We live in interesting times. Never before have we been able to see how clearly human networking can be managed to get things done, and can be measured to see how well that is happening.
But we are also living in an era of unprecedented automation (Henry Ford must be popping champagne in heaven), even with something heretofore resistant to automation: marketing.
Clearly, there are great advantages to reducing the waste and the time-to-market that the traditional market campaign represented. But we are also facing new-found requirements, in customer service, in communications, and yes, even in marketing, to provide an authentic human connection.
What this tension means, and how it can be anticipated and even made better use of, will be the underlying theme of this year's Social Shake-Up, September 16 and 17 in Atlanta. We're calling this seemingly oppositional force "Scaling the Human Spark," where clearly you need the human and the spark for both connection and innovation, but you also require the scale to have measurable results and efficiency.
Without a doubt, ROI is the main gauge of any investment's value. Conventional wisdom insists, "If you can't measure impact, it doesn't exist." But we're finding that in this age of digital technology there are many cases where an investment has intangible returns. We're going to have to do better than "intangible," and at The Social Shake-Up we're bringing together experts from brands and companies all over the world to talk to you about how they are achieving the impossible dream, of essentially, having it both ways.
We're doing a great deal of research as we consider speakers and case studies (and feel free to share what you think are the best ones) but at least one of the core issues is around the value of listening.
Measuring the value of content and listening:
Take a case study done by the IBM Institute for Business Value on Chevrolet. While the nameplate celebrated its centennial in 2011, it is a relative newcomer to India. But the brand consideration scores went up by more than 42 percent in 2010, rising from eighth to fifth in India that year. IBM notes that a big part of this success stems from the relationships General Motors (GM) India is building with its customers, including having conversations with them, listening to them, and meeting their wants and needs.
In Bryan Kramer's book, "There is No B2B or B2C. Human to Human #H2H," he writes, "Actively listening, in the context of social media, means monitoring social conversations, and joining in. By joining into new conversations, you'll quickly see new opportunities to engage, answer questions, and solve a problem, whatever the other person is sharing about your brand. And when they're heard, and helped, they become interested and endeared-at the very least, neutralized-and are more inclined to share and purchase from you."
Let's look at another IBM case study: Spanish brewer Grupo Mahou-San Miguel, S.A. developed a new brand of beer, "Mixta," to appeal to the younger drinking-age customer. To capture a loyal brand following, Mixta took to social media. The results include user-generated imitations of Mixta ads and a social media club. "Mixta has clearly connected with its audience, and the active engagement of customers with the brand is key to its continued success. "We are receiving ideas and initiatives from our consumers with original brand concepts," he said. "For us, that level of interactivity and affinity is a big part of the ROI of social media."
"Human connection deepens when we feel heard, understood and supported, not in a quid pro quo way but with a back and forth flow over time," says Kare Anderson, Say it Better Center founder, public speaker, and columnist for Forbes and Huffington Post. "People who connect that way have what I dubbed a 'mutuality mindset' when I spoke at TEDx Berkeley last month."
Is any of this as rigorous, objective, or quantifiable as a randomized controlled trial or firm-level social performance metric? No-not yet. We're in the early days of making all of this tangible. Despite indirect impact, there is growing C-suite support and resources. According to an October 2013 IBM study, "The Customer-activated Enterprise," 60 percent of CEOs plan to directly engage their customers in the next three to five years-up from 43 percent of CEOs who now include customers in the development of business strategies. The report also reveals outperforming companies are 54 percent more likely to collaborate extensively with customers.
At the Social Shake-Up in the fall, we'll be presenting more specific research and inviting your input to how we can humanize our companies and still make them productive and competitive. Join us if you also believe that this is a worthy goal.