and it didn't have anything to do with technology. One of those visionaries is Brian Solis, the principal analyst with Altimeter Group, which helps companies adjust to technology disruption. He's also an author and in-demand speaker on the startup circuit. He opened the first morning of the The Social Shake-Up 2014 on Tuesday, Sept. 16, with Social Media Today's co-founder and CEO, Robin Carey.
"Business has never been human," Solis said. "There is nothing about relationships in CRM. We could be more human. Some of us are still fighting the same thing today as we were in early 2000. Just because you come out on social doesn't make you social. You really have to try to be transparent, to connect with someone. That's the core of what makes business social. A lot of us lost sight of that."
Carey put Solis on the spot right from the start, asking him his opinion about Scott Monty's departure from Ford Motors as its social media pioneer. She asked specifically, "Has marketing taken over social business?" Solis was taken back, responding that the coffee is still digesting. Of course, the audience laughed with them. And then Solis said Scott never lost sight of the human side of social. Ford became more human under his lead. But he reassured Robin and the audience that just because such a high-profile social leader left a large corporate brand, it's not the end of social-we just have to figure out what we want to do with social. Do we stay or leave? We're at a crossroad.
"We got comfortable with what social should be but never got it to where it could be," he said. "It's mired in politics-who does what, who funds what?"
At the end of the day, is your energy spent better elsewhere, as in Scott's case? Well, let's compare Monty's exit from Ford Motors to when Luke left the planet Hoth to go the planet Dagobah to train under Jedi Master Yoda. While Luke was training, Darth Vader captured Luke's friends, so he had to decide whether to complete his training and become a full Jedi Knight or to confront Vader and save his comrades. Perhaps Ford Motors was Monty's Hoth and Shift Communications is Dagobah. Have we been captured by Darth Vader, which, in this case, is technology? Will Monty save us from technology, continuing to be our Jedi Master of social media and reminding us of the human side of it?
This Is the Crossroad
We have to answer these questions with other questions first. Do you see the future of your company as more responsive and listening more to customers? That's what social brings to the party. If your company isn't responsive, and if it doesn't listen, what are you going to do? Our Social Change Agent survey shows many of you are willing to push for social and stand up for it to colleagues and superiors despite the risks. Some of you are even willing to lose your job versus compromise your social beliefs.
"If you ask a CEO what keeps them up at night, their typical response is technology," said Solis. "If you ask a CMO, they say we don't know our customers as well as we'd like to know them. But we know them. There's a gap between us and the C-suite. Although none of them would say, 'We don't care about our customers,' if they were truly customer-centric, CEOs and CMOs would put people first."
Solis' research, in fact, found 88 percent of CEOs said their companies are undergoing digital transformation; yet only 25 percent studied the digital customer. "The problem with any executive is that I honestly don't believe they think they're selling to humans. I don't think we appreciate when we talk to someone else, the opportunity to talk to someone else. I have your attention and you have mine. Now what are we going to do with it? What happens next? What's different about this? We don't know. We have so much structure, etc., it doesn't allow the natural progression of an embrace."
The "embrace" Solis spoke of isn't the typical hug, of course. It's the "gift of empathy" on social. We're measured by transactions, he said, which come after the embrace. So don't just tweet back to solve a problem. Get to the root of the problem. Practically share the bad experience to counter all of the other stuff, Solis suggested. "People don't share good experiences as much as they share bad experiences, but we have to inspire behavior we want to see, and stop reacting and start cultivating this community."
None of us have come out and said, "It's not about me, it's about community," he continued. "It's not about technology, it's about real problems that we're trying to solve in the real world," Carey added. "It's really about taking this collaborative global thing and plugging into solutions."
But Solis said you actually have to care. Mediumilism is a term he came up with to explain how we jump on everything, such as infographics as the new press release. "Every content piece you're going to create, whether it's an infographic or tweet, you're faced with what do I want to do next, how do I want people to use it?'
Content is a means, Solis explained, and social is a means. But what do you want to have happen from it, he asked? It's not just that you want to feel good, but you want someone on the other end to feel good. Imagine a world in terms of content where we all truly cared about the person on the other end of the infographic or tweet. That's the core of social business. And Solis believes that's what will convince the C-suite.
Although Monty moved on from Ford Motors, he continues to guide us in social media marketing. And as you probably know, Luke left his training with Yoda to save his friends. What are you going to do? As long as you have the person on the other end of the content in mind, no matter your business goals, social strategy, or audience, the empire will surely strike back. The best possible case is that human connection will collaborate with technology. Reminds you of when Darth Vader saves Luke in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, doesn't it?